Blah-blah-blah etc.

They’re just words now

“Your call is very important to us. Please hold.”

There’s one that’s hard to believe, particularly after you’ve been on hold for an hour with a faceless conglomerate whose digital operator’s repeated reassurance becomes more grating than helpful.

“Thank you for your service.”

A thoughtful and once-meaningful sentiment that recognizes our heroes who serve or have served our nation during war and peace. It keeps its intended depth on a one-to-one or small group setting, and it’s always important to say a sincere thank you to those who dedicated their lives to keeping all of us safe and sound. Sadly, it has become a commoditized catchphrase for a television promotion or politician’s stump speech. A box on the speechwriter’s checklist.

“Small business is the backbone of our community.”

Yes it is, but that’s another that no longer carries a scintilla of sincerity. Perfect for the elected official searching for the right thing to say when government policies – usually far from his or her influence or control – have run roughshod over the Main Street retailers and restaurants just trying to make payroll at the end of the week. No, it’s not the right thing to say. It’s just blah-blah-blah.

“We’re following the science.”

The newest entry to the catchphrase roster. One of ex-Governor Cuomo’s leave-behinds from his daily COVID shows from back in the day, and, at the time, a reassuring comment when all around was dark. Like a lot of things he was doing and saying on those shows, politicians around the world picked up on it quicker than you can say “seven-day rolling average.”

We’re hearing it a lot now from people like Governor Kathy Hochul and White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki who, in the face of a public’s waning patience for all things restrictive, keep hammering the idea that “we’re following the science” when rendering decisions on mask mandates and related guidance (“guidance,” we’ve learned, implies a different legal standard than “rule,” but both mean “you have to do this”).

But when the science in, say, Massachusetts or Connecticut says it’s OK to take the masks off in schools, why doesn’t New York’s science say the same thing? The governors in those two states say they’re “following the science” in lifting mask mandates. Here in New York, we evidently “followed the science” last week when we got the word that the state was calling a halt on its ‘winter surge’ indoor mask mandate for businesses (but not for places like nursing homes, transportation hubs, and other ‘congregate settings’). We have to wait until early March for science to reveal itself far enough to render a decision on schools.

What science are we following that the others aren’t? Is ours better? Or is it just stuck in New York’s Byzantine bureaucracy that slows down everything from state park passes to driver’s licenses?

We do not question whether New York’s mask mandate wheel of fortune is right or wrong. (And we hear you, The Other Side of the Debate, when you’ll now trot out your own tired sloganeering by shouting various permutations of the word ‘sheep.’) We’re deeply grateful for the science – especially for those people who are and do science — that has been the light at the end of this long tunnel since the earliest days of the pandemic. We remain confident that science and its practitioners will see all of us through this mess.

We do question whether “we’re following the science” has become so overused that it now is just bureaucratic lexicon, a meaningless utterance that checks a politician’s box but provides the same reassurance as saying “Your call is very important to us. Please hold.”


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