Is it over? Are we done? Can we just go back to being friends?
No, this isn't a breakup story. This is a story of now. This is not a story of an individual or two, but of a collective community.
It's hard to recall a time when there was so much animosity, disrespect and downright ugliness among neighbors.
I'm speaking, of course, about coronavirus and the pandemic of volatile emotions that have come with it.
Specifically, it's about the powerful range of emotions over the whys and why nots of wearing of masks, or social distancing, the opening or not opening of this or that place or space, and whether or not the threat is over - though some question if there ever was a threat.
As for the mask conundrum, it has been difficult to keep up with the science, the protocol, the guidance, the rules and the suggestions about wearing or not wearing them. Folks seem to be about evenly split between wearers and not wearers
I didn't notice masks among the accessories of folks photographed in clusters on our beaches over the past couple of weeks.
Once restaurants were allowed to reopen for seated dining, the mention of masks made some diners cheer and some hospitality workers groan.
"The servers at this restaurant aren't wearing masks," we read on our social media feed. "Boycott them!"
"Shout out to our server at this other restaurant for wearing a mask AND for wiping down the salt and pepper shakers at our table," we see somewhere else.
For the record, there are extensive guidelines in place for restaurants who choose to serve diners indoors or out, at curbside or through pick up or delivery. I don't mean a 10-point checklist, either. There are pages and pages for what must be every imaginable scenario likely to be encountered in pretty much any conceivable dining experience. You can find them at accelerateSC.gov and hiltonheadisland.org/pathforward.
You can also check out fda.gov and cdd.gov for all kinds of guidelines for every industry you can think of.
Masks in particular are a hot topic on neighborhood apps, community-based Facebook pages, and in real life (IRL for all you cool peeps).
At this point, I'd like to repeat something I wrote in this space in mid-March, just as the corona shutdown was starting: "We must be kind. Others think differently, and they have their reasons. Don't judge.
We must maintain our civility. We must listen, and think before reacting."
We have to acknowledge that people have different views about what they believe is safe for themselves and their families, and different reasons for doing or not doing certain things, going or not going out to eat, walking into a grocery or ordering pick-up, etc.
Some people - for a variety of reasons - are still doing their best to shelter in place. That's fine. Don't hate.
No, it's not over and we're not done - according to the confirmed numbers of new cases of COVID-19 we continue to see in our country and our state. It is possible that coronavirus will be with us for a number of months - maybe even years.
But yes, we can go back to being friends. It might take a lot of self-control, but we can do it. Before launching into a tirade about this or that part of this new world that you don't like, take a breath. Step away from the keyboard. Think about it again, and ask yourself, "Is it really worth it? Am I going to change anyone's mind? Or do I just want to join the noise because (fill in any reason here)?"
We don't even have to be friends. But we can be civil. We can be courteous. We can be better than we have been.