When I was a child, “full immersion” had nothing to do with learning another language and everything to do with the proper way to be baptized. The Catholics and those high protestant denominations did it wrong, according to the Southern Baptists, who surely knew the right way to do it and derisively called what those others did “sprinkling.”
Baptized three days shy of my seventh birthday, I was less fearful of the full immersion that was about to happen than I was the damnation that loomed ahead of me for the sins I had yet to commit. The embarrassment of my legs flying out from under me when I was forcefully dipped backward into the water was a small price to pay for the “Get Out of Hell Free” card that was about to me issued in my name.
In my college French classes, Dr. Gottlab allowed only the speaking of that tongue from day one. A new kind of “full immersion” to be sure, but which really helped with the learning of the language, even if I sometimes mangled it by using French conjugations on the Spanish verbs I had learned in high school.
So here we are today, contemplating the emergence back into the world, now newly and soon to be vaccinated. I wasn’t the kid all those years ago who formed a cannonball with my body and jumped into a swimming pool, and I’m still not. I’m the one going in one foot at a time, the water rising inch by inch, and me splashing around to get used to it. I don’t take my cues from those jumping in, nor those who jumped in months ago, and certainly not those who never left the pool to begin with. A call of “Come on in, the water is fine” is likely to be met with a response of “I’ll see for myself.”
And this really isn’t all about continued caution around the coronavirus. A good part of it is about having most of my most heated conversations in the last year with a screen. A television screen, a computer screen, or an iPhone screen.
I’ve sat on the sofa, at my desk, and in my customary outdoor chair and railed without direct response at talking heads of every stripe, including those social media types whose sole means of expressing their thoughts is by sharing a meme not of their own creation.
Strangely, I find myself asking these various screens questions. Is he really that stupid? Was she always that dumb? Are they really that nuts? Of course, these inquiries are liberally peppered with vulgar gerunds, although some of us old school types might still think of them as vulgar participles.
A couple of weeks ago, we talked about normalcy in terms of gossiping about the royals and laughing at elected officials with comedians leading the way. We’ve moved quickly back to issues like mass shootings, the border “crisis,” and the Senate filibuster, all of which have been talked about for years, for decades, or for as long as I can remember.
Just looking at the numbers, our average number of daily COVID deaths in the USA is down to three figures—999 as of this writing, according to Worldometer. Knitting together information from Mother Jones, the Congressional Research Service, and the Gun Violence Archive, there have been around 1500 deaths from mass shootings since 1982. While an argument around apples and oranges can be made, it is at least worth considering that this pandemic will outstrip both the Civil War and the Spanish flu of 1918 to become the most deadly event in American history unless we can get the average number of daily deaths down to around 400 for the rest of this year.
Based on U. S. Customs and Border Protection data as reported by CNN, close to 97,000 crossed the border illegally last month, with all but about 26,900 being turned back. By comparison, over 67,000 people died from COVID during that same time.
That is not to say these issues are unimportant; they are. But they are long standing issues, unresolved by our elected officials through every possible partisan configuration of power in Washington we’ve seen over the years. It’s about perspective rather than priorities. We have multiple levels of government, funded by our tax dollars (plus all that Washington can borrow), and tasked with taking care of everything from potholes to pandemics. Are we getting our (insert participle here) money’s worth?
So I’m taking this thing slow. Sprinkling, rather than full immersion, if you will. Just to make sure the filters are back in place. After all, I can edit this column, but not what falls out of my mouth. Particularly after a couple of martinis.