I'm ready to NEVER hear the term "unprecedented time" EVER again. I'm more so ready to never see a time like this in my life ever again.
It's definitely been some weird times, and that is a tremendously obvious statement. Yet, amid so many discussions, emotions, and various reactions that can be expressed in and for this time in history, I find myself completely reeling in the overall atmosphere.
Now, I'll be completely honest. I am extremely vulnerable to death, mortality, and the fragility that is life on this earth during these Corona Times. Another obvious - 2020 hasn't been kind to me (I don't think it has been to anyone). On the periphery, Kobe's death rocked me as a father. And then at the core, personally, I've lost an uncle in January; a very close cousin in March; a week later, I lost my father; just this week I've lost another uncle; and yes, there have been friends, colleagues, and extended acquaintances who have succumbed to COVID-19.
Just the other day I was notified about the death of a nurse who cared for my father during his lean times. She was kind, thoughtful, and always took the time to explain my father's status, and extend a hug to our family. She quickly became close friends with my mother through those many, many visits, as well as because of her unconditional care for my dad. Unfortunately, she passed away recently from the virus as she showed that same easy-going care for others battling COVID-19. Her hospital, the one which my father took his last breath in, continues to protest and advocate for needed PPE.
Death, especially, the value of life, has been a focal point for my thoughts during these times.
Even in this very moment, at the publishing of this post, that's just how I'm perceiving this time. Above all of the constant debates of when to reopen the country, who has power, quarantine measures, and blah, blah, blah. What I come back to constantly are the very numbers that are affixed to the right side of the screen of your favorite news show and channel.
For me, those are more than numbers of deaths. Those are real people who have lost their lives and have left behind an even greater amount of others who are grieving, struggling, and attempting to make sense of everything that is life during these times. Unfortunately, I just don't get that feeling of social empathy in the current climate when it comes to those numbers.
The numbers are used for statistics, for models, for projections, for political gain, and for power struggles playing out before us on our television screens every day. In an utter shaking-my-head sort of way - the idea that we have lost 30,000+ people in four months is tough to wrap the mind around.
This is why I shake my head at the opinions and comments of those, who are in a region, place, and/or community that hasn't been affected by this deadly virus, yet, opine without empathy about the need and.or complaining about stay-at-home measures, hoax theories, and other strange viewpoints. It is indeed sad, and at times, frustrating. It's like our nation is so divided, so torn, that even empathy has become lost.
I live in New York City. I've been indoors, with very little outdoor experience for close to 28 days since burying my father. I constantly hear sirens near and far, engines roaring in urgency throughout the street, fire trucks honking as they race to support whatever it is that is currently lacking resources, and then the sudden awkward quietness in between the madness - all a constant and daily reminder of the chaos that is happening outside my apartment and around this city.
And even as I share these words, I am ultimately humbled and constantly in the thought of those in this city - and around the world - who are making it through these Corona Times under tougher conditions, while also carrying much larger baggage of experiences and pre-conditions than myself. Not lost on me are my advantages in this scenario and those who currently have lesser privileges than I do in moving forward. I count my blessings every day.
Even in my own personal life, which includes a new juggling routine of working every day from home, carving out time to teach a toddler effectively to not stunt his development, working out for my own sanity, being available, strong, and compassionate for my now widowed mother, and keeping a good spirit and mental health for my wife, my own struggles feel like a blessing in regards to what is on the task list for others. Especially so, when reading the many, many stories from around the city.
Especially so, for the many medical professionals, and essential workers grinding it out.
It's important to me to keep that in thought - especially when things eventually return to "normal".
ADD IT TO THE LIST
I briefly mentioned it in the original Corona Times post, but the current situation continues to expose how foundational flawed our country is (and well, has been). The reaches of inequality in times of crisis like this one are so far and so wide - and of course, very random in who it selects. That very sentiment is being played out every day as mounting evidence and statistics are expressing great effects on the black and brown communities from this virus.
It goes without saying that this is obvious - especially in considering the historical roots that come into play here such as redlining, segregation, outright racism, etc... All are factors in this result. It's such bullshit.
I hate to say that, even more so for my lack of articulating it in a more profound way - but it's just the raw and immediate emotion. Even in the scope of equality and through a holistic lens of the historical treatment of people of color in this country, adding death by a global pandemic to the list of battles a person of color has to deal with just seems utterly cruel. And in many ways, infuriating.
Here is a question for you - and really, I'm just throwing it out there...
How do we thank and take care of essential workers who performed - and yes, risked their lives - to keep essential needs flowing into our communities when this is all over?
It's an interesting question that I keep coming back to.
Sometimes heroism isn't enough.
I WANT TO BE A PART OF IT...
Like many other New Yorkers during these times (it's a pretty safe assumption) I've thought about my relationship with this city. I've thought about how long my connection to Brooklyn, even New York City, will last.
Now, being quarantined in an apartment with little outdoor capability can and will do that to an individual's thinking. After all, that's part of New York City - for good or bad. Yet, for myself, I can't help but wonder, even with an active toddler - am I nearing my end here?
Now any New Yorker will tell you - especially the ones who have put in significant time to this city - many do not understand this lifestyle. The subway, the apartment living, the insane cost, the traffic - all of it. And sure, when I'm stuck in standstill traffic or stare at a display that states the next train is 21 minutes away - I do too. But at the end of it all, I return to a place - this odd, love - where I go - yeah, wouldn't want to be anywhere else, though.
