I am sick. Not sick of coronavirus, but sick of the coronavirus-powered control freaks who shriek and virtue-signal at the prospect of people outside an intimate bubble seeing each other in person and at every unbemasked face.
It started in April when some fed-up business owners came out to protest the ongoing lockdown. In response, I started seeing a nasty viscous meme shaming the protestors with a sheet implying they should sign away their right to health care if they caught COVID as a consequence of being out in public, and that health care providers should refuse them such care. Seriously? You are such a person that you think it’s ok for someone to suffer and die because they partook in an outdoor protest? Interestingly, that meme completely disappeared when Black Lives Matter protests erupted.
And I’m calling an end to this upon being Facebook-shamed for inviting someone outside of my household to my Christmas dinner. Someone who lost his beautiful wife to cancer this year and has not been able to have a memorial for her. Someone whose daughter is in New York and cannot travel to see him. Someone who lives alone and far away from those he grew up with. Someone who is tested for COVID twice a week as part of his job. The humane thing is not to follow orders, but to follow your soul and your conscience. How many suicides and overdoses are we going to find in the New Year because coronavirus hysteria held back a neighbor or acquaintance from inviting over someone who looked to be all alone?
Sure, we don’t want to “kill grandma” with too much socializing, but I don’t agree with killing old people with solitary confinement instead. Guess what — I went directly to “grandma” this year, and it was one of the high points of her year, and she didn’t die! She is exactly the grandma we wish to protect — old, with medical conditions, and a husband with severe respiratory problems. We flew by airplane (and also didn’t sicken and die!) and stayed at her house. If we had been sick or had any symptoms, we wouldn’t have gone. But we weren’t and we not only had a fun visit, we organized an outdoor socially-distanced get-together and an indoor bemasked get-together with their local old-people friends and it was such a relief for them from the isolation they’d been under they continued the outdoor get-togethers until weather no longer allowed. Yeah, I agree old people shouldn’t be running up to me asking for a kiss especially if I’m not related to them, but I’m not running up to them unrequitedly either. On the other hand, isolation can be crueler than death, and one last hug is better than dying feeling unloved and unseen.
And speaking of the idea that my mere presence could infect you — it’s an idea that infected me. I understand these paper and fabric masks are to protect others from my possibly-diseased breath, so if I’m asked or even in the presence of those who wish me to put it on, I do. But unlike many, I’m not afraid of you. Sure, if you’re having a coughing fit in public, I will now step away even further than I would last year, but if I see an unmasked person in public indoors, I don’t quake in fear and rage.
But because I fear infecting others even when I had no sickness, I could have missed out on one of my highlights of the holiday season. A friend and I met a delightful couple and gave them an impromptu invite to our house for a possibly-disastrous attempt at smoke-barbecued ribs. Because of my fear I could be innocently carrying disease, I thought we could all sit outside on our spacious deck next to our heater. But it soon became clear that it was so cold we couldn’t even feel our hands. So I put an extra leaf into our dining room table, and we all, close friends and them, had a fabulous party inside. Later, around our fire pit, we discovered both members of the couple had had and successfully survived COVID in April. So all my fretting about possibly making them sick even though I wasn’t sick was for naught!
I could ramble on, but it comes down to this: you have a choice on how to respond and protect yourself and your loved ones from COVID, but you have no context of why others look to be insouciant or in your mind, reckless. I’m going to be respectful of others, but I am going to live my life by my morals and my understanding and acceptance of risk. If you feel safest for yourself and others by staying home alone and you’re psychologically comfortable with that, we are now lucky to have a wider range of services that can bring the world to each of us while still alone. If you fear the unmasked (for you are sure they carry disease), keep a distance and/or walk away; it’s unlikely they will chase after you (and if so scream for help and run, the rest of us can stop them). If you must deal with the masses, you can wear that dorky plexiglass face shield and a mask and limit interactions to as brief as possible. One of the librarians does this and I take care to stand back (as bemasked) as I assure her I’m not sick and dive over with my arm so she can quickly take my temperature. And I love her dearly for letting me in to the library. If you must protect grandma (and other vulnerables), stay away from me and my ilk for a few days before seeing her. But quit the shaming, you know not of whom you pretend to protect. And if pure isolation is the cure to this disease and it is as deadly as you presume, we’ll all be dead before you are and you can have your world to yourself.
This is exactly how I, and many others I know, feel. But I would add that the response to the pandemic had a definite political aspect.