Ideas and Impressions: ‘Whatever was, isn’t anymore’

By Jason Moscovitz

It is hard to imagine we are where we are, and it is hard to think of how and when we can get our lives back to anywhere near where they were before. It is as if everything has been put on hold waiting for better days to come. Patience is the operative world. The last 10 weeks have taught us that.

It is equally so hard to imagine that so much has changed in such a brief period of time. Ten weeks is a speck of dust in a time capsule of a lifetime but the cascading upheavals of COVID-19 are so far reaching it is shocking. The first pandemic in a century has delivered uncontrollable sickness, death, economic destruction, and unprecedented debt. How’s that for starters?

I know it is often believed journalists make bad situations sound worse as they get carried away with reporting on physical destruction or human misery of any kind. That cannot be considered the case with COVID-19 because it really is that multidimensionally terrible. Even the scientific experts don’t know how much worse the infection rate and the death rate can get. If anything, reporters are showing the personal strain of working on an emotionally difficult story while balancing how COVID affects their own space, as people, and as parents and family members. This potentially life-threatening pandemic spares no one.

With summer coming on, there is sadness because so many summer traditions won’t happen. In a northern country like Canada, our summers are especially precious, and across Canada, Canadians will lament their lost summer of 2020. There will be no Calgary Stampede for the first time in over 100 years. There will be no Shakespeare Festival in Stratford. No Jazz Festival and no Just for Laughs Festival in Montreal. And no massive Canada Day celebration on Parliament Hill. Social distancing will continue to be the norm while Zoom will be the new venue for celebrations, funerals and shivas.

With sports fans clamouring for some live action, the National Hockey League is considering playing in empty arenas for the Stanley Cup in the heat of July. I think it is a dumb, desperate idea and I would rather stick to Netflix, Prime, Apple and other streaming services which have fittingly come to the plate to provide a bored world with worthwhile commercial-free entertainment. Just as the pandemic has worsened the sad state of the retail sector, network television will now be on the list of endangered industries.

Whatever was, isn’t anymore. The thought of synagogues still being closed for the High Holy Days is certainly a serious thought at this point and, at a minimum, some creative thinking is going to have to happen to avoid people congregating in packed sanctuaries. For sure, a reflexive, accidentally-induced sneeze or cough could disturb the ambiance. I wonder if we’ll ever be able to sneeze again in peace.

Our governments continue to hand out money like it grows on trees and at this point it just might. Polls indicate Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberals are riding an impressively high approval rating and that cushioned place brings on a lot of election talk, which makes me sick. Nothing could be more cynical but, based on cynicism itself, don’t bet against Trudeau soon telling the country he needs a majority government to deal with the emergency. He may need a majority when the borrowed hundreds of billions come home to roost, and when the unemployment rate stubbornly sticks to double digits. Some may call an election good politics, but I will continue to see it as hopelessly cynical. Call me naive.

There is also growing speculation the new government In Israel will annex land to make West Bank settlements part of Israel on July 1. Doing it while the rest of the world is preoccupied with COVID-19 can also be considered cynicism of the highest order. I know politicians need to sometimes take advantage of certain realities on the ground to achieve their goals, but annexing land on the West Bank during a pandemic would be considered off the charts for chutzpah. The substantive argument can be left for another day. The simple argument now is how bad timing can be a destructive force in the best of times.

Annexing any part of the West Bank with U.S. President Donald Trump’s approval and blessing will not go over well in the world. It would be soundly rejected with or without doing it during a pandemic, but to think it might be easier to achieve with the world’s attention focussed elsewhere is not worthy of the State of Israel.