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Ease In The Sunshine State
I would be lying if I said that I’m completely satiated in lockdown, but that’s mostly true for everyone. And yes, I’m incalculably…
I would be lying if I said that I’m completely satiated in lockdown, but that’s mostly true for everyone. And yes, I’m incalculably fortunate to spend my time writing and reading — to spend this time as I see fit. But I’m beginning to crave the presence of strangers. Craving walking into a bookshop or cafe, getting a coffee to stay, and sitting with some friends or a date and just getting to know some people. Or head out to a bar and play darts with friends.
In truth, I love this time to write, but I’m not a person who enjoys life at a distance, observing rather than participating. I love to interact with others, to talk and to hear their stories. I find that the introverted life is only partly for me. I love hearing about the lives of others. I value greatly those moments when we take the time to separate our barriers as strangers to each other and become, even if only slightly, