Coronavirus: The Extended Sabbath - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Coronavirus: The Extended Sabbath
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Something very eighties happened. My son took a bike ride. He didn’t tell me that he’d stopped off at a friend’s house to play socially distanced Horse. He was supposed to be back in 30 to 45 minutes. Instead, hours later, he came home. “Two basketballs, mom. And we used hand sanitizer. And we didn’t get within six feet.” He was in hot water, not just for possible virus transmission but also for forgetting to update me. I was in the car on a  search-and-rescue mission because this uber-responsible kid wasn’t answering his phone. He was doing what teenagers used to do: taking off and hanging out before showing up at dusk for dinner. When he got home sticky and happy, and abashed for causing me to worry, I thought about what a wholesome problem this was and how lucky he is to have the experience of unscheduled joy that was so common a generation ago.

What has been lost in the name of progress? (There have been gains, too, obviously. People can work from home. Staying connected virtually has never been easier. The gains are a post for another day.) People don’t have expanses of time, with rest and boredom. Consequently, they don’t have the creativity and fun that blossoms from those things. Americans are over-scheduled and strung out on an adrenaline-infused lifestyle. Before they go back to work (if they can), it might be well to consider what they want their lives to look like.

While doctors and nurses man the front lines, America enjoys incongruous serenity. This tension creates anxiety.

Our esteemed editorial director Wlady Pleszczynski calls this space of quiet and remove “the extended Sabbath.” I’ve been ruminating on this idea since he said it last week. Before COVID-19, where was the time for languid discussions about a book? When, in recent memory, has a silly show like Tiger King turned into a national shared cultural experience? Families are back in the kitchen and cooking (or, in my mom’s case, baking) because there’s nothing else to do. That’s good, right? Hearth and home. Reflection and connection.

American life is surreal right now. The main highways are nearly empty. The side-roads nigh-unto dead. The sounds are of people taking walks and dogs barking and birds singing and bees buzzing as spring blooms fill the air. We used to hear truck brakes and car horns. There is peace and rest except for ambulances screaming and frantic hospitals in stricken places. Then there’s the anxiety CEOs and small-business owners have trying to save their companies so they can save their employees. Governors and emergency managers look fatigued and drawn during their press conferences. All this on a backdrop of quiet seclusion.

It reminds me of the day the Twin Towers crashed to the ground, sliced into by jet planes flying at weird angles while the sun shone in a crystal-blue sky. The whole nation enjoyed luminescent autumn weather that morning. In Texas, it was the first day of preschool for my son. The juxtaposition of the clear beauty while horror unfolded on the radio and then the television defied comprehension. It’s like looking at the flower-festooned atolls teenagers skewered one another on in France during World War I. Gruesome violence on a bucolic backdrop.

While doctors and nurses man the front lines, America enjoys incongruous serenity. This tension creates anxiety.

Everyone is home. Suburban neighborhoods are full and buzzy in that way. It feels safer because it is safer. Normally too-busy men are out mowing the lawn and puttering in the garage. Moms are surrounded by kids taking walks together because they can’t be with anyone else. With my window open, I heard a father and daughter walk by, and she was chatting like a magpie. The father was responding, “Uh huh. Uh huh. Uh huh.” When she took a gasp of air to refuel, he plunged in with his idea, and she happily chittered back. She had his full attention and was enjoying it — that much was obvious in the conversation snippet as it faded.

When this is all over, next month, or whenever it diminishes, can we please keep some of this sweet slowness? Can we purposefully hold on to our extended Sabbath and slow down at least once a week and find the quiet and peace?

When this is all over, next month, or whenever it diminishes, can we please keep some of this sweet slowness?

There are ways to retain this unintended magic. So many of the people working and schooling from home could continue to do so or work at the business one day a week. It reduces traffic and pollution and noise and stress. Elementary school aged children do not need homework, and most of the things hammered into their heads could wait until middle school. Elementary school testing is silly, too, except for basic reading and arithmetic comprehension. Children don’t have to have nonstop extracurriculars. The travel demanded in jobs is often unnecessary. College doesn’t have to cost $50,000 a year, and learning doesn’t require dorm-fueled debauchery. It is quite possible to learn via video and chat in chat rooms and still laugh and learn together. In fact, look at all the job needs popping up that don’t require higher education at all. If manufacturing returns to America in force, college and the attendant debt will hopefully be much less necessary.

The world spun like a top before coronavirus brought it up short. It’s difficult to remember a month ago. Time is stretching.

It’s not all fresh air and respite during this forced isolation. Even as crime has dropped, domestic violence is up. There is also the tyranny of schools imposing unreasonable expectations on families. Working parents are frustrated about the workloads from teachers during this at-home time. Karol Markowitz writes,

Now there is a constant barrage of links, passwords, Google classroom, Zoom, Zoom, Zoom. It’s too much: We get messages from their music teachers, their art teachers, librarians, even their gym teachers. They take attendance strictly.

Parents with little kids in day care report that they are asked to check in for a half-hour Zoom session every day. If you have ever tried to make a toddler sit still for half an hour, you can imagine the good times that are had. Sure, they don’t have to do it, but who wants to be the parent who couldn’t produce a happy-looking child for the daily video check-in?

The answer is simple, though socially difficult: rebel. Teachers and schools were ridiculous in their expectations during full-time in-class attendance. Rebel against the tyranny while you have them at home. Most of it is nonsense, anyway. What, of great value, is anyone imparting in a four-year-old? Nothing. They need to be read books and have play time and nap time.

So much of what passed as normal and necessary is absurd and stupid. This is evident in the schedules of children, teens, college students, and working parents. The way things are doesn’t mean that’s the way things have to be.

That’s what the Sabbath is for: resting, meditating on higher thoughts, worshiping, and being with family and community. The last part is impossible right now, or at least stupid. Thinking, planning, and realigning can be done now and, really, needs to be done now.

People are rightly concerned about the living they’ll make after this. They should also consider what kind of life they want to have. The extended Sabbath is giving Americans time to reassess, and that’s a good thing to come out of COVID-19.

Melissa Mackenzie
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Melissa Mackenzie is Publisher of The American Spectator. Melissa commentates for the BBC and has appeared on Fox. Her work has been featured at The Guardian, PJ Media, and was a front page contributor to RedState. Melissa commutes from Houston, Texas to Alexandria, VA. She lives in Houston with her two sons, one daughter, and two diva rescue cats. You can follow Ms. Mackenzie on Twitter: @MelissaTweets.
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