Column

Not Everyone Will Get Through This

Those optimistic platitudes ignore the very real disparities this virus is exposing

Photo: NurPhoto/Getty Images

AsAs we march through another month of a national pandemic, over 10,000 people in the United States have already died and our hospitals are bursting at the seams. New York politicians are even talking about temporarily burying the dead, who can no longer fit in city morgues, in the parks.

So I am really going to need people to stop saying that we’ll get through this because not everyone has — and in all likelihood, tens of thousands more won’t either. We’re also not all in this together; especially when it’s becoming clearer by the day that too many Americans are more concerned with their individual happiness and desires than the collective good.

So perhaps we can dispense with the ridiculous optimism. Sometimes reality is miserable, and we need to allow ourselves to grieve.

After all, platitudes about our collective national strength aren’t going to deliver more ventilators to New York City or make nurses feel any better about wearing trash bags in lieu of adequate protective gear.

The sentiment that everything will be just fine in the end is particularly infuriating coming from the people who stand to lose the least — and in some cases, to gain the most.

Georgia Sen. Kelly Loeffler, for example, tweeted about the “small positive moments” and how “each of us plays a role in getting through this.” This is the same woman who started selling millions of dollars in stocks the very day she attended a meeting of the Senate Health Committee on Covid-19. And while Sen. Loeffler was downplaying the risk of the virus to the American people, she was investing in companies that make protective medical gear.

Platitudes about our collective national strength aren’t going to deliver more ventilators to New York City.

Ivanka Trump displayed similarly terrible judgement when she tweeted at the start of the month that “things will get better.” But for whom, exactly? Certainly not for the residents of states her father has deemed insufficiently appreciative or otherwise unworthy of receiving federal reserves of medical supplies.

If the coronavirus was the “great equalizer,” as Gov. Andrew Cuomo has claimed, 70% of the deaths in Chicago and 40% of the deaths in Michigan wouldn’t be black people.

If we were “all in this together,” people would not be flouting shelter-in-place policies to go to church — nor would religious leaders be putting their followers at risk by suggesting they attend Easter services. (Easter is an incredibly profitable time for churches, especially mega-churches.)

And while I understand the desire to find some sort of community solidarity in such a terrible time, we can’t afford to dismiss inequalities and bad actors when such things are literally deadly.

The truth is that it’s fine to feel pessimistic. The situation is dire, and the leadership vacuum in this country has ensured that we are much worse off than we should be. The U.S. government ignored months of advance warning about the dangers of this virus and now we have the most Covid-19 cases in the world. Glossing over that fact makes it easier to do nothing in the face of grave dangers.

So please, do what you have to get through this difficult time — bake your bread, take your socially distant walks around the block. Just make sure you’re clear-eyed, and please: Don’t say everything is going to be okay.

Feminist author & columnist. Native NYer, pasta enthusiast.

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