Years into a Pandemic, We're Stuck in Long Denial

A clapback to Long Lockdowns.

Years into a Pandemic, We're Stuck in Long Denial

We're four years into a pandemic that feels like it's never going to end. If it goes on forever, there's one reason we can blame:

It's Long Denial.

Long Covid is real. It describes all the post-infection conditions that impact every cell in the body, sometimes for months, sometimes for good. Every week, a new stack of scientific articles catalogs the damage a "mild" infection does. Many people never recover. We're living through the consequences that early Cassandras warned everyone about. Everything they predicted is happening. We thought the denial would fade as reality came into focus.

It hasn't.

The denial remains as stubborn as ever. In many ways, it's getting worse. Those in denial are practicing strategic amnesia. They remember what makes them feel good about themselves. They forget what doesn't.

If Long Covid is real, so is Long Denial.

Long Denial describes the urge to dismiss every result of mass infection as a mystery. It's the need to blame everything a virus does on lockdowns that happened years ago, and in many places never happened at all. It's the tedious reliance on bad science to bash masks and air purifiers, or even criminalize them. Long Denial has cursed us with such bogus terms as learning loss and immunity debt, ideas that debunk themselves over time.

Every year, Long Deniers come up with a new phrase to bury their denial in. They just recently served up Long Lockdown, the notion that lockdowns four years ago are still harming people while they let the virus itself spread freely around the world, killing and disabling at will.

Long Denial deserves a place in the DSM-5, the manual often used to label and categorize difference as disorder.

Why not?

Since Long Deniers live in denial of the virus itself, all they can do is invent increasingly desperate explanations for why their magical normal hasn't returned, despite every effort to hide from the facts.

Long Deniers continue to fill the internet with sob stories about their time in lockdown, watching Netflix at home or zooming with friends over a beer, or (gasp) having to spend more time with their kids. It never dawns on them how much worse it was for the frontline and essential workers who were truly out there in the brunt of the pandemic, exposed to a deadly new virus without a vaccine, and often little more than a piece of cloth.

Those workers still endure everything from death threats and assault to anti-maskers actively trying to infect them with a virus they believed doesn't exist. Many of them lost their lives while trying to save lives.

Now that's traumatizing.

When Long Deniers talk about lockdowns, they don't mention parents like me who spent an extra 18 months waiting on vaccine approval for the last age group. The children aged 0-5 and their guardians became an afterthought to society, forced to navigate an indifferent world where nobody cared if a toddler developed Long Covid. They believed that couldn't happen.

They were wrong.

Long Deniers believe they suffered the most during the pandemic. They've crafted a narrative that every single moment they spent at home was torture. They obsess over the few months of restaurants and bars they missed out on, insisting it was all for nothing to prevent the deaths of strangers they never cared about anyway. They carry a deep grudge over that, a thirst for revenge. They take their anger out on anyone they see still wearing a mask or using an air purifier. It provokes something between irritation and rage.

They won't admit this, but many Long Deniers never abided by mitigations in the first place. They did everything they could to circumvent them. Where I live, almost nobody took them seriously anyway. Millions of people continued shopping and eating out, without a second thought.

Long Deniers trivialize the pain and suffering their behavior caused everyone else. They don't want to think about the ones they killed or disabled by refusing to take mitigations seriously. They don't bring up the anti-masker protests or their violent assaults on teachers and healthcare workers. They don't acknowledge they themselves are the reason for their misery.

When they aren't complaining, Long Deniers swaddle themselves in a bubblewrap of ignorance. They say they don't know anyone with Long Covid. They say children are fine, except for the dropping test scores and the behavior problems and the shorter attention spans and the constant absences.

Other than that, they're fine.

Long Deniers go around demanding evidence, but there's no evidence that meets their shifting goalposts. When they run out of bad reasons, they try to pass laws that force you to accept their version of reality. They say you can't work from home. You can't use an air purifier.

You can't wear a mask.

It scares them.

Long Deniers have now dismantled every tool we had to track and manage the virus. There's hardly any data now on infections or excess deaths. There's no mandated reporting. There's no affordable, reliable tests. They keep acting surprised when their problems don't go away. Instead, their problems get worse. The virus is causing more damage and disruption than ever. Deniers will never see it, because they don't want to see the virus.

Now millions of children and adults are struggling with the damage Covid did to them. And yet, the denial persists.

When viral damage manifests in waves of strokes and heart attacks, Long Deniers write stories calling it a mystery. They run oblivious morning news segments blaming our eating habits and drug use. When viral damage manifests in lower productivity and test scores, Long Deniers point their fingers at remote work and smartphones. When it manifests as behavioral problems and adolescent depression, they bring up bad parenting.

When viral damage manifests in failed pregnancies and infant health problems, Long Deniers say there's nothing they can do. When viral damage manifests in more sick days and school absences, Long Deniers try to compel attendance. They complain about quiet vacationing.

When you show them the thousands of articles on the damage the virus does, Long Deniers say, "But the vaccine..."

Everyone is sicker than they've ever been.

Long Deniers say on the contrary...

You're not sick enough.

That's the problem.

Long Deniers jump at the chance to bring up those lockdowns as the source of every problem in the world. They've blamed lockdowns for inflation. They've blamed lockdowns for the mental health crisis. They've blamed lockdowns for Putin's invasion of Ukraine. They've blamed it for every protest and social movement over the last four years.

Long Deniers don't want to understand.

They've utterly destroyed the normal they've been so desperate to recover. They destroyed normal for themselves, but they destroyed normal for everyone else. They robbed us of any new normal that could've emerged. Those of us who can participate in society often don't want to anymore, not when things are being managed the way they are.

Long Deniers have locked themselves down. They've locked themselves down in the delusion of nostalgia, for an era that was never as good as they remember. Now they walk around blaming victims and looking for scapegoats. They'll look everywhere for explanations.

They should try a mirror.

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