In the beginning we were mostly very nice to one another. We came together not just as a nation, but as a worldwide community. We worried as much for the people of Italy as we did for ourselves. We applauded our healthcare workers at the end of their daily shifts. We found ways to do good things for people that we didn’t even know. We followed the rules and the precautions for staving off the virus with great care. We marveled at the flights of the Blue Angels as they flew over our city to thank those on the front lines of the battle with Covid-19. We grieved over every death and felt great compassion for those who became ill. We were willing to extend financial help for those who lost their jobs. Our sense of empathy was great and it felt good to be part of a human community that was so loving and caring.
Then some of us began to lose patience. The Lieutenant Governor of Texas suggested that we needed to go back to normal quickly. He blithely announced that he and other older Americans would be willing to die to help the young to reclaim their lives. The President of the United States appeared to grow weary of the daily briefings on the virus and the lack of a miracle disappearance of Covid-19 as he had so hopefully predicted. Armed groups asserted their right to freedoms including not being forced to wear masks in public. States began to reopen even as they ignored the guidelines of health professionals for doing so. Life seemingly resumed and then a Black man attempted to spend a twenty dollar bill that looked suspicious. The police were called and before an hour had passed that man lay dead as a result of overt brutality. Riots broke out first across the nation and eventually across the world. Our community spirit was finally rent in two.
As I sit in my home I number the days that I have been isolated. It is now well over 100 revolutions of the sun that have kept me inside save for a delightful three day interlude in which I drove around the Texas hill country and sat eight feet away from my daughter and her family for some much needed family connection. I have taught remote classes with my tiny band of students and I have enjoyed Zoom conferences with family and friends. Mostly though I have had to find ways to make my days meaningful as I do my best to help in the effort to eliminate the virus as much as possible.
At first I marveled at the kindness of humans but of late I have been deeply saddened by the selfishness and lack of compassion that I witness. I wonder why those who have pensions and savings and jobs that provide them with financial security have so little concern for those who are unemployed. Why are they not urging our president and Congress to continue to provide the jobless with the help they so desperately need during this time? Why does anyone think that it is a good idea to simply abandon thirteen percent of the American people who want to work but can’t find employment no matter how hard they try?
Our Black and Hispanic citizens are literally bearing the brunt of Covid-19. They are getting sick and dying in numbers far greater than the white population. So why would so many among us not even attempt to understand the frustrations that they are feeling? Does this really seem to be a time for accusing them of being responsible for the rise in cases of the virus when we know that people went to crowded bars and beaches? Does it make sense to smear the attempts of our Black citizens to demonstrate their frustrations and only see the small number of dissidents who have made the cause sometimes violent? Should all of those peacefully gathering for justice be viewed as a group of thugs? What is the reasoning for favoring hunks of metal or stone fashioned into icons glorifying people who fought to keep the ancestors of our Black neighbors enslaved over living breathing humans who are in great pain? Does this actually seem like a time to threaten dreamers with a reattempt at ridding our country of DACA so that they might once and for all be deported? What kind of people would celebrate a threat to repeal the Affordable Care Act in the middle of a pandemic? How has our society become so cruel that a wealthy old white man rides in his golf cart shouting “White Power” and our president applauds him? How can we continue to ignore our elderly who are virtual prisoners in their rooms in nursing homes because some of us refuse to do what is needed to end the rise of Covid-19 cases? What are we doing to help the mentally ill and addicted who have had an interruption of their therapies? These are the things that sadden me.
I honestly care little about myself. My days on this earth have not always been easy, but mostly they have been good. I am happy with my life and the people who have shared it with me. I have been most fortunate. I worry most about those who are truly suffering and feeling so alone. I grieve that my country is lost in a morass of ugliness and selfishness and unwillingness to spread both the wealth and the sacrifice in such a dire time. I see such difficult weeks ahead for our young whose lives are so upended and so uncertain. Their educations and their hopes and dreams and plans are on hold. Nothing is as it once was save for the lucky ones who have the gift of health and economic security that allows them to carry on as though the pandemic is little more than an inconvenient hoax created by forces that want to frighten us. For so many this moment is all too real, and it is for them that I worry. It is about them that I write. It is impossible for me to ignore them as though they do not matter.
I am weary because I feel as though I am shouting into the wind. I do not think that I have changed a single mind with the essays that I hoped would enlighten people to at least think a bit differently than usual. I see the divisiveness of beliefs growing harder and more immovable than ever before and that frightens me more than the possibility of becoming sick. Perhaps this moment in time is only the beginning of a series of events that will ultimately change the world. It may be that we will all have to endure much hardship to reach the other side. This is what keeps me awake at night because I do not believe that it had to be this way.