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I MAKE TWO assumptions here: first, that the presence of Covid-19 will eventually diminish to the point of other viruses. These include, in no particular order, smallpox, chickenpox, measles, mumps, rubella, polio, SARS, Ebola, and HIV, among others. Humanity has learned to coexist with these viruses in controlled form, albeit to differing extents.
My second assumption is both relative as well as etymological: What constitutes normal? And, on an almost trivial note, should it be “normalcy” or “normality”?
Here, in Parts 1 and 2 today and tomorrow, are tidbits gleaned from Science the weekly magazine of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Wouldn’t you know, we also find ourselves in an etymological discussion with Warren G. Harding.
An Etymological Interjection. Both “normalcy” and “normality” are legitimate English with the same meaning: a state of being normal. However, there are nuances: For instance, abnormality is standard English; abnormalcy has yet to achieve this status.
Merriam-Webster offers an interesting tale about “normalcy.” Some people think Warren G. Harding coined the word in the presidential election of 1920, when he said he was for “normal times and a return to normalcy.” Actually, M-W notes, the word “normalcy” arose earlier in mathematics, describing perpendicularity, especially at a point of tangency.
Harding is hardly exemplary in all things (see “Mock the President-in-Wanting?”. But his use of “normalcy” to describe a previous state of affairs [Edit: reword?] continues to echo today.
”Normal” Ever Again? If we mean “precisely as things used to be,” don’t hold your breath. Or celebrate any such situation. For example, only the most rabid (and foolish) anti-vaxxers would wish for a pre-polio-vaccine world.
Science and Normalcy. By “normalcy,” let’s mean a knowledgable acceptance of the coronavirus threat and a rational control of it that allows our social and economic well being.
Science, July 3, 2020, addressed this in two articles. The first was written by Roxane Cohen Silver, University of California, Irvine. Her editorial “Surviving the Trauma of COVID-19” gives a mental-health perspective to post-pandemic normalcy.
A Resilience. Professor Silver observes, “Responsible health-protective behaviors must be encouraged with messaging that conveys clearly and consistently the costs and benefits of actions that can ensure the physical and mental health of oneself and one’s community.… Just as the public returned to airplanes and high rises after 9/11, and just as people now go through x-ray machines without protest before they board a plane, most people will follow rules.”
She concludes, “Although the timing of containment of COVID-19 remains unknown, most people will get to the other side of the pandemic recognizing strengths and coping skills they did not realize they had.”
Tomorrow in Part 2, young scientists address the question, “What do you hope or fear will be the effects 20 years from now of the coronavirus pandemic?” ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2020