The end of shaking hands?

(APEC)

That’s the question being asked by the Associated Press this week. Should we go back to shaking hands as we hopefully put all of the pandemic madness behind us? Politicians were making a big show of “bumping elbows” in place of handshakes while all of the social distancing rules were in place. Everyone was being told to wash their hands more frequently and to not touch their face after being in contact with strangers. (That’s still really not bad advice, to be honest.) But should the ancient tradition of handshaking be permanently abandoned just because the novel coronavirus is with us? Believe it or not, some people are seriously suggesting this is how we should operate moving forward. And one person in that group is none other than Dr. Fauci himself.

Now, as workers return to the office, friends reunite and more church services shift from Zoom to in person, this exact question is befuddling growing numbers of people: to shake or not to shake?

The handshake has been around for centuries. A widely held belief is that it originated to prove to someone that a person was offering peace and not holding a hidden weapon. But hands can be germy — coated with fecal matter and E. coli.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, cautioned last year, “I don’t think we should ever shake hands ever again, to be honest with you.”

Not everyone is being as frantic as Fauci. One infectious disease specialist from Johns Hopkins University is quoted as saying that all of the concern over shaking hands is “overblown.” He advises people who are concerned about physical contact and the spread of COVID is to get vaccinated and wash your hands before touching your face. “That’s what hand sanitizer is for.”

The hand-washing suggestion isn’t terrible advice, right? Many of us were probably a little more lax about that than we could have been prior to the pandemic and you can pick up all sorts of germs anywhere. The fact that the number of cases of the flu was near rock-bottom over the winter is probably a testament to how many people were being more diligent about their hygiene. Sticking to those habits might keep a lot of people out of the hospital for any number of reasons going forward.

But doing away with handshaking is simply preposterous. It’s more than a simple tradition. It’s something human beings have been doing in many cultures for most of recorded history and one of the ways that we physically interact with each other. There’s a reason that the phrase “let’s shake on it” remains with us and is still invoked when an agreement is reached.

While I was on vacation last week, my wife and I traveled up to the family camp in the mountains where I was able to see my in-laws for the first time in more than a year. My mother-in-law greeted me with a long, warm hug. My father-in-law hook my hand and welcomed me back. There was no discussion of whether or not we should do that. We just did it.

All of this elbow bumping is nothing more than yet another layer of virtue signaling and pandemic theater. We can’t allow this virus to frighten us into abandoning all of the things that make up our social interactions and turn us into robots. So if you run into me at CPAC or some other political convention next year, feel free to offer to shake my hand. I won’t turn you down.