We need our moment of triumphant liberation from the traumas of COVID-19. In every story, endings matter - GulfToday

We need our moment of triumphant liberation from the traumas of COVID-19. In every story, endings matter

Paris 2

The photo has been used for illustrative purposes.

Chris Jones, Tribune News Service

On August 25, 1944, the Allied Forces rolled into Paris and the Nazi occupation of France was over. “When the last enemy resistance crumbled at the gate to Paris,” the Associated Press reported on that day, “then this heart of France went mad — wildly, violently mad with happiness.”

For many people, the COVID-19 pandemic has been just as traumatic as a world war. And the hugely successful vaccines are the equivalent of the American tanks. So when do we celebrate our liberation? When are allowed to feel that same way as those giddy Parisians?

If you’ve seen the stunning French TV epic known as “A French Village” (worthy of comparison to “The Wire” in its multiyear excellence), you’ll know that endings are always muddy.

Long prior to the liberation, expedient leading French citizens who had embraced the morally bankrupt collaboration were quietly switching sides to the resistance. Or, in some cases, hedging their bets by suddenly working both sides at once. (It was the 1940s equivalent of deleting prior uncomfortable tweets; there has been plenty of that during the intensely politicized COVID-19 pontifications from politicians and media stars.)

Back then, even many of the more foresighted Nazis figured out they were going down in defeat well before the summer of 1944. That’s why so many of them got away. Still, the need for an ending is baked into how we chronicle and understand history. You can see this in how we tell our stories. In the great movie “Ratatouille,” the rodent Remy cannot be said to have succeeded in proving that your background, or species, does not preclude you from being a great chef, until a demanding critic delivers the definitive verdict. Only then can the story end.

In the final episode of “The Queen’s Gambit,” Beth Harmon, the central chess-playing hero, has her definitive moment of triumph when she is invited to come and play by a bunch of old Russians who truly love the game. In this story, the purity of the street-wise acceptance they offer is Beth’s true victory since the Netflix show has just spent seven episodes detailing the moral corruption of the industrial-competitive complex that surrounds the celebrated game.

And, of course, politicians understand the advantages of declaring an ending, however artificial. On May 1, 2003, President George W. Bush delivered his famous “Mission Accomplished” speech on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln.  When fighting continued thereafter in Iraq, the move looked hubristic and even Bush himself later said having a banner with those words was a mistake. But the impulse was politically savvy: Bush and his aides were trying to get credit for an ending. At some point before too long, the same imperative will present itself to the Biden administration. If discussions are not already underway.

The issue is, of course, complicated by the inevitable and confusing global rollout of the vaccines, which have resulted in wild unevenness in the percentage of persons vaccinated in rich countries as compared with poorer nations. How could a North American or European politician ethically declare victory over COVID-19, thanks to a mostly vaccinated population, when the virus has been allowed to rage on other continents?

The short answer? They cannot. But politicians aren’t the only people interested in grabbing on to endings. Take, for example, the savvy producers of the Broadway show “Hadestown.”

Up until a few days ago, Broadway was reopening on Sept. 14, a date chosen by its three most powerful brand names of the moment: “Hamilton,” “Wicked” and “The Lion King.” Since it has been widely observed that New York won’t really feel like it has recovered until Broadway reopens, it seemed likely that the international media corps would select that Tuesday as the moment to declare the pandemic over, Stateside, and New York officially reopen for business and fun. It’s certainly more appealing to most people than celebrating some return to the office on the morning after Labor Day, even though that day also will carry a whole lot of weight. Better TV, too, than a whole lot of shots of workers exiting subway trains.

But then a rival Broadway show “Hadestown,” surely cognizant of what it was doing, stole that likely clap of thunder by saying it would open on Sept. 2. Very clever.

Related articles