This is my sixth week living in our new paradigm. For the most part I’m doing okay, but there are times I feel an overwhelming emotional exhaustion. It isn’t brought on by fear of contracting COVID -19 or anxiety for the future or even the demands of social distancing. It’s because I feel like we’re walking a long road while at the same time those who should be leading us forward have tied a rope around our waists and are pulling us backwards. It’s like swimming against the tide. An uphill climb. Or walking into a headwind. Pick your metaphor. But it’s wearing me out.
As I said before, this lockdown is not that difficult for me. Surprised as some might be to hear it (Mom), I actually can follow the rules and do what’s asked of me. I am willing to hunker down for another month (or more) if that’s what’s necessary. I can stay home and only go out on essential trips and yes, I’ll even make my own mask out of a t-shirt, a pipe cleaner, and a pair of old socks. And as much as I know we’d all love an hour or two at the salon right now, I’ll let my husband cut my hair. Again.
And I can do it all without any foofaraw. I don’t need cheerleaders lining the road (standing six feet apart) chanting “Yes you can!” or “Go team go!” I’m not saying it wouldn’t be nice for all of us to get a collective atta girl for our shared sacrifice and commitment to the cause. It wouldn’t hurt to hear “we’re all in this together” and “we’re going to get through this.” Surely, those words would be wind at our backs. But if people can’t help, at least they shouldn’t hinder. Is that too much to ask? I guess so, because every day Donald Trump, the very person who ought to be offering encouragement and leadership, is instead (not surprisingly) doing everything in his power to thwart our collective effort. It all makes me want to scream. Maybe it’s the effort of not screaming all day long — at the TV, at the internet, at my phone — that has me absolutely exhausted.
I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. The biggest group of people who must feel the exhaustion and who are no doubt praying for our president to man up or shut the hell up are those on the front lines in this battle: our health care workers. The brave men and women who risk their lives every minute of every day and who just want to do their jobs. Okay. So the feds can’t get their act together to supply medical professionals with the equipment and gear they need; they stepped up and made their own. Early on in the crisis doctors figured out how to make one ventilator do the work of two. People 3-D printed ventilator parts. Nurses dealt with shortages of PPE by using garbage bags as makeshift gowns. My friend, a nurse, told me that she and her colleagues were given one mask and told to make due with that. Not for a shift or for a day. But for the duration. They sterilized their masks between patients and washed them at the end of every day. And they soldiered on.
Health care workers all around the country asked us to stay home. “We go out for you, you stay home for us” was the plea. And the man who should have supported their message and encouraged people to stay home instead stood up every day and told America just the opposite. His army of idiots amplified his message on Fox, on Twitter, on the radio: it’s a hoax. It’s China’s problem. It’s the flu. And now he’s telling people to go out and congregate in big groups and protest their states’ stay-at-home orders. Hey all you good people: Liberate your states! And so on top of the impossibly hard work of healing the sick AND scrounging for their own equipment, nurses are going out and further putting their own lives on the line to try to stop Trump’s followers from actually making things worse. Watching these brave people struggle against unnecessary obstacles every day is utterly wearing me out.
Others who no doubt would dearly love it if Trump would just get out of their way are our country’s beleaguered governors and mayors. It must be hard enough to deal with the emergency on the ground: all that preparing, planning, meeting, organizing, briefing. Knowing every day that they are making decisions that will put thousands of people out of work, potentially destroying their economies for years to come. And balancing those decisions against the lives that may be lost if they don’t act. And doing it all amid shortages of equipment and testing supplies. And death threats.
Trump made their jobs so much harder than it had to be with one failure after another. Failure to coordinate the US response at the top. Failure to use the Defense Production Act to direct industry to manufacture necessary equipment. Failure to take the threat seriously. Failure to appoint qualified people to lead the effort. Failure to listen to the experts.
In the absence of directives from the federal government, proactive cities and then states took it upon themselves to act. With the terrifying example of China, Italy and other countries to inform their decisions, many states did the only thing they sensibly could do: they told their citizens to stay at home. All while Trump continued to downplay the threat.
