When this all started, it seemed so easy. We could just wash our hands the amount of time it took to sing Happy Birthday twice or the chorus from Taking Care of Business—because Canadian Content when you’re washing your hands, thanks CBC!—and if we could be sure to interlace our hands to the webbing (we have webbing!) and scrub our nails into our palms and make sure to get that bit on the outside of the baby finger, and a few seconds more on the outside of the whole general thumb area there, and soap up past the wristbone, we’d be fine.
We could wash our hands—gaily, like ‘I’m gonna wash that man right out of my hair’ from South Pacific—and we’d all be so clean that the spikey little virus would run down the drain, and everything would be fine.
5,934,936 confirmed cases later, and 367,166 corpses worldwide—WHO data as of 1:38 CEST 31 May 2020—it hasn’t exactly worked out that way.
And now, it turns out that it’s harder to wash moments from memory than it is to clean hands of coronavirus. Don’t know about you, but I’m having trouble scrubbing away the images of the father-son vigilantes in Georgia and the whiteness of fellow Canadian Amy Cooper and her squealing dog, and nothing’s going to rinse away the video of the cop with his knee on George Floyd’s neck. No matter how I dig under my nails.
But why, exactly, is my first reaction to wash my hands of it?
We’ve all read endlessly that the pandemic is accelerating some trends and creating new ones, exposing old wounds and inflicting fresh pain. We can wash all we want, we can sing every tune, and we can scrub our hands stiff by the end of the day.
But what we really need to do is come clean.
text © Dianna Carr illustration © Francis Tremblay