Doing The Right Thing Feels Awful
You cancelled Christmas. You had a Zoom Thanksgiving. But it feels like it doesn’t matter because some dingus had a no-mask NYE rager.
Today as folks with office-type jobs slid back into their home office chairs, facing a tidal wave of office emails and arbitrary office deadlines, many probably paused to consider the fact that they were still working from home. Their kids got up for “school” in whatever way that manifests — for littles with limited internet access or parents who can’t or aren’t involved in their education, the morning probably wasn’t a lot different than the winter break.
For shift workers, medical care providers, home health care workers, transit operators, and so many others, there’s little distinction between “holidays” and “every other day of the week.” They pulled on their masks again today and did what they do, what they’ve been doing.
Regardless of what we do to make money, most of us probably thought that, by now — January of 2021 — we’d be getting on buses and going into the city. Or we’d be experiencing regular morning and lunch rushes at the cafe. We thought that today would be like so many other Mondays and that it would flow with the current of a grinding 9-to-5 following a long time away.
Instead, it’s the same. It’s Zoom meetings (just like it was Zoom Christmas) and sweatpants. It’s a constant stream of customers because apparently “working from home” also means “working whenever” and now grocery stores are just always kind of busy. It feels both dull and chaotic.
More than anything, it feels unbelievable because how in the actual hell are we still here, still dealing with this, still making the changes, still following these rules when apparently a lot of people just don’t give a shit?
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The more I read about super-spreader events, the more I find myself amazed at the absolutely selfish nature of our species. And the more unfair it feels.
I rarely, if ever, use the word “fair” because I think it’s subjective, which means that it in most instances of use, it’s meaningless. I don’t like it in politics. I don’t like it in personal relationships. You will n e v e r hear me saying “fair wage” or “fair laws” because people who aren’t currently struggling with their wages or the current laws—employers, for example, think the fact that we haven’t changed the minimum wage in over a decade— think the status quo is, in fact, highly fair.
But “unfair” is the only word I can muster to describe the feeling of making these many concessions while others do whatever they want. Because it plainly is not fair that so many people have given up so much while others have given up exactly nothing and we’re all still paying for it.
A pandemic means that everyone’s actions impact everyone else directly. It’s not theoretical. Kids are still doing schooling from home because some dipshit decided to vacation in Boca. Bartenders and servers and business owners are on dwindling unemployment because apparently you cannot ask God to just blow the virus away. Hundreds of thousands of people have died because people don’t know the different between their nose and their mouth and they can’t seem to cover both. They have lost someone because someone somewhere else in their town or state honestly, truly believes that their religious faith will protect them, despite ample evidence that it will not.
“I’m not wearing a mask when around my family like the CDC requests and we are traveling so we’ll take our chances. And to top it off we are huggers so there you go! There will be no social distancing CDC. Faith over fear!!” — Facebook post from a Texas pastor whose parents later both died of COVID.
Some of the issue is, I think, messaging. At the beginning of the pandemic, I was working in social media for a local government agency and, in the interest of getting out as much critical information as possible, we often had to simply. “Stay home” became the core of the message. The messaging about wearing a mask was, at first, muddled, though it has since been clarified.
And, to be fair, people are staying home. But they’re also staying at other people’s homes. And they’re staying in rental homes with 12 other households. Americans are so good at finding loopholes and ways in which rules don’t apply to them that they have stayed home — following the rules! — and still managed to increase the spread of disease.
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A lot of folks believe that they’re compliant or compliant-ish with the public health guidelines. And in many cases, they mostly are. Unfortunately, the broad guidelines don’t really offer enough information for most people to make informed choices —— the guidelines don’t really dive into the absolutely necessary step of ensuring that air is not stagnate, for example, despite ample evidence that this can curb the spread even when people are indoors.
It makes sense for government agencies to keep the advice as simple as possible, but that also means that a lot of well-meaning folks don’t know about small protections that could turn a super-spreader event into a still-risky-but-likely-to-be-less-devastating kind of deal. And since we know from **looks around at all of human existence** the general population think that bending the recommendations will be fine, we sort of need to give them a little more to work with. Often, they are doing their best — but their best is simply not enough in the face of such an aggressive disease that turns birthday parties into bombshells. I mean, hell, the folks at a California hospital couldn’t get it right.
But then there are the people who aren’t even trying. And who can blame them? A billion years ago, Jenny McCarthy stormed onto the stage like an anti-vaxxing Joan of Arc, carrying a sword made entirely of essential oils and people have been rejecting very basic realities ever since. An entire faction of this country’s political spectrum has declared that wearing a small piece of cotton is a personal affront and an attack on the very heart of liberty.
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The very same people who hated LGBTQ folks so much that they brought their right to discriminate via buttercream all the way to the Supreme Court are now screaming at employees of a Bloomingdales, who, it goes without saying, are absolutely not obligated to let them in the store without a mask.
These are the same people who have a LOT to say about what happens in the uteruses of strangers, but I digress.
These stories are the ones that feel the worst. The stories about gleeful influencers attending massive church gatherings, continuing to openly flout the rules in the name of ~freedom~, and likening public health guidelines around COVID-19 to Nazi Germany (yes really) are also the ones who have consistently voted for the exact lawmakers who are prolonging this nightmare.
They are the ones who elected people who are stopping up state and local relief.
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Maybe this is just how I feel but…as someone who strives to vote to do the most good—to help the most people, to make our communities more equitable and accessible—I’m having a very hard time finding it in my heart to feel for people who are struggling because they can’t bother to put on a fucking mask. My taxes will pay their ER bills. My taxes will fund their relief checks (should any even come). And I am the one whose life has become so, so much smaller in the interest of not spreading the disease.
Quite frankly, it feels like a lot of people either a.) simply do not give a shit about the health and safety of others or b.) have still failed to internalize the reality of this pandemic. And either way, that is so, so dangerous.
The feelings of helplessness, anxiety, frustration — and, let’s be honest, outright rage at times — are carried deeply in the bellies and across the backs of the people who are also already doing everything they can. The people who can’t hold a proper service for their deceased loved ones because, well, it would have to be inside and that’s not allowed. The people who broke old traditions and missed family members and picked up extra shifts and put themselves in harm’s way in the medical and public safety fields. The healthcare workers treating patients in the gift shop.
The people who are already giving up a lot are the ones who are also being tasked with feeling the worst.
We can’t see our families. We can’t hug our friends. Hospitality employees sweat under their masks. ER nurses run ragged, developing callouses over the bridges of their noses. We have spent birthdays, holidays, important days, and very sad days with limited ability to seek human contact, and why?
Because we don’t know what to do? Because we don’t know how to stop the spread of COVID-19? No. WE KNOW WHAT TO DO.
Because folks went to actual parties on New Year’s Eve. Like, big parties. Inside parties. The kinds of parties a lot of people wished they could have gone to but didn’t because they care about their fellow human beings.
We are still in this pandemic because of structural issues and the fact that there is a hacky-sack full of human excrement pretending to the be the leader of the free world. We’re here because pharmaceutical companies still want to make money. We’re here because the healthcare system is honestly laughable and because for three decades, trickle-down economics has fed the belief that ~markets just figure stuff out~.
But mostly, we’re here because people are the fucking worst and honestly it just sucks. It sucks. It feels horrible. You are right to feel horrible about it because it is horrible.