2020 was unique, in that we all experienced a genuinely sh*t year.
The global pandemic, and world-wide lock-down(s) have been a community experience; and we have an obligation to be in the know.
Masks and social distancing are a necessary courtesy. I am baffled – and angered – by folks who b*tch and moan about their “God-given freedom” to do whatever the hell they want, whenever the hell they want. (I trust that my readers are intelligent enough to heed the word of experts, and have handled this crisis with their own varying degrees of knowledgeable aplomb.)
According to informed (i.e. credible) news outlets, Arizona is now leading the world — the world! — in COVID19 infection rates. (For those of you who may not know, I live in Tucson, Arizona.)
I can’t help but think that this ever-growing contagion rate is in direct proportion to the amount of right-wing, Trump supporting, “My ill-informed freedom is more important than your well-being!” shouting individuals that live within our borders.
For proof of this hypothesis, one need only to observe the mask-less hordes standing outside the Wal-mart, urging people to sign a petition to have the mayor removed from office for “closing down the state.” (Governor Doug Ducey has yet to impose a state-wide safety mandate.)
In October, I resigned from my position as a paraeducator, when it became horrifyingly clear that our safety — and the safety of our students, and their families — was a very distant second priority to funding.
Now, I leave my home for only three reasons:
- To walk and/or hike
- To acquire groceries
- To visit family members, or friends (in very small groups), who also adhere to safety measures
That being said, Mitchell and I are often the only people wearing masks while walking (in municipal parks) or hiking (in state parks).
I realize that if there is enough distance (at least six feet) between myself and another individual, that it is relatively safe to remove my mask outdoors, in order to breathe a little easier… but I keep it on me at all times, and pull it over my face when approaching other people.
Unfortunately, in this very circumstance, I have been chastised — by strangers — for adhering to the mask mandate.
This past week, while hiking at Greasewood Park, I was technically “assaulted” by other hikers. A small family — consisting of four adults, and two small children — screamed, “Goddam Biden supporters! You’re ruining this country! Masks are a myth!” at myself, and two other hikers. They then proceeded to spit water at — and on — us.
In response, I gave them a wide berth — traipsing into cactus brush — as I crossed near to them; and did not offer a reply… but in my head, I thought, How are you being inconvenienced if I decide to wear a mask?
And then later, I thought, How did we get here?! When did we lose our sense of communal unity, and decide that petty disagreements (ill-informed or otherwise) would serve as a justification to be rude to one another?
Many blame the stress of the pandemic for the ever-widening divides in our country; but I believe COVID19 has only served as a magnifying glass — through which we have more clearly seen how terribly polarized this nation has become… and I don’t know how we even begin to approach the ideas of educated conversation, and mutual compromise.
- How do we talk about global issues with people who believe we live not on a sphere, but on a plane?
- How do we convey the importance of knowledge with folks who blatantly ignore the expertise of scientists?
- How do we converse with individuals who have forgotten the art of listening… and insist upon shouting venomous words at the top of their lungs?
I don’t have an answer to these questions. I don’t know what to do, nor where to start, to help heal my community.
I cling to the hope that things will get better… and simultaneously fear that we have reached a dangerous point of no return.