However, there has been some serious FOMO when looking at Instagram (damn you, virtual world!) and the friends and family I follow who can go outdoors, sit on their decks, take a walk in their suburban cul-de-sac (yes, a slight jab, there) or relax in their multi-leveled home.
I've recently found myself searching elsewhere - New Jersey, Westchester, Long Island - of places outside the city for homes. After all, these times have NOT been fun. I would just LOVE to have a garage to workout, or a backyard to sit in the sun and do some writing.
At the same time, I think about the fate of New York City. The people we've lost. The jobs we've lost, and the people (maybe families) who will exit with those lost opportunities. I go back again to 9/11, and the large exodus of people to leave the city altogether, setting up shop anywhere else that wasn't this epicenter for a major catastrophe.
And here we are again.
The one thing I have learned through this time is that there are different types of New Yorkers. Those who are here, live here, love here - maybe even stuck here. And those with homes elsewhere, who use this city for status, or those who pretend to be here.
After this is all said and done, New York City will NOT be the same. And quite frankly, for the first time, I'm really questioning how long I'll be here myself.
Fair warning, I'm getting political here. And as always, my disclaimer - I'm a registered independent. But I know the times - if you're an avid Trump supporter, I will be criticizing him here. I respect you enough to tell you, so you can simply skip to the next section...where somehow I criticize the Left. Funny, how that works...
Regardless, here we go...
It's no secret, I'm no fan of our current President. However, I can acknowledge when he has done things that are beneficial and good for the country. With that said...
It's been an absolute shitshow during these times, and really, it's been extremely amazing to me how his followers - heck, anyone! - can support his handling of this situation. My biggest gripe? AGAIN, over 30,000 bodies have perished from this virus, and I've never once gotten a sense of pathos towards that very fact at any moment since these times have begun.
Again, my intent is not to pile on to be anti-Trump - just being honest. We have a President who is more concerned with political positioning for re-election than guiding a nation through this time.
It's disconcerting on so many levels. My honest opinion on his leadership is this: he's positioned himself to look like the hero (as he takes credit for supplying resources as he did here with the Comfort Navy Ship and the additional help provided to get the Javits prepared), AND ALSO, to save face (i.e. to use the Governors as a shield for blowback on the national economy).
It's rather quite cowardice.
As of right now, I don't outright blame Trump for the entire ordeal. How can you? But a big part of how I view his leadership during this time is him ignoring early warnings back in January (even calling it a hoax) and of course, standing there, defiantly and demonstrative stating, "I don't take responsibility at all".
I really do believe a lot of this is on him. I shutter to think if we took this seriously in January, how many lives could have been saved, or if we would have been back to normal life by now.
It's not a direct correlation, but it's the small things like the spending on "Space Force" and the complete disregard for much of the evidence that has been here regarding an upcoming pandemic. Ugh.
History will be interesting on how his leadership is viewed and represented regarding these times.
OPENING UP THE COUNTRY
I understand both sides of the argument in regards to getting back to work and opening the country. Sadly, the unemployment numbers and national economy status is another psychological effect that looms over this time.
I've already had my share of heartbreaking stories in dealing with many of my student-employees and their need for "more hours" as they battle the effects that have ravaged their financial flexibility for continuing their education, and at home. From stories of international students stuck here in the states without the ability to work (other than on our campus); students with parents who are small business owners and feeling the effect of this time; students with parents who have lost their jobs; those who are concerned about going back home without the resources for remote learning, and so much more - it continues to give me perspective on others, and fill me with empathy for where we are in this situation beyond the virus itself.
I've also been putting plans together to try and limit the financial damage our department will take - of course, also trying to limit the loss of employment. It's not fun at all.
Many of my favorite restaurants - some of which I've become friendly with the owners - are now closed for business, announcing complete layoffs of their employees and staff, and/or adding to the unsureness of if they ever return.
I understand the need for the country to open up. I really do. And I understand the need for many to throw risk to the wind to improve their lives or even prevent the collapse of it.
I get it, and I don't understand the outcry towards those who are attempting to do so. We aren't talking about those who are defying measures and recommendations for a day at the beach. Or those who are protesting because they don't like what the government is telling them to do with their bodies (imagine that?). I'm refering to those who are really just looking to get back to work. To help their families. To improve their socioeconomic status.
I will not politicize this measure as too right, or thinking from the right. Many, many lower-income individuals engage in these types of terms EVERY DAY. No healthcare. No paid sick leave. For many, personal health is a risk that comes with surviving.
Yes, many or protesting on that because they now have experienced just a slight piece of oppression (more on that in a bit). So yes, I understand the mindset, even despite the glaring evidence to protect others and reduce the pressure on our healthcare system.
Coming full circle, it's the very reason we see the large effects upon the black and brown community.
Again, with empathy, and from the lens of examining privilege - I get it. I really, really do.
OH, THE IRONY
I will end on this - it is quite ironic the sudden appeal and emphasis for the "right to protest" and the comparisons to civil rights leaders being touted by governmental leaders who have nothing but their own advantage of economical gain in mind.
"Modern-day Rosa Parks". Unbelievable. Utterly, unbelievable.
---So desperate to wear the mantle of being oppressed without ever enduring oppression https://t.co/XgQju21cWA— jessica from 6’ away🧂 (@jessicashortall) April 18, 2020
Again, it's crazy times, ya'll. So, so crazy.
Stay safe, and be well.