Frances Coleman has been a friend for many years. I met her when she wrote editorials for the old Mobile Press Register, way back in the day when newspapers were printed on paper and were available every day of the week. A time that now seems so long ago that cars had fender skirts and clutches and gear shifts.
Today she does an occasional opinion piece for AL.com. Hers stand out to me because they always make sense, which is not praise I offer to many such efforts by others.
She recently did one entitled, Leave the rest of us out of your zombie apocalypse fantasies. Here is what she wrote:
“I am aware that there’s a virus out there called COVID-19 that has afflicted more than 3 million people around the world. I know that it has killed nearly a quarter of a million people.
I’m also aware, as you probably are, too, that there’s no cure or vaccine for the virus and that, for now, the unknowns outweigh the knowns. And I understand that our efforts to contain the virus are taking a terrible toll on the global economy.
But here’s what I don’t understand about COVID-19: Why, in addition to causing fever, body aches, pneumonia and even death, it can cause some people to act like fools.
When they’re upset about a government’s policy, normal people write letters or make phone calls to their elected officials. Sometimes they attend town hall meetings so they can speak their piece in public. If those tactics don’t seem to be working, they may even march on City Hall.
But normal people don’t dress up in militia costumes, sling rifles over their shoulders and barge into the Michigan state capitol building because they’re angry about the governor’s stay-at-home order. They don’t shout at state troopers and assert that the governor is a Nazi.
Similarly, normal people don’t defy the Alabama governor’s decision to keep restaurants, barber shops and nail salons closed for a little while longer. They don’t post signs like the one in front of a restaurant near Mobile that said, “Kay, let my people go, or else.”
“Or else”? What the heck is that supposed to mean? Is it simply a reminder that they and other Alabamians might vote Gov. Kay Ivey out of office if she runs again in 2022? Or is it meant to suggest something more sinister, that she might actually be in physical danger because she’s not re-opening the state’s economy fast enough to suit them?
Normal people don’t threaten governors. Fools, on the other hand, apparently do. They garner TV reporters’ attention and headlines on the front pages of newspapers across the country. Even if they don’t intend to harm governors here, there or anywhere, they are crude, rude and disruptive.
And fools aren’t content with disturbances and disobedience. They seem to revel in disrupting ordinary people’s lives, too, because … well, because that’s how fools behave.
Normal people generally keep enough paper products to last for a few weeks. But when a fool decides that although one or two giant packages of toilet paper would last his family a month, he (or she) should buy 10 or 12 giant packages, then other fools rush to the store to buy 10 or 12 giant packages, too, and guess what: There’s not enough toilet paper for the rest of us.
Before you know it, normal people are skulking through grocery stores, dollar stores and discount stores, desperately seeking Charmin. Ditto for hand sanitizer, paper towels, Clorox wipes and Lysol spray.
When fools start buying 30 pounds of ground meat and 10 whole chickens at a time, then the rest of us find ourselves staring at empty shelves in the meat department. When a normal family’s upright freezer goes out and can’t be repaired because it’s nearly 30 years old, guess what: That family — my family — can’t find a freezer in stock at the local appliance store or at any of the big-box stores in nearby cities, because the fools who bought all that meat apparently needed new freezers in which to store it.
“For what?” I asked a friend in the appliance business. “I don’t know,” he said with a shrug. “The zombie apocalypse, I guess.”
That’s where the zombie-apocalypse crowd and I diverge. I’ve always assumed that when society collapses, so will utility services, meaning that electric freezers won’t do anybody much good and that toilet paper — no matter how much you’ve stashed — will eventually run out.
To them and the armed protesters and people who post signs that say “Or else,” I say this: The COVID-19 pandemic is a terrible thing, but it is not likely to bring about the collapse of civilization, much less of the United States. There is enough meat and toilet paper and freezers for all of us, and stores and restaurants will open in due time.
If I acknowledge that I may never understand what scares you or motivates you, will you in turn stop making life so hard for us normal folks?
Be foolish on your own time and your own dime, please, and leave the rest of us out of your fantasies.”
Frances Coleman is a freelance writer who lives in Baldwin County, Alabama. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org and “like” her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/prfrances.