I’m doing pretty well overall, but when the sun starts to set with increasingly cooler evenings, I occasionally notice some irritability too. Largely hunkered down in my house since March, I know that winter is coming soon. This means that the hunkering will become more persistent.
These days, I take walks frequently, and I have a hearty squad of people who call. My mood is largely and perhaps surprisingly, light. I have remained my typical authentic, resilient self throughout more than 200 days of this. But I know there are many more days to come. Perhaps another year.
Yesterday, as the sun set, I experienced that cooler air, but I felt more sad than irritable. It seems like we’ve resigned ourselves to the the coronavirus. Maybe not altogether — lots of people are taking precautions — but we don’t have a collective strategy. And it seems like a lot of us are okay with that. Many people in national and local power are totally okay with that.
As for individuals, maybe we’ll take safety measures personally… Maybe we won’t… Maybe… we’ll cut just a few corners…
But without a collective strategy, this virus continues to spread, and it seems like many people and communities have resigned themselves to the reality that this will pass through the entire population at large. This surrender isn’t just a first wave, second wave, or third wave. This is like doing the wave at a baseball game. COVID-19 keeps moving through our population bit by bit. As of this date, 205,654 people have died, and 7.2 million cases have been reported. While many recover, this virus is only half a year old, and some are now reporting chronic illness impacting their hearts, lungs, and neurological systems months after contracting the virus. In addition to a continual wave of death averaging at about 1000 people per day, this ever-moving virus causes chronic illness and disability in large numbers too.
And six months in, it seems we want to believe the fantasy that things are better, or at least a little better, simply because we’ve taken some time away from our typical routines. But besides knowing that masks work, we really aren’t in a different position than we were in March. We’re just tired of it.
So I see churches opening, universities opening, restaurants opening, and political rallies opening. Today, the state government in Florida declared that restaurants, bars, gyms, theme parks, sporting events, retail stories, vacation rentals, concert halls, and auditoriums can all open at full capacity.
We are largely in the same position we were in March.
And because we won’t set a collective strategy to deal with a collective problem, we are largely in the same position we were in March. We don’t have to be, but we are. Unless we want a pandemic to run a continual wave of disruption, disability, and death throughout our population, we have to have a collective strategy.
It seems like we don’t have the will.
Many individuals do not, and certainly, many in power do not. When those power brokers don’t have the will or the care, many others don’t have a choice. Workers must show up for their bosses. Students must show up for their university administrations. Healthcare workers must show up, and some develop PTSD. Incarcerated people are exposed en masse with no freedom of movement. Disabled people must stay home to protect themselves from the population at large.
We want freedom and choices, but without a collective strategy, most of us have diminished freedom and choices. And disruption, disability, and death continue to move through our population.
I’m not a person without hope, but I want to name this. I will keep hunkering down in my house for a continual, ongoing stretch of time that boggles my mind. But I do have the privilege and ability to choose to protect myself this way.
Many do not.
Without a collective strategy, many will lose freedom and choice.
And so I take to heart these challenging words from The Testament, Margaret Atwood’s sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale. They are a painful parody of Robert Frost:
“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and I took the one most travelled by. It was littered with corpses, as such roads are. But as you will have noticed, my own corpse is not among them.”
This doesn’t have to be our reality.