The Masque of the Coronavirus

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By Sean Fitzpatrick, Crisis Magazine, March 24, 2020

Sean Fitzpatrick is a senior contributor to Crisis. He’s graduate of Thomas Aquinas College and the Headmaster of Gregory the Great Academy. He lives in Scranton, Penn. with his wife and family of four.

Sean FitzpatrickIn shutting the world in, coronavirus has brought out the viral quality of fear. Men tend to panic when life changes overnight and moves beyond their control. Pandemonium is never as distant as a complacent, comfortable people imagine. Civilized society is not immune from collapse just because it is civilized. Ingenuity leads to dependency, and dependency to dilemma. As Americans hole up in their houses, surrounded by luxuries and every mark of wealth, they are suddenly helpless and deprived, staring a reality in the face that cannot be shut out. The Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Allan Poe tolls in our times like the great ebony clock of that story, unmasking both the relentless character of death and the salvific character of Lent.

As Americans rush about for everyday necessities and practice social distancing, it is impossible not to feel a creeping sensation of defenselessness. Besides the alarming quality of the silent coronavirus, there is an even more startling quality regarding the fragility of our infrastructure, forcing the admission of an instability that the world strives to repudiate. Just a few short weeks ago, Americans rejoiced in comfort. But it was a microscopic infiltration away from a new, rigid reality. Taken as an allegory of the ongoing crisis of coronavirus, Poe’s The Masque of the Red Death unmasks a tendency to ignore or deny troubles, whether they are on the horizon or outside our walls, deploring how people have to endure disease before they will acknowledge disease.  ….

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