Roger Marolt: Flatting the curve of the rainbow
Life is very suddenly very different and we feel some unease with this, The Great Lockdown.
When it was all new three weeks ago, I went from feeling COVID-19 was like a bad case of the seasonal flu to thinking this might be the end of the world. My anxiety accelerated from zero to insomnia in about 2.3 news cycles. I am now settling into the new abnormal and have capitulated to having almost no comprehension of what the real risks of this thing are or what it will take to get back to the regular lives.
One of the easiest things to do during this quiet time, besides not wearing clothes that need to be dry cleaned, is believing I am compassionate. Many are suffering and in many ways. The virus is pretty much all that’s going on besides the trivial stuff we spend our time with isolated in our homes. There are things we can do like donate money, canned food and old goggles, but it is a lot harder to give our time. The danger is too great to mobilize large-scale volunteerism. That’s a shame because at a time like this I don’t believe anything helps with anxiety better than getting involved.
So, I’ve stayed at home feeling like it is important. As passive as it is, it is what I could do to help save lives. In fact, it was the most important thing that I could do. Nobody can put a low value on the act of not infecting other human beings with a potent virus that can kill along the chain of spread. I am so invested in this notion that I get angry when I hear politicians suggesting we not so slowly begin reopening the country for business, even before we can widely test for those infected or those who have developed antibodies and while a vaccine is still a year away.
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Then I made a conscientious effort to stop self-selecting the news and started working my way through pieces that I would normally skip based on disagreeable headlines. It is as mind-opening as it is blood pressure-raising.
We are a nation divided. We are split politically, but that is not where the dangerous divide fractures. We are a nation of haves and have-nots. There are so many have-nots in our nation that they make up the bulk of each political party. Republicans and Democrats only differ on the ways they address them, sitting in cushy seats on both economically insulated sides of the aisle without initiating much change in that regard.
Sitting comfortably in my living room, working remotely from my connected home office and making sure I get out to exercise a little to “maintain my sanity” (or is it vanity?) in the stunning natural beauty of Snowmass Village, I suddenly understand that me belittling the idea of easing restrictions now to get the country back to work is an intellectual exercise saturated with arrogance. It is too easy for me to say it. Who am I to insist an extended lockdown is better than a quicker re-opening of the economy for families with suddenly unemployed heads of households, too little food on the table, and nothing to pay rent with? The practical value of a human life is lower if you can’t afford it. Bill Gates can spend millions to save a life. The guy with the overdrawn checking account has nothing to spend on it.
I have come to understand in not being able to change any of this is that the most compassionate thing I might do for others, especially those struggling far more than I am, is to listen and stop angrily telling them what is best for them because honestly I don’t know. I am entitled to my own opinion, but I am not entitled to be certain it covers all.
Perhaps there have been no more indicative pieces of news in the past two weeks than the one about the stock market having its best 10 days since the 1930s while roughly 20 million workers filed for unemployment during the same period. Few can identify with both. Therein lies the great divide. Most of us in Snowmass Village are living at the end of the rainbow. Wouldn’t it be great if we could figure out how to flatten that curve so that every one could reach up and touch it?
Roger Marolt is looking past the dark clouds to the sun’s rays deflecting miraculously through droplets in the storm’s final mist. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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