Keep Calm & STOP PANICKING (!!!)

Back in college some 9 years ago, the world saw a resurgence in the “Keep Calm and Carry On” poster.

It made sense: Both minimalist and vintage styles were popular. The Keep Calm And Carry On poster fit each like a glove.

And just like all works of art that we wear out, both an anti-meme (“KEEP CALM AND DRINK COFFEE” HA HA GET IT?) and The Backstory emerged.

It turns out that World War II in Britain was, like they keep calling today, an uncertain time. And like today’s events, people worried about pushing an insensitive message. So even after the British government printed all those posters amid valid fears about German bombings, they didn’t hang many of the posters at all — in fact, they axed their plans altogether.

Decades later, we’re quarantining instead of rationing. Instead of home-front allied news, we hear daily diagnoses and death rates.

“Don’t panic,” they told us, as state tournaments canceled, and then entire sports seasons followed suit.

“Don’t panic,” they urged, as our students suddenly learned that their whole school year ending early is not a dream, rather, a heartbreak.

“I AM JUST SO TIRED OF EVERYONE PANICKING AND ALL OF THESE STUPID CANCELLATIONS,” wrote a family friend, who WAS NOT PANICKING UNLIKE EVERYONE ELSE OBVIOUSLY.

“This is stupid,” wrote a high school classmate with two kid. She was angered that soccer season ended. “Everyone is panicking.”

I did not panic as I packed up my desk, carried a monitor out of my office, and said “see ya later” to my boss, without stopping to think about that last word.

I did not panic as I set up my new work-from-home office in our living room, combining an old desk from storage with a makeup vanity.

He did not panic as he drove two hours’ round-trip just searching for antibacterial wipes, wanting anything for his employees, all deemed essential, the deliverers of important medicines and online purchases. Just a week prior he’d come home and, like so many of us, swore if he fielded one more question about this virus…

We all learned all at once that this was real, and this was here. For each state or national event that was canceled, there was an athlete or would-be participant who had tested positive. Celebrity names began pouring in. Then friends.

We did not panic as we used our bunny ears to find a local channel and listened to our state governor praise the efforts of local restaurant support.

In other states, the more people who tested positive, the more people dug their heels in that there was no need for government control TO ORDER residents to stay home.

“They don’t want a panic,” one well-intentioned friend explained at my frustration, reading about negligence where I’d grown up.

And soon enough, all of those friends who WERE TOTALLY NOT PANICKING (!!!) began telling the rest of us the truth. The doctors who have studied infections for decades are actually just frauds. A collapsed, heartbreaking economy is exactly what the government wants. The government wants to burden itself purely so that it can control you. Bill Gates Bad.

If you had spent time touting pro-life views on Facebook in January, you may be up for sacrificing the weakest link in March — it’s better for business. And as they took to the streets to protest, obviously the calm and rational, they shared one message: JUST. STOP. PANICKING.

I bolted around the grocery store for necessities, though I only took what I needed. I did not panic when I realized I needed more, or when delivery wait times meant I’d have to shop in person.

I mourned for our ghost-town craft district. I looked at pictures from my college friends-group, unable to fathom a life where we were all told that we had to disband the last two months of our senior year. I cried at a news article about a lost hometown high school sports season. Then I cried at another at a lost high school musical.

I felt, as one friend’s young daughter so poignantly called it, “The Big Sadness.” I felt the fear. I tried to brush away the uncertainty.

But I trust health experts, because they are experts. I believe our efforts now will save lives of those who need it most — of all ages.

“We may be suffering something of an invasion at the moment, but that’s no reason to start acting in a rash and hot-headed manner. We may be a subjugated nation — temporarily — but we are not about to start acting like savages.”

And as I settled into my new normal, I found myself waiting. Surely, along with the tiger memes and podcasts, someone would re-surge that old Keep Calm design. We sure needed it now more than we ever did in 2011.

But there lies the problem. Long-gone is our sense of a united home-front. We’ve replaced it with protesters, with misinformation, with fear of control… With a strong, resounding panic.

In the late 1930s, according to that Business Insider Backstory, the end goal was to do exactly what the British government printed:

“We may be suffering something of an invasion at the moment, but that’s no reason to start acting in a rash and hot-headed manner. We may be a subjugated nation — temporarily — but we are not about to start acting like savages.”

If only we had been so perceptive.

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