And then he compounded their difficulty by leaving states to fend for themselves. Telling them they were on their own, Trump generously reminded frustrated governors that the federal government isn’t a “shipping clerk.” Jared Kushner, presidential son-in-law, edified Americans about the mysteries of our federal system by informing us that the US stockpile of protective gear is for the federal government rather than for the states. I’m exhausted just trying to understand what that means. What need does the federal government have for personal protective equipment other than to distribute it to the states to supply their hospital workers? Where, geographically, does Jared believe the federal doctors and nurses are located?
And the states have heroically managed to scrounge around the world and find necessary equipment only to have that equipment confiscated by the federal government. Really. Not only that, but the federal government is actually bidding against the states as they attempt to source their own PPE. Donald Trump may think it’s funny. But that’s no joke.
And as exhausting as all of that must be for our nation’s governors, every day they have to get up in front of the cameras and remind their citizens that what they hear during the farcical White House Coronavirus briefings and on Fox is not just untrue, it can actually kill you. No, it’s not the flu. No, we don’t have it under control yet. No we will not be opening up the country by Easter or by May 1st. No it is not safe to take unapproved medicine. And now: no, please do not inject yourself with disinfectant. And yes in fact you do have plenty to lose if you do.
And somehow these governors have to walk the tightrope of communicating all of that without actually saying that the president has lied or that he has completely bungled our national response. Because that would, you know, piss him off, and they learned early on, when Trump openly told the vice president not to reach out to governors who don’t show a sufficient level of appreciation, that that’s a bad idea. So in addition to actually doing the work of protecting their states from a deadly invader, managing the complexities of a threat that is still not wholly understood, and procuring their own supplies, these governors are also having to suck up every single day to the very person who is making their jobs so much more difficult — the man who actually ought to be helping them the most. It’s hard enough for me to watch that play out every day. How are they all not just collapsing in a big heap of exhaustion?
Then there’s the governors and mayors who actually do want to follow where Trump’s terrible advice may lead. The mayor of Las Vegas, and the governors of those red, mostly southern states such as Tennessee, South Carolina and Georgia, who can’t wait to follow his advice right off the cliff, just to prove their fealty to someone who cares nothing about their citizens but only about their loyalty. And to prove to the heathens among us that god will protect them. Even when He doesn’t.
I’m weary of the daily drumbeat from right wing media piling on and amplifying (some might even argue inciting) Trump’s lunacy. They are making this effort so much harder than it has to be by playing on the insecurities and fears of their listeners, filling them with anger and hatred for the very people who are doing their best to try to protect them from real danger and from their own worst instincts. As much as I’d like to stick my fingers in my ears, it isn’t possible, and wouldn’t be responsible to tune it all out. But listening to it drains all of my energy.
Fox personalities and right wing radio commentators including National Hero Rush Limbaugh are daily filling the airwaves with lies, and then when caught out actually deny that they said what they said. Even though there’s the statement, preserved forever in digital format, and only one google search away. And when they deny that they called the virus the common cold, deny that they called it a hoax, deny that they pushed hydroxychloroquine, deny that they advised their viewers to travel in the midst of a pandemic, their gullible viewers believe the denials. How can someone believe a person who tells them something, and then also believe them when they said they didn’t say it? Oh my god it makes my head spin.
All that’s plenty but there’s so much more. I’m tired to death of Mitch McConnell who cares only for his wealthy donors and nothing for average Americans and absolutely not at all for the people who live in blue states.
There’s the conspiracy theory that the virus was created in a lab in China. And the one that says it’s caused by the rolling out of 5G networks around the world. Or that it was made by Bill Gates. Or my favorite: that this is all a cover for a covert mission to rescue thousands of trafficked women and girls. I’m worn down from the effort of trying to correct the false narratives and downright lies that are being shared every day on social media.
I can’t go on. It’s time for my nap.
The sheer effort required to deal with this is more than I can manage. The coronavirus may not kill me, but I think exhaustion will.