by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
What have you seen in the year since COVID-19 entered our lives?
The question has to be asked just that plainly, because our politics has a way of obscuring reality. We tend to think of politics as a realm of weightier matters somehow beyond us, one that only touches our personal, day-to-day concerns when they are translated into an established “subject” of political dispute. And this, in turn, can lead us to minimize our own humanity.
We feel we are allowed to speak of the “mental-health effects” of lockdowns, closures, and the fear-driven lack of sociability on ourselves and our children. But when we do, we talk about ourselves like lab animals, as if we were neutral observers of our lives: “Socialization is an important component of mental health. COVID restrictions have led to severely curtailed socialization, and increased instances of depression.”
Put that way, 2020 doesn’t sound much different from a passing weather system. But I will not remember the last year as a series of generalities. I’ll remember all the things seen and unseen.
In the latter category, it’s been nearly a year since I’ve seen, in the flesh, any of my co-workers at National Review. It’s been a year since I’ve seen my father, the man whom I made a rather public vow to see as much as possible in the years we had left together. That’s the longest I’ve gone without seeing him in a decade. Until recently, the suburbs of Dublin and New York were bridged by cheap flights and standby tickets when we had a few days free of obligation. Mandatory quarantine periods have made that impossible. I’d wanted to visit my friends and my godmother in England. COVID made that impossible, too.