My COVID Times Diary – Living our values
I’m frustrated and angry. My anger and frustration comes from seeing how few people in our society understand basic graphs and data. How simple scientific concepts just seem to elude people. Even worse, and the most frustrating thing for me, is watching how easily people are willing to utterly devalue human life. Over the last week something has become very clear to me. In America, we are willing to sacrifice people’s lives for the sake of the economy, but are not willing to sacrifice any part of the economy for people’s lives. Let that sink in, we are clearly saying in America, businesses making money is more important than your life. I’m not some bug eyed optimist, I know there is a point where a crashing economy can cause the death and destruction of people’s lives beyond what the virus is doing. But really, is that only six weeks? Is our economy so fragile that in six weeks it totally falls apart? If so, we have bigger problems than the virus.
We did social distancing to flatten the curve. That means we have been staying inside and avoiding social contact in order to make sure the hospitals weren’t overwhelmed and even more people died. We’ve done a pretty good job with this. But there was a second reason we did social distancing and that was to buy time for us to prepare for re-opening the economy. That means time to develop and produce enough testing, to hire and train enough contact tracers and to set up quarantine rules for people who are exposed. When they are properly deployed we can safely open up. Unfortunately we’re not ready and so that likely means opening leads to bigger outbreaks. We need these things to live with the disease in our new normal. Instead, the decision we’re making is not to protect the economy, but to accept more needless deaths.
In America, our values are being clearly demonstrated by our actions. We value capitalism over the health and welfare of the majority of the people in our society. We have seen this in the hesitancy for America to create significant and dependable social safety nets like universal healthcare or any other affordable health care plan. What we value is coolness, we love to brag that we have the best MRI machine or the newest but massively expensive new treatment for disease X. Yet, the richest, most powerful and supposedly best country in history has the 55th lowest infant mortality rate in the world, worse than Bosnia and almost every country with universal health care on Earth. Given this reality, it is not even surprising we’re prioritizing the economy over people’s lives.
People in America are selfish and value comfort and convenience over the lives of their fellow Americans. Whenever the public is interviewed about businesses opening you almost immediately hear about people needing their hair and nails done. People have threatened violence over mask rules and have actually shot people in America for being told to wear a mask, or that they had to have take out instead of sit in dining, AT A McDONALDS! I’ve personally seen two near fistfights break out over people not wearing masks and being too close to others.
On my walk today, I counted the number of people I saw wearing masks. I walk through a business district where there are lots of markets and restaurants doing takeout. So people waiting to enter those businesses have to wear masks. So with them included, I counted and 48% (53/133) were wearing a mask. On the return trip I didn’t count the people who were in those lines but only people walking on the streets, and only 11% (8/72) were wearing a mask. Why would people not wear one, simple, it’s inconvenient, uncomfortable, it gets hot or they don’t like the smell of their own breaths. People are not willing to be inconvenienced to protect their fellow citizen from a deadly disease.
People are highly adept at using the two superpowers all humans possess, rationalization and denial. We absolutely value the Disneyized version of our lives over reality and will act accordingly. People who I know are intelligent enough to understand what’s going on, who I know don’t want to get ill, continue to act contrary to their own best interests. They will rationalize that it’s ok to visit someone because they don’t go out much, or that they haven’t seen their family in so long, they are of course always being careful. But when I hear people tell me about having sustained personal contact, the thing we absolutely know is the worst thing you can do with coronavirus, I’m absolutely baffled. But they deny they are putting anyone at risk, or rationalize that they are being safe. We’ve see this behavior across the entire country and as such, we will extend the length of this outbreak, and we will increase the number people who will die, who didn’t have to. Hopefully that won’t include you.
Perhaps we just don’t care because most of the people who get ill and die will likely be elderly, large numbers of nursing home residents, obese people, and people with high blood pressure or diabetes. To say it plainly this will mean old people, fat people, poor people and people of color for the most part. The types people who we value least in America.
I’ve been angry for a week over all of this, I don’t know what to do. I worry that people I know and love will die because of people’s lack of understanding or caring. A colleague told me the other day that they’ve lost two family members to coronavirus already. I just found out someone I used to work with died yesterday but I don’t yet know if it was COVID but it seems likely. It angers me that people seem to need to have someone very close to them die, before they can care for others. I woke up angry about this today and honestly it seems very few people seem to truly care.
We have to change people, America has to change, but I’m angry because everything I see and hear in this country right now seems to indicate that we are nothing but a country of selfish, convenience obsessed narcissists who could care less about the health and welfare of their fellow man. I hear so often that this is a Christian country, well, these seem like very unchristian values. We have choices to make, I hope we make the right ones, I don’t want you dear reader, to die needlessly because someone couldn’t be inconvenienced.