On Sunday, Donald Trump said “our country has to go back to being our country again. . . We have to go back to work.”
He also said, “You have people who are not going to stand for this and I understand that very well.” By which he meant “If you kill someone who is trying to keep you from your job, preventing you from eating at Old Country Buffet, or forcing you to wear a face mask, I will call you a very fine person and may even pay your legal bills.”
I shouldn’t have been surprised at how quickly we went from “rediscovering the simple pleasures of being at home” to retooling our old habits to suit our new shelter-in-place lifestyles. But I still was.
Way back a few weeks ago when we first found ourselves locked in our homes, we quickly realized how rushed and distracted our lives had become over the past several years. With events and activities cancelled, we suddenly had the leisure time we hadn’t known in years. Gone were the relentless obligations, the harried mornings, the over-scheduled days, the stress-filled evenings.
Now we were home with nowhere we had to be — nowhere we could be — and fewer demands on our time. Many of us were alone. Others were cocooned with spouses, children, and other loved ones for the first time in a long time. For some, it was the first time ever.
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.
Once again, Trump has proven that he was absent from school when they learned that our Founding Fathers took steps to ensure that our country was not ruled by a monarch and that the powers of the President and the federal government aren’t unlimited. Some days it’s hard to decide whether he doesn’t know that he’s not actually King of America, or whether he just doesn’t care.
Last week’s news was filled with reports that Trump was told back in January of the potential spread of the new coronavirus in the US and that millions of lives would be in peril unless he took immediate action to keep Americans home. Which, of course, he didn’t. Instead, he downplayed the threat and told us that everything was under control. Which, of course, it wasn’t. Unbelievably, in March when he finally admitted that this was serious stuff, he seemed “baffled” (according to his associates) by how events had played out. He said “no one could have predicted” such an epidemic. Which, of course, plenty of people did. These news reports were accompanied by logical, factual, unassailable evidence in the form of emails, memos, and quotes from administration officials as well as analysis of the results of his failure to act.
What do you say to people who tell you that universal health care doesn’t work? What do you say when people tell you that private insurance and for-profit health care is the best alternative?
What do you say when they argue that systems like Britain’s NHS (National Health Service) or Canada’s public system are inefficient, unsustainable, produce substandard results, and that people hate it?
What do you say? You say this:
If anything positive can come of this terrible COVID pandemic, let it be that the United States has finally learned that universal health care works. Every person deserves health care. Universal coverage is the only morally acceptable solution.
Chuck Todd wasn’t mincing words last week when he suggested that Donald Trump has blood on his hands. Lots of people are making the case that the responsibility for many of the American deaths from COVID-19 can be laid directly at the feet of Donald Trump. And not in an esoteric “the buck stops here” kind of way.
Of course, no one is blaming him for the virus, but Trump’s actions delayed and weakened our country’s response in the early days of the epidemic. His lies and incompetence caused many (including some state and local officials) to question and even flout the advice of the medical community. He has failed to competently use the power of the federal government in a coordinated and effective way, leaving states to fend for themselves; it certainly hasn’t helped that he’s made federal assistance to states contingent on governors kissing his butt. Trump’s early characterization of the virus as a hoax, his administration’s slow response to news of the growing threat, and his public downplaying of the severity of the situation, all coupled with his daily barrage of lies, exaggerations, and misinformation have made a deadly situation deadlier than it had to be.
Believing as I do that the words we use influence the way we experience the world, I have decided that rather than referring to this current situation as a “crisis” I will instead use the word “opportunity.”
I don’t mean to make light of what’s going on. My sunny outlook is entirely situational of course, and not in any way meant to downplay the very real and very serious impact of this pandemic: death, illness, sacrifice, extreme economic hardship, social isolation, anxiety, and more.
It’s just that for me and for many millions of others, doing our part to comply with stay-at-home orders means changing our expectations and our mindsets rather than enduring any actual hardship. Having to work from home, spend more time with my spouse and my cat, wear gloves and maintain social distancing, and watch a lot of Netflix isn’t exactly a crisis. It’s an opportunity.
There’s no question that we’re going to be changed by this COVID pandemic. You can’t go through something like this and not be altered in some way. Sadly, some of us will lose a friend or loved one to the virus. Some will have had a major life event (perhaps a wedding or graduation) cancelled or postponed indefinitely. Millions will lose their livelihoods. Savings will be eviscerated. We will all suffer hardship to a greater or lesser degree.
Some self-reflection may come out if it as well. Maybe we’ll discover a resilience in ourselves that we didn’t realize we had. Maybe we’ll find out that we actually enjoyed our solitude more than we would have thought. (Or maybe we’ll realize that we hated it more than we would have expected.)