If you read my first My Covid 19 Life post a few days ago, you will remember I mentioned a Chinese woman I used to tutor in English through a website called I Talki. Her name is Yang, she lives on a very modest income and has been attending school on and off in order to teach. You will recall that she sent a giggling emoji and said my face mask looked like a pair of underwear. Yang wrote me this morning wanting to know whether it was true that internally, the Trump administration was projecting some three thousand deaths per day come June. She was stunned when I told her that it appeared to be true. She also wanted to know if it was true that the government had given everybody $1000 dollars to help them during the crisis. And finally, she wanted to know whether it was true that Americans were receiving free food. Her incredulity was eye opening for me. She couldn’t believe the numbers of Americans who had died and were projected to die. The notion of this happening in America seemed unthinkable to her. And the idea of free food (Food Banks) was a novelty to her. She explained that she had spent 1-2 Yuan for a head of cabbage and now was paying 10 Yuan. She was outraged. I explained ‘price gouging’ was illegal here.
It was all quite confusing and foreign (of course) to her. But part of what was foreign, was how her image of our country did not comport with the notion that our government would deem losing up to 3000 people per day an acceptable trade-off for getting the economy open.
Yesterday, Chris Christie drew a parallel between the Second World War and sending our soldiers to die in battle and sending the providers of essential services to work in nursing homes and hospitals, driving busses, and so forth. Keep in mind, if essential workers refuse to work, they will not get unemployment insurance, because they have the opportunity to work and have not been laid off. Also keep in mind that a vast segment of essential workers are paid somewhere around minimum wage. The NY Times ran a piece in today’s paper about a bus driver with an immunocompromised daughter. He frets after several of his colleagues died from the virus, that he will bring it home to his daughter.
I don’t know what the administration or Chris Christie is thinking when they come to these conclusions. I have to assume that the virus is faceless and without an identity for them. Isn’t this how we manage to look solemn but act casually. Every so often you see someone make that connection and their reaction perhaps momentarily is radically altered. The newscaster on CNN made a comment this morning roughly similar to, “Each one of those deaths is a person, with a family, maybe kids!” It does change how we think of it when we consider one of those deaths as our wife, or husband, or child. And still, we are left with the matter of what to do.
Of course, we should do social distancing, wear masks, wash hands, support our scientists working on vaccines and treatment. But, as weary as we all may be getting, try to remember that those big numbers represent men, women, and children with lives and families, who are either going to work or staying at home but both are just trying to get through all this without losing everything.
It has been noted by multiple sources that Trump has steadfastly avoided talking about the victims of Covid 19. He has not consoled the grieving, or lowered the flag to half-mast. He feels he has to keep up an optimistic appearance to keep the country focused on our future. But what is the future for a people not fully conscious of the present. Isn’t that like walking into absolute darkness without a light? We can be fully aware of our present by recognizing the gravity of our circumstances, the darkness of these times, and mourn for the thousands dying, as we strive for a solution. We can do both.
May 5, 2020