There is no greater threat to the critics and cynics and fearmongers than those of us who are willing to fall because we have learned how to rise.Brené Brown, Ph.D., MSW, Rising Strong: How the Ability to Reset Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead
Today’s quote is especially meaningful to me because I, like so many millions of people all over the country and around the world right now, am stuck in quarantine. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I tested positive for COVID-19 on January 15th. Since then, both of my parents have tested positive as well. I’m grateful to be able to have the time off work to recuperate and to have subordinates who can do the work while I’m not able to, but it’s also put a great deal of financial stress on me and my family because my job doesn’t offer paid sick leave and I have bills to pay and groceries to buy. I’m also extremely grateful that while all three of us are a little the worse for wear, we’re all vaccinated and able to ride out the storm together, at home.
It would be nice if, instead of spending hundreds of billions of dollars each year on defense, the United States would invest more in social infrastructure, on programs that would lift people out of poverty and help them during times of crisis (like, say, a global pandemic). If we’re being honest, the pandemic would already be over (or at the very least would be more manageable) if we could have been paid to stay home while the government built up our healthcare infrastructure and shored up basic social services. It is easy to tell what a society values by what it spends its money on, and by who is authorized to make decisions for the rest of us.
Instead, we are now in our third year of the pandemic and our government cannot (or will not) even provide clear guidance on testing, quarantining, or living with the after-effects on infection. Instead, we’re thrown bones. We got a measly stimulus payment in March of last year that for most Americans didn’t cover (or barely covered) a month’s rent, and now the government has announced that it will mail out four COVID-19 tests to each household. That’s great, but not for multi-generation or multi-family households which are most likely to be BIPOC. So, just so we’re clear: $1,400 and four tests to be split up among however many people live in your household.
I’m reminded of a scene in Michael Bay’s 1998 doomsday science fiction film Armageddon, where deep-core oil driller Harry Stamper (played by Bruce Willis) is commissioned by NASA to help prevent an asteroid the size of Texas from colliding with Earth. He’s talking with NASA executive Dan Truman (Billy Bob Thornton) about NASA’s contingency plan should something go wrong:
Harry Stamper: What’s your contingency plan?
Truman: Contingency plan?
Harry: Your backup plan. You gotta have some kind of backup plan, right?
Truman: No, we don’t have a back up plan, this is, uh…
Harry: And this is the best that you-that the government, the U.S. government could come up with? I mean, you’re NASA for crying out loud, you put a man on the moon, you’re geniuses! You’re the guys that’re thinking shit up! I’m sure you got a team of men sitting around somewhere right now just thinking shit up and somebody backing them up! You’re telling me you don’t have a backup plan, that these eight boy scouts right here [gestures to USAF pilots], that is the world’s hope, that’s what you’re telling me?
We are all Bruce Willis right now shaking our discombobulated heads at the government. I mean, not to get on my soap box or anything, but what are they truly doing to help us right now? They won’t pass voting rights legislation. They won’t protect a woman’s right to choose from draconian state houses just waiting for Roe v Wade to be overturned (or weakened beyond repair), and they won’t help their most vulnerable citizens through the most dire public health crisis of our time. What are they willing to do? A concerned (and sick) citizen would like to know.
Despite all of this, I know that living through COVID-19 has made me a stronger person. It’s also made me grateful to be as privileged as I am with relatively good health and people who love me and can take care of me when I’m sick. I know that my life could have looked very different had just one or two things been shifted by a measure of a couple degrees. I hope that this is over soon. I am tired of people getting sick and dying, of getting sick and staying that way, of losing their jobs and their homes and their loved ones, of an indifferent government ran by charlatans, of a night that refuses to end. But still I rise.
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