This is the first of the final 4 guest posts, with the final 3 essays going up throughout the day today and possibly tomorrow.
Our first priority has to be Covid. Until that is under control, until everyone can safely leave their homes and go to work or school, we aren’t going to be able to really start rebuilding in the wreckage Trump has left us. The country is like a trailer park after a tornado; we need to clear away the debris and rebuild, but first we need to set the broken bones and stop the bleeding.
We need a national strategy, and the money to support it. Whatever it takes to get vaccines manufactured, delivered, and jabbed, do it. At the same time we need to control the spread. Test, test, test. Test at schools, test at workplaces, test at the borders. Mandate masks. Enforce the lockdowns.
Instead of blanket stimulus checks, support small businesses. Support those who’ve lost their jobs with enhanced unemployment. Provide coverage for those who’ve lost their health insurance. Get us out of this nightmare, get everyone on their feet, and then start to plan about what comes next.
Because I think that will be an even bigger challenge. When we finally emerge from lockdown, we’ll see, and have to come to terms with, all the havoc this virus has wreaked, all the damage it has caused. The ranting on the right about the cure being worse than the disease and the rise in suicides and depression aren’t entirely wrong – they’re just premature. I don’t think that particular fallout is really going to hit until the worst is over, when we crawl out of our burrows and try to resume what we used to think was normal life, and discover that we can’t. The economic fallout will probably last for years – so many jobs lost and never coming back, businesses gone, bankruptcies, evictions. And we don’t know much about the long-term effects of Covid yet; thousands of people may never completely recover.
So many lives shattered, and there’s an emotional bill that hasn’t yet come due. I often think about the series the NY Times ran after 9/11, Portraits of Grief, remembering each of the 2900 people who died that day. They were full of little details — funny stories, favorite bands, the teams they followed, how they met their spouses — that made each person more than a name. I read every single one of them.
Now we’re losing that many people every day and they’re mostly just faceless. We can’t begin to memorialize them all. Every year at Ground Zero they read the names of all of the victims and it takes more than three hours. Imagine doing that every day. There are 58,000 names on the Vietnam Memorial in Washington. We lost 65,000 Americans in December alone.
This is not something that it’s up to the government alone to handle. But it’s critical that they create the space where we can start to acknowledge and process this unbearable tragedy as a society. I know that in many ways I’ve been very, very lucky. I have enough money, and the luxury of being able to stay home. Even so, ten months of being alone in a tiny NY apartment, rarely seeing a friend or even a neighbor in person, has taken a profound toll. There were many nights last spring when I lay awake in the dark listening to the endless ambulance sirens and thought that if I started screaming I’d never be able to stop. Some days I still think that.
But I’m okay and I’ll be okay. I’ll come through this, and I’ll do whatever I can to help others come through it as well. Doing that will require the security of knowing that grownups are in charge and taking care of everything that needs taking care of. I need the luxury of being able to ignore the news for a while so I can take stock of the world these cruel, careless years have left behind and figure out how I’m going to live in it. How wecan live in it, together.
Thank you for sending this in, arrieve! (WG)