You were here for the first year of the Trumpian Lunacy (and your partner was a man with loud opinions based on partisan media and cherry-picked science), so you might not be surprised to know that the president is willing to kill us to improve his chance of re-election.
Fools, absolute fools (some of them armed, some of them anti-vaccination activists, in a perfect storm of ignorance about what constitutes liberty) have gathered at state capitals to protest stay-at-home orders. When I shop for groceries, I'm increasingly appalled and affronted by the number of shoppers who aren't wearing masks. The principle has been repeated clearly, by state and local leaders and the few scientists allowed to speak in White House press briefings, that staying home and wearing a mask when you go out isn't just to keep yourself healthy, it keeps other people safe from your potential viruses. These are personal sacrifices we should all be making to benefit our communities.
Is that what I'm really seeing, the prioritization of personal choice over civic responsibility? Maybe. These are the choices encouraged by the crowd-monger-in-chief, after all. Enough people believed in that choice of self over social well-being to elect him, and he's spent four years devaluing science and fact-based journalism in an effort to remake the country in that image. We're becoming a nation of cowboys, each of us roaming an imaginary back-country where we make our own rules.
I need to step away from my outrage and fear and blame, though, and try to understand why people make choices I wouldn't. If I look beyond the photos of people waving signs and rifles, I can imagine the personal economic desperation that could outweigh the commitment to an impersonal public good. More than 20 million people have lost their jobs. Something like 50% of adults don't have work. That's terrifying, particularly if like many many people you've just been keeping up with your bills and don't have any cash cushion to keep your family afloat while you can't work.
I need to acknowledge my incredible privilege: I still have my job; Bruce still has his job; Sebastian still has his job. The effects of the pandemic we have personally suffered to date are very slight compared to what people who can't work and can't afford to pay their bills or feed their families are enduring.
But even those hardships pale in comparison to this: more than 80,000 people have died in the U.S. from COVID-19 so far. Watching you die was a spike of grief that will never leave me, and we had enough time to see it coming and say good-bye. The way this virus takes people, though, is fast and brutal and isolating. For this to happen to anyone I love is unthinkable; I can't imagine ever living past it. And yet, the families and friends of 80,000 people have had to.
Where is the line, between letting desperate people work and preventing death and suffering? I don't know. But I do know I don't trust this president to decide.
P.S. Here's my cherry-picked science, from an article by a science reporter in the New York Times:
“We’re not reopening based on science,” said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, a former director of the C.D.C. in the Obama administration. “We’re reopening based on politics, ideology and public pressure. And I think it’s going to end badly.”
Having 50 states and more territories do competing and uncoordinated experiments in reopening is “daring Mother Nature to kill you or someone you love,” Dr. Frieden said. “Mother Nature bats last, and she bats a thousand.”