Hummel column: It's only make-believe

Lynn Hummel column mug
Lynn Hummel

About two weeks ago, my cousin Ky sent me a picture she called “Joe and me.” It was a photo of Ky standing beside a cardboard cut-out of Joe Biden. Whether she bought that cut-out of Joe or just rented it for the picture, I don’t know.

But more to the big picture. If you watch the Vikings or Twins on TV you know that, because of the COVID, there are no fans at the games. The first few rows of seats are filled with cardboard cut-outs to look like actual people. They even provide some sounds that are like the noise that fans generate. It must be a strange feeling to play in front of thousands of empty seats and a few rows of phony fans.

Remember the song that goes, “It’s only a paper moon, only a cardboard sea… it’s only make believe.” Well, until we conquer the virus, welcome to the era of make believe.

How is all this strange world of make believe going to play out? Well, to take the most optimistic view of this business, it’s going to create some new employment for people who make cardboard cut-outs. Not many, but some new jobs for a few of the workers laid off more standard occupations.

For a while, the rest of us will probably play along with the make believe.


For example, at our house, more or less locked down for the last seven months or so, we’re lonesome for our friends. We are not about to organize a COVID party as some have, and get everybody exposed to one another. So, we could order cardboard cut-outs of about a dozen friends and have them all around the dinner table with music and jokes and party noises, but only two of us would be eating. All the rest would be make believe like a kid playing combat with toy soldiers all lined up on two sides, ready for a battle.

I’m afraid that works better for a kid with toy soldiers than for lonely adults. Who would tell the jokes (old ones we’ve all heard before) and who will laugh? Who will be the life of the party that has almost no real life?

Will the cut-outs be brought into church services to create illusions of the communion of saints gathering in a platoon of Christian soldiers? Does a cardboard cut-out have a soul?

Forgive me for asking an irreverent question.

Everybody is trying hard to make the make believe believable – virtual political conventions with dramatic speeches delivered in empty halls and virtual TV award ceremonies with performances given at home rather than genuine concert venues.

If cardboard cut-outs are going to be part of our pandemic scene, let me suggest three places where they might reduce our exposure to the virus. The first would be big weddings that have been planned. Instead of inviting all those important guests, have cardboard cut-outs made of them, then announce they will be honored at the wedding by the attendance of their cut-out images. Then the wedding can proceed without the crowd just like a baseball game.

The second opportunity is the awkward situation created by funerals during the pandemic. Big funerals. When a big funeral would be anticipated, do the same routine as weddings. Invite the crowd of friends who would probably attend to honor the deceased by not attending as their cut-out images would all be there paying their respects.

The third side-step would be at motorcycle rallies like the COVID disaster recently held in Sturgis, S.D., and political rallies being held around the country. People without masks or common caution are crowding in, shoulder to shoulder, coughing, sneezing and breathing on one another and spreading the plague. Simply plan cardboard cut-outs for those rallies. Take pictures of crowds and encourage the fans to stay at home.


No fun? Neither is the hospital.

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