Getting through this

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We need this tree’s determination to thrive. Split rock, as needed.

 

By Caitlin Kelly

It’s not a joke or a hoax.

It’s forcing everyone to re-think every element of our lives: work, relationships, employment, money, access to government aid, education, worship, mourning, celebrations, trust in government, the safety and reliability of medical and hospital care.

Many people have died. Some are very ill. Some wonder — without easy access to testing — if they’ve even been infected with COVID-19, its now official name.

 

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It’s forcing Americans, especially, to behave in ways that run counter to how they’ve been socialized for decades — i.e. to behave as individuals, to behave as they please, free of most government interference, (but also government aid.)

Writing in this week’s New York Times, Donald McNeil says:

Is that what some countries are missing? This sense of collective action and selflessness?

That is absolutely what many Americans are missing — that it’s not about you right now. My parents were in the World War II generation and there was more of a sense of, “Hey, we did something amazing; we ramped up this gigantic societal effort.” It was this sense of we’re all in this together.

We’ve got to realize that we’re all in this together and save each other’s lives. That has not penetrated yet and it needs to penetrate because we all have to cooperate.

 

 

When you grow up not giving a damn about “the other” — people unrelated to you or you’ve never met and why would you even consider universal healthcare for the “undeserving”? — a pandemic throws this thinking out the window.

The nation’s addiction to capitalism and for-profit healthcare and limited government has also led to this crisis — you can’t keep an economy centered on consumer spending alive when no one is shopping or traveling or buying a house or a car.

The wealthy? They’ve already hopped aboard their private jets, and are safely ensconced in their third or fifth home, like the guy writing to The New York Times who fled New York for his house in Rhode Island.

In a time when Americans have never been more divided racially and economically and politically, this virus doesn’t care.

 

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Like it or not, ready or not, we’re all intertwined now

 

People may look, sound, earn and vote just as you do — and still be carrying and widely spreading this lethal virus.

I finally went out for a walk yesterday on our town reservoir path — lots of people (safely distant!) walking, running, biking. It felt great to be out of the apartment and moving.

It’s no fun being stuck indoors all the time.

It’s really hard not to get irritable and snappish if you share a small space with others.

Yes, people are really disappointed by cancelled parties and weddings and kids’ sports and graduations.

But seriously?

Stay home and be responsible.

We have to buck up.

 

I wish,  more than anything, we could still hear the wise and seasoned voices of those who survived WWII, who knew the kind of shared terror we’re only now beginning to feel — and who can share the mental strength and stamina they all needed to get through it.

 

Here’s my new theme song, from one of my favorite bands, The Talking Heads:

 

 

24 thoughts on “Getting through this

  1. Amen. Such a true and insightful reading of this situation. I hope the lessons that come out of it are long-lasting and lead to a more peaceful United States.

    1. Thanks!

      It is forcing a massive re-examination of every “value”…and yet…kids crowding beaches because they “deserve” spring break (never had one!) and people still (?!) going to bars when possible.

      It’s called shared sacrifice. Solidarity.

  2. Wonderful entry! I wonder what has fed this belief about focusing on yourself and not our fellow men.

    My parents survived WW2 (mom in China then Hong Kong and my dad in the Philippines). I think that mental toughness got them a tough immigration experience while raising 3 kids.

    1. Thanks…

      Americans are taught that liberty is their paramount virtue — individual rights. Not collective. Not the common good. And certainly not sacrificing those FOR the common good. It’s seen as a terrible infringement…instead of a real source of pride to help and care for others.

  3. Being stuck inside is no fun – I mean, writing involves a lot of it, but the option is always there to down tools and head out for an hour, just for a breather. Now – well. Yeah. It’s true in New Zealand just now, too. Other than that, the Covid-19 crisis is going to make everybody re-think how they relate to each other, I suspect (and hope) and, with luck, will also at least pave the way for the the necessary changes that must happen if our current civilisation is to survive.

    I’ve just blogged about what to me is the underlying problem; the way that our framework of what is ‘normal’ has been shifted over the past couple of generations into a very narrow vision; one that is actually an extreme edge of a much broader capitalist system. What was considered moderate and mainstream in the 1970s is now demonised as ‘socialist’ (‘ptooey’). It’s a shift of view that has been so slow as to be invisible. But it’s happened. The US and Britain are, perhaps, exemplars; but it’s true one way or another for much of the developed world. And that just doesn’t work when there is a health crisis, or when that same crisis leads to potential economic collapse.

