In case you thought the Covid Christmas craze couldn’t get anymore dystopian (rapid test before Christmas dinner! wear a mask while you open presents!), check out this photo of Italian family members embracing through a sheet of plastic. The ubiquitous substance that already pervaded our wallets and our kitchens is now the mediator through which human relationships themselves must pass.
The Wall Street Journal reported:
Ms. Avondoglio and her sister placed their mother, who has Alzheimer’s disease, in a nursing home a few months before the pandemic began. In the beginning, they used to visit her every day and she seemed happy, Ms. Avondoglio said.
But since the coronavirus swept through northern Italy in early 2020, killing thousands of residents in homes, she has been able to visit her mother only once a week, at best, and can speak to her for half an hour through a glass door. Her mother has stopped smiling or talking, she says.
Strict rules for visits and other precautions against Covid-19 have taken a toll on many older Italians’ mental health, leaving them feeling abandoned and depressed.
“My mother hasn’t been the same since Covid arrived,” said Alessandro Azzoni, who chairs an association of relatives of care-home residents called Felicita.
What reports like this miss are that it’s not just seeing loved ones, but touching them—knowing them, in short—that has robbed these elderly folks’ lives of the joy that this season promises. A “touch” through plastic is not enough. How many more grandparents must be made miserable before we admit this?
In some sense, all of this estrangement is not entirely new. Plastic has been used as a barrier in human relationships ever since modern contraceptives were invented. But in the last year and a half it has ratcheted up to a fever pitch. Plastic walls between you and the checkout lady, plastic shields over your face, bread in plastic takeout containers rather than broken together by human hands. Forget for a minute about the immense waste, and failed stewardship, of this obsessive-compulsive tendency, and think about how inhuman it is to touch only one another through an impenetrable substance. At that point, don’t even bother embracing. Accept your dualistic fate.
Because in trying desperately to rewire the human being to commune in spirit but not in the flesh, we are engaging in that same old ghost dualism, which changes the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak to the spirit can only live when the flesh is slain. The fresh perfume of the biomedical security state (formaldehyde) can’t hide the reek of death.
Painfully ironic, isn’t it, that in this season when we celebrate the Word becoming flesh, we have not just mortified but crucified the very creation that the Creator called “good,” good enough for his own Son to assume? We should not let the Covid-obsessed turn the celebration of the Incarnation into exactly the opposite of what it means; we should celebrate the birth of Christ like the embodied souls that we are.
Hug your Nana for me. I know I’ll be hugging mine.