Masks Are Everywhere

I live in a Red State, and they are totally serious here.

I’m starting to get out a bit more lately. I’ve had to run errands here and there. I go to Costco, masks are required. I go to the post office, everyone is wearing a mask. I go to the dentist, masks are required. I go to the doctor's office and masks are required. No matter where I go in public, nearly everyone is wearing masks.

I have a wall that requires repairs from earthquakes earlier this year. I wear a mask to meet with the contractors. I go walking, I see people wearing masks or keeping their distance. I walk alone on a path that has very few people, so keeping my distance is easy.

I check out the Utah health department website, it’s all COVID all the time. Masks, testing, treatment, state action plans, the works. It’s all there. The CDC, despite President Trump, is all COVID all the time. It’s like a WWII mobilization to defeat the debilitating if not deadly, coronavirus.

This is what I would have liked to see back in January or February. But someone really famous was more worried about polling than action. He was more worried about impeachment than action. Trump is a master of narrative. He could easily have pointed out the danger and knocked the impeachment proceedings entirely off course to focus our attention on a very dangerous, very infectious virus. His calculus is clear: defeat the impeachment first because it will be harder to do again later, then go after the virus.

There are people I know and correspond with who said that the coronavirus is no more dangerous than the flu. I don’t see them dancing on crowded streets without a mask. They tell me that they wear a mask because they’re required to in order to shop for food, go to the post office or see a doctor. No shoes, no shirt, no mask, no service.

I live in a state populated by Mormons. They’re Christian, and they’re big on science. At least, they accept science until we talk about evolution, but they accept everything else. They know the science supports the actions we’re taking to slow the spread of the coronavirus or they wouldn’t bother with all of this effort to get people tested and treated.

As far as I can tell, everyone I see in Utah is taking this threat very seriously. Even my employer is letting most employees work from home when they can. In a few days, we’ll go into the office and get our gear and our personal stuff so that we can work from home, indefinitely. After that, I may never drive to the same office again.

Many of my neighbors are working from home now, too. I see them more often. Mowing the lawns, tending to the yard. God, my lawn is so green. Finally. My neighbors are Mormon and they’re taking COVID seriously.

Most of the landmarks around town are the same, except for the “FOR LEASE” signs everywhere I care to look. Business would almost seem normal except for those signs. And more of those signs are going up as working from home becomes the norm.

I also have read that 42% of the jobs lost in this recession are never coming back. That’s a lot of people out of work. They need our help. What do we get? Trump is angling for a payroll tax cut. Yeah, $30 a month is going to be a big help. Republicans are trying to trim the next unemployment relief bill so as to encourage people to get back to work. Doing what? Putting their lives and their family at risk so that members of Congress can satisfy their puritanical master?

There’s a ton of work to be done cleaning up the planet. There are people who need help, roads to build, waste sites to clean. There is fiber to be laid so that we can erase the digital divide. There is plenty of work out there to do, but that kind of work doesn’t turn a profit. Has anyone noticed how private enterprise hardly made a move on dealing with the coronavirus without government dangling money and patents in front of them?

This where we are after 40 years of neoliberals dominating public policy choices and outcomes. 40 years of poor governance brought us here. 40 years of very poor corporate governance brought us here. When was the last time any of us participated in a proxy vote for stock we own? Can’t remember? Neither can I. There is a really good reason for that. We’re not stakeholders.

The only reason Congress passed any relief bills at all is that it is now painfully obvious that the wealthy didn’t pay the rest of us enough money to prepare for a pandemic, even though they’ve been telling us for decades that a pandemic is only a matter of time. 42 million Americans don’t have broadband because they had no say in the matter. Wait. 42 million Americans don’t have broadband. 42% of COVID job losses aren’t coming back. Huh. Uncanny valley.

This entire fiasco could be painted as, “well, the people who are suffering the most lack suffrage”, they lack a voice in how we allocate our resources. The people who are suffering today suffer precisely because they lack suffrage. They lack a vote in how things should be done. It’s almost as if the people in power really don’t care. If we can’t hear them, they don’t matter.

That’s what this pandemic is really starting to tell us. The pandemic tells us how much we really care about the less fortunate. How much less do we really care for them? Dollar signs, anyone? Does Trump really care about the 4 million people who have tested positive for COVID? Does he really care about the 146,000 people who have died so far?

I remember the boxes they buried in New York. I remember how the people they buried had no next of kin. I thought about how those people were forgotten. I remember they were not that important until they died. And after they were buried, we moved on. And still, we see Republican Senators scheming about how they can get people back to work, so worried that they might take home more money on unemployment than they did on the job.

Republicans in Congress don’t seem too worried when a CEO still gets a bonus after tanking the company stock. They don’t seem too worried when a CEO gets a raise regardless of performance. They have nothing to say when companies that declared bankruptcy during the pandemic doled out huge bonuses to the top brass mere hours before filing the paperwork. But God forbid that someone might not have to go hungry tonight due to generous unemployment benefits when he could be working the front lines at McD’s.

I’m so glad to see Republicans taking the pandemic seriously for once. Some have removed their mask. Some have put one on.

Write on.

Written by

Husband, father, worker, philosopher, and observer. Plumbing the depths of consciousness to find the spring of happiness. Write on.

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