A week ago, I was feeling down about how one of suburban upstate NY’s gods — Wegmans — has been less than mighty during the COVID crisis. I continue to not be terribly impressed with the Wegman family in all this. They seem to be dragging their feet continually at every turn, only putting out information when they have to. It is such a strange phenomenon that I have seen in other crises in different fields during my lifetime, where the very people you think of as paragons of public virtue start acting dismissive and even defensive when a band-aid gets painfully ripped off and it’s time for a real change.
But the opposite can also be true. People you never really thought about — the folks who seemed bland, irrelevant, or just not worth noticing either way — are often the ones who step up and function intelligently in a crisis. There’s this phenomenal PSA that comes from… the State of Ohio, of all places. (If there’s been a smartly designed social distancing PSA from New York, home of all those whiz-bang Madison Avenue creatives, I haven’t seen it. They were too busy creating a tone-deaf spectacle on top of the Empire State Building, apparently.)
There are the people we didn’t trust anyway, like Donald Trump and Congress; and then there are the people we used to trust, like Wegmans; and then there are people and institutions we are still mostly trusting, like the State of New York’s agencies, and also “new” people who we are coming to trust more, like Dr. Fauci or some of our local officials. Before any political or social changes begin to manifest, what happens at the molecular level is the reshuffling of assumptions about who we can trust.