By Jill Richardson
Social distancing is hard, and it’s not fun.
I don’t question that we are doing what is necessary. Until better testing, treatment, and prevention are available, it is. But quarantining us in our homes separates us at a time when we need connection.
And you know what? It’s okay to feel angry about that. It’s important to remember we’re doing this in part because the people at the top screwed up.
Trump fired the pandemic response team two years ago, even though Obama’s people warned them that we needed to work on preparedness for exactly this in 2016. Unsurprisingly, a government simulation exercise just last year found we were not prepared for a pandemic.
Later on, even after the disease had come to the U.S., infectious disease experts in Washington State had to fight the federal government for the right to test for the coronavirus.
It gets worse.
Now we know that Senator Richard Burr was taking the warnings seriously weeks before any real action was taken — and all he did was sell off a bunch of stock, while telling the public everything was fine. Meanwhile, Trump didn’t want a lot of testing, because he wanted to keep the number of confirmed cases low to aid his re-election.
The people we trusted to keep us safe didn’t do that. Now the entire economy’s turned upside down, people are dying, and we’re all cooped up at home.
It sucks. We should be angry.
I’m young enough that I don’t have to worry much about the likelihood of a serious case if I get sick. But I’m staying home, because I don’t want to get it and accidentally spread it to someone more vulnerable than myself.
I’m also aware of the sacrifice many of us are making for the sake of others. Some lost their jobs, while others put themselves at risk working outside the home because they can’t afford not to — or, in the case of health care workers, because they’re badly needed.
Entire families are cooped up together and I’ve heard jokes that divorce lawyers will get plenty of business after this. Parents are posting memes about how much they appreciate teachers now that they are stuck with their kids all day. I’m entirely alone besides a cat.
I worry about the college seniors graduating this year and trying to find a job. What about people prone to anxiety and depression? How much will this exacerbate domestic abuse? What about people in jails, prisons, and detention centers?
Our society is deeply unequal. So while the virus itself doesn’t discriminate, this bigger crisis will hit people unequally. Some don’t have health insurance. Some are undocumented. Some are more susceptible to dying from the disease.
The people in power who screwed up are wealthy enough that they can work from home, maintain their income, and access affordable health care. Others will feel the full brunt of this, not them. It’s not fair.
I’m supportive of doing all we can to prevent the virus’s spread and to protect vulnerable people, but anger at the people whose incompetence put us in this position is justified. We deserve better.
Jill Richardson is the author of “Recipe for America: Why Our Food System Is Broken and What We Can Do to Fix It.” She is a columnist for OtherWords.org.