I expected my quarantine would be a time of massive creativity, like a writer’s retreat or an art sabbatical. That lasted for about a day before it turned into a fever dream where every step lands on an unstable surface, and the surrounding world is a confusing dystopian mess.
It started with the uncertainty of closures and the panic that causes. Almost overnight, grocery store shelves were picked bare. Toilet paper became the must-have product of the moment. The supply crisis exploded to include far more than just toilet paper, and hoarding became the status quo. When I left my house to get groceries, the neighborhood looked like a zombie movie complete with a lone man staggering down the middle of the road. I think he was just drunk, but I had to at least consider it for a moment. The lurching sway of inebriation is remarkably similar to the gait of a slow zombie.
Then, of course, there was COVID-19 itself. Yes, I have to admit I’ve had it. I contracted it early on, about 2 weeks after some local guy went to a COVID funeral in Washington State and then failed to sequester himself after he returned. I brought home quite a gift—six weeks of sickness with sequelae that still haven’t entirely resolved. An airport giftshop t-shirt or a refrigerator magnet would have been more appreciated.
Thankfully, I was never hospitalized. We had enough supplies here to manage it from home, but it wasn’t easy. I’d describe most of my sick days as miserable and at least a few of them as uncertain with a side order of (straight up) fear. I see my experience as a best-case symptomatic infection. It was “best-case” for a lot of reasons. I had an entire healthcare office stored in my house, I possess the education to put it to use, and Amazon delivers. Not everybody has that. I consider myself abnormally lucky.
And to think that the worst of this pandemic could have been averted through a little leadership (not to mention the written “pandemic playbook” that was left by a previous administration)—It’s beyond frustrating.
I think a modicum of compassion could improve a lot of what ails us these days. We could start by treating all people equally. We could expand that to include things like not killing people because of the color of their skin or their gender. We could roll out the National Guard to help feed and support struggling communities during this pandemic crisis rather than to clear peaceful protesters from public spaces. I don’t know. These are just ideas, but they seem reasonably self-evident to me.
As I remember it, we learned about equality and compassion when we were kids through the old “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” thing. For those who might not know, it’s actually from the Bible. I can’t say with certainty when all of the silent caveats and secret addendums were added. Maybe they were there from the beginning. It’s not for me to say, but the basic principle is still worthy of its designation as the “Golden Rule.” It makes me wonder why so many of those who lift up Jesus and the Bible as their shields are some of the most violent and bigoted among us. It’s shameful, really. It might do them some good to read the words of their own Savior. (Check out Matthew 7:12, Luke 6:31, and John 13:34-35 if you’re curious.) They should probably look up the definition of blasphemy while they’re at it.
When we finally wake from this nightmare, I hope the world is different. There will always be competing ideas. That’s what’s great about democracy. Ideas are welcome. Dissent is welcome. It’s unreasonable to expect everyone to agree, and as Margaret Atwood so astutely penned, “Better never means better for everyone.” Still, our Nation (and the World) is inhabited by people. People just like us with human wants, needs, and desires. We must take care of each other. It’s imperative. We can argue about almost everything else, but not about that.
In the meantime, please wear a mask. It’s not hard. It’s not a political statement. It’s not like you’re being asked to kneel on hot coals or flog yourself with rusty chains. It’s not much to ask. Don’t assume you are virus-free or that you won’t get sick. There’s no way to know with absolute certainty who of us is shedding the COVID-19 virus and who isn’t. Maybe you need a mask. Maybe you don’t. Either way, just wear one when you’re in public or around other people. Consider it the Golden Rule of COVID:
Wear a mask for others, as they should wear masks for you.