I’ve said since before the first post of this blog that I don’t want to get political unless it pertains directly to autism/ programs/ funding/ etc.
Even with all of the things this pandemic has thrown at us, I want to maintain that. But I’m warning you now, that I might get a little editorial here. Just know that from the bottom of my heart, I’m trying to be respectful to both sides…So hear me out.
Our state is under a Safer At Home Order, and it has been for well over a month. It’s definitely affecting our lives-- as everyone’s-- in a huge way. Nolan’s routine (which he relies on heavily) is shot to hell… Kirk is doing a good job with school from home, but it’s obviously not equal to an actual typical school day… And Kirk and I (like most parents) are having a tough time finding opportunities to give ourselves and each other a break-- I can’t just go wander through Target for no reason and he can’t go looking for treasure at flea markets and antique stores.
There is so much discussion surrounding “opening the country” right now. Some argue that reopening too soon will cause an increase in cases and burden an under-prepared healthcare system. Others argue that delaying a reopening too long will do too much lasting damage to the economy and is infringing on personal rights.
Honestly I feel like no matter who wins we all lose. Either cases spike and the death toll and residual health effects (which we obviously can’t see in the long-term yet) rise exponentially, or the economy suffers. Neither option feels like a win to me.
Let’s be realistic-- this is a pandemic. In case you didn’t realize it, a pandemic is a really big fucking deal. It doesn’t just affect our household. It doesn’t just affect our neighborhood, our city, county or state… It doesn’t just affect the US. This is all of us pretty much everywhere on the entire planet. Because of that, things will forever be altered by this historic event. That’s just how pandemics work.
I think back to when we started being encouraged to limit our activities and contact with people outside of our households… It felt sudden and extreme, but at the same time it felt like a call to action. Somehow it felt reminiscent of World War II when everyone has asked to do their part for the war effort.
The main difference, of course is that we’re not fighting another country or political ideal but a virus. And more subtly, what we’re being asked for feels less like actual action (whether it was serving in the armed forces, filling in vacancies in the workforce left by deployed soldiers, planting victory gardens to produce enough food, conserving materials or any other number of things our country asked of us) and more like inaction. It still feels like a sacrifice, but it’s far less tangible than the sacrifices requested of Americans all those years ago.
I wonder if that’s why we’re struggling with it the way we are.
Admittedly, I did not live through WWII. And history was never my favorite subject in school… But my impression of those years and that war effort is that we were all working together toward a common goal. We put the good of our country and the world above our own wants and comforts.
But now? In this war against a virus? We’re fighting against each other. It’s become a pissing match over who’s right and (more importantly) who’s wrong. Is it because this is such an invisible enemy? If instead of a microscopic virus that we can’t see with our own eyes, we were in a war against the Corona Czar, would we be united at the front instead of bickering at each other in the trenches?
Clearly I have more questions than answers. I just hope I’m not the only one who’s thinking about these questions.
Maybe we need to think about reopening the country in a different way.
And I don’t mean, “let’s follow this kind of model for opening on this kind of time frame” or “let’s reopen commerce with more online options” or anything like that. I mean… those kinds of solutions will come in time.
But first? We need to reopen our hearts and minds.
Let’s all take a collective step back and a nice deep breath. And for crying out loud, stop pissing on each other's shoes.
Now that we’re all calmer and thinking a little more clearly, let’s re-frame our thinking a bit. Sometimes it feels like we’ve lost all context. This isn’t about what’s happening right this very second in your very own space in your very own life.
Let’s stop and think about the things that frustrate us and make us angry as we work through the debate over staying under limited-contact rules vs. reopening. Think through the issues and what it might be that the other side is fighting for…
“Asking me to wear a face mask is an infringement on my personal rights.” Listen, no one wants to be told what to do. But we live in a society that already has rules in place that we’re okay with that have the same intentions and basic practices… For example: No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service. This one has been around long enough that we don’t really question why or complain about the requirement. Sure, this rule is there to protect your feet, but it's also there to protect the rest of us. No one wants your bare feet walking around your local grocery store sharing whatever fungus or other who-knows-what you’re protecting us from by wearing shoes. The principal (not sharing germs) and the practice (wear some protection) are basically the same.
“Opening too soon is dangerous and irresponsible-- people’s lives are at risk.” Yes, the numbers of deaths among people confirmed to have the virus are statistically low, but it’s hard to fault a person for valuing human life. If the concern behind this thinking is that all lives are important, that means that this person believes your life and my life are important. And in general, this also comes with concern for our healthcare workers who will be on the front lines fighting for the lives of people who might contract the virus... If we focus on keeping the spread of the virus as small as possible, we keep the numbers of doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers exposed as low as possible.
“The economy cannot be sacrificed at the expense of a small percentage of deaths.” The thought here may be that the person saying this values money over life. But perhaps this thinking comes from seeing the results of catastrophe as it related to the economy in the Great Depression (which was really only a few generations ago). Obviously poverty was widespread at that point in history. How many people died as the direct or indirect result of poverty (from a lack of money to cover basic needs like enough food, health care, and more) during those years?
Clearly there’s a lot of emotion on both sides. And I get that 100%. This has been exhausting to live through, and psychologically speaking it’s been rough on everyone.
But let’s go back to the idea of reopening our hearts and minds. Instead of seeing someone with a differing opinion as someone to fight against, let’s think of them as a soldier in our own trench who is fighting the same enemy as we are.
We don’t always have to agree with each other or even like each other. But let’s acknowledge that what we all want is to come out as unscathed as possible on the other side of this battle. We need to figure out a way to work together to defeat our common enemy before it defeats us.
If we’re focused on ways to take each other down, we’re giving the enemy time to amass their armies and sneak in when we’re not looking. And the more we lob at each other as we argue over who is right and who is wrong, the less ammunition we have to put toward defeating our enemy.
So let’s work together to figure this out. We need both sides of the argument in order to win this war effectively… Yes, let’s keep the economy viable, but let’s also minimize loss of life. There are creative solutions to our problems out there, but we have to be willing to admit that all of us are wrong about some parts of this right about others.
It’s when we get caught up in insisting that we are the right ones that we stop listening to other options. That’s like winning the battle at the sacrifice of losing the war.
On that note, I think I’ve exhausted all of the wartime comparisons I can muster. If nothing else, I’ve exhausted myself both mentally and emotionally…
So take a deep breath and maybe a step back, and let’s all work on reopening ourselves so that we can get through this together.