Memorial day thought: what does American society come back from — or come back to — after coronavirus?

coronavirus up close
This virus doesn’t discriminate. But money helps you avoid dying so fast …

Here’s what “We’re in the same boat” means during a pandemic right now.

Answer this: if someone has been aporophobic or racist — be it blatant, passive, willfully ignorant or plain hateful — for much of their lives, how is a coronavirus pandemic going to magically make them believe “we’re in this together” or “in the same boat”?

For them, banging on pots and pans out of windows each night while they wait for some low-paid immigrant to deliver dinner will never become their exorcism.

In some instances, I’m beginning to believe the pots-and-pans celebration ritual has become a ritualistic affirmation of their privilege.

But … I’m open to having my mind changed.

I need to change some details of the following true story to protect the innocent: a wealthy Brooklyn couple furloughed their nanny because of New York State’s pandemic shelter-in-place orders. The wife later calls the nanny back to work for an urgent and unique assignment — to sit with the wife’s bedbound mother-in-law who resides in a nursery home, a known nest of COVID-19 deaths.

Doesn’t seem like the same boat to me.

For the record, my friend refused the death assignment.

I also don’t see how enticing Instacart delivery staff with $50 tips to complete a grocery order, only to reduce the tip to ZERO at the last minute, reflects a same-boat mentality.

And with respectful apologies to Reverend Al Sharpton and Peggy Noonan, this pandemic livescape doesn’t even look like separate boats.

I see one boat with an expectation that satellites of people will find ways to float in order to serve it — regardless of the water’s anger.

Homeless New Yorkers have adjusted to pandemic reality by positioning themselves for cash donations in front of every neighborhood store deemed by government officials to be sufficiently essential to remain open for business. The real-time struggle by the most unfortunate of New Yorkers to live has become social media content — or at least smartphone fodder — for Tribeca residents, who are killing time after acquiring even more toilet paper and bleach than they could possibly use during the next three years.

No, shopping product minimums do not exist. Yes, stores are bowing to the bellows of the well-heeled. I’ve witnessed it.

My remark about residents taking on the role of amateur journalists for kicks assumes the locals didn’t leave town by now. 

While I took a southward walk through Midtown Manhattan a week ago,  the streets were filled with homeless and delivery workers of color — and plenty of police cars. They all outnumbered the trickle of residents making (presumably) essential store trips.

In another neighborhood, I saw a socially-distanced queue of wannabe Whole Foods shoppers that extended down the block. The long side of a city block. They complained about their inconvenienced lives just before surrendering money to one of the more expensive grocery chains in America — all while passing a man on the immediate corner asking for food or money.

I carry these thoughts into Memorial Day today, where the US government has included pandemic essential workers — living and dead — in the heroic celebrations of fallen military personnel.

Except these workers were drafted in a deadly war without proper survival training, a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), hand sanitizer, a national disease testing regimen, the disappearance of hazard pay with a public health war in progress, and a President with all the legal authority to change the current level of “troop” support, has instead chosen to romanticize health care personnel “running into death” as a “beautiful thing to see”.

My sight tells a different story: grateful for the workers’ sacrifice but there will be more social inequality; a prediction of even more inequality; an economic recovery that will not happen soon; an assumed sense privilege among some citizens, or a patriotic sense of duty to not wear masks and possibly infect the poor and older Americans with COVID-19 “freedom”; and a government that has effectively urged an immediate return from state- and local-sanctioned quarantine orders while accepting the risk that more vulnerable Americans will die.

Or as Nazi Germany described the more vulnerable, a “life not worthy of living.”

For people who want to see “America’s come back”, I have to ask two questions.

Come back to what? Come back from what?

My future vision still sees only one boat and many scrambling satellites …

song currently stuck in my head: “the gentle rain” – george benson

One thought on “Memorial day thought: what does American society come back from — or come back to — after coronavirus?

  1. This is good. Why don’t you do an OP-ed piece for the NY Times?

    Sent from Yahoo Mail on Android

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