The coronavirus pandemic has produced a great social divide in our country. One group adheres to experts’ advice about preventing the spread of the virus; another blatantly ignores it. A third, less disciplined group wavers in the middle, sticking to a disease prevention regimen sometimes, and losing its focus at others.

On Dec. 13, this social disparity extended even to the comics page.

Some of them get it. The comic strip “Zits” illustrated the pitfalls of distance learning. Teenager Jeremy Duncan broke off his answer to a question in a Zoom conference science class by holding still and keeping silent, causing his teacher to conclude that Jeremy’s computer screen was frozen. “Pearls Before Swine” satirized the frenzy of isolation-induced home-improvement projects (“Guess whose whole closet is now color-coordinated”).

Other strips are in the Dark Ages. Dagwood Bumstead, who began working for Dithers Construction in the 1930s, is still there at the age of about 110. (Has the company no 401(k) or pension plan?) On Dec. 13, Dagwood and Mr. Dithers were seen discussing Christmas preparations while unmasked and standing only two feet apart. Meanwhile, the tone-deaf “Hi and Lois” strip included these among the top 10 Christmastime activities: “Go to parties,” where the unmasked Flagstons and their neighbors, the Thurstons, mingled over punch and potentially sprayed the virus at each other; and “Sing carols,” in which the Flagston children stood at an elderly neighbor’s door and cheerfully infected him, perhaps, by belching carols and spittle at him.

Finally, there’s “Dilbert,” whose characters live at both extremes. Dilbert, his anonymous pointy-haired boss and their co-workers have sported masks in recent months; but on Dec. 13, Dilbert and the boss engaged in up-close, mask-free sarcastic banter.

I guess in Dilbert’s world, the battle against the virus is “turning the corner.”

Can we live there, please?


Joseph Owen


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