    The last couple of generations have, I fear, also conditioned people to think only of themselves, and not of others. I hope that will change. People need to care for each other, and it shouldn’t take a world health crisis to make that happen.

    1. All true…I agree. The rise of neo-liberalism — weak unions, enormous CEO salaries versus those of workers. This has made very very clear what so many Americans live with every day, massive income inequality and a very thin, very weak social safety net.

      I have no idea how millions of broke people rushing to collect unemployment (which we of course are not entitled to) is going to play out.

  4. well-said. i believe that people will begin to understand the collective in a better way, and have gratitude for what we have and do as the normal course of our lives. some things will change and never return, and hopefully the good will remain.

    1. It’s going to be Darwinian in hospitals. Unless we know someone personally…NY state has the highest rate, which is frightening but trying to stay calm and keep isolating except for walking outdoors.

  5. My parents were both WW II army veterans. They were called “The Greatest Generation” for a reason. But they managed to raise some pretty spoiled kids, who raised even more spoiled kids. I keep thinking that this virus is the Earth’s immune response to the consumption-driven parasite that has invaded it.

    1. I agree.

      Jose and I had that conversation a while ago — as if Earth finally said “the hell with you!” to all of us — as if climate change wasn’t signaling enough that MAJOR global behavioral change was long overdue.

      Seeing people (?!) insisting on going to parties or gathering in groups tells us how stupid and selfish the worst can be. It is very worrying that half of the U.S. (55%) now say they approve of how Trump is “handling” this crisis.

      He lies daily — and the only sane/reliable expert, Dr. Fauci, has to hide his face in his hands in despair. On camera.

      I cannot (yet) imagine the worst of this, medically and financially. I cannot see how the economy survives, and all the self-employed with NO benefits, like us.

      1. Trump has handled this extremely poorly. I briefly watched one of his so-called updates – he can’t even string together a logical sentence- but couldn’t stand it for long. Then I watched a real statesman – Justin Trudeau. Calm, reassuring, updated on his facts and information, and clear and precise. I think every leader has to undergo a major test. Trudeau is passing and Trump is failing. US cases of this virus are climbing at an alarming rate because of Trump’s narcissism. Unbelievable that he now has 55% approval. What are people thinking?? I guess a lot of them aren’t.

        I wish you clean hands, good health and lots of toilet paper. 😉 (Got to try to have a little laugh when you can.)

      2. Thanks…We do have clean hands, latex gloves, rubbing alcohol, TP and even a few N95 masks.

        He is pathetic. It’s been obvious for years he is massively unfit for office and emotionally incapable of human behavior — as you and I know too well, a classic narcissist.

        We can only pray that this — the worst thing to hit the U.S. since 9/11 — finally gets his flabby ass out of the White House.

        If he is reelected….not sure if we can take more. Living here is ridiculous.

      3. Amen to your prayer. Fervently.
        Btw, a trick of fate landed me here in NY in mid-December (long story). But by Election Day, I’ll have sent my absentee ballot from a Paris mailbox … near my new residence. That’s a prayer AND a promise.

      4. I can only afford ONE residence, so am currently here in Harlem — to divest. RE agent is optimistic, but that’s his job :). THEN my (rented) residence will be in Paris, I do have my renewable titre de sejour.
        Big real estate year pour moi!!

      5. Yes, pathetic and unfit. What he’s doing to the US is a travesty, and that was before the virus. If you need to leave, well, sometimes we have to make tough choices. Good luck and stay safe.

  6. Great thread. Love to see that pic of Dr. Fauci – iconic!
    Rhetorical: Re the self-employed with no benefits, will the congressional talk about sending $ to “all Americans” amount to anything? How will the choices, if any, be made?

    1. Thanks…

      Yeah, I am really tired of the absurd phrase “gig economy” as though millions of us are drumming in someone’s basement and not having to blow through savings to pay for $$$$$$ health insurance because we can’t get a FT job with subsidized healthcare. Jose and I have applied, and have tremendous credentials — nothing. The Guardian chose a 25 yr old over a man w a Pulitzer and decades at the NYT. Yes, I am bitter.

      I have no faith in this government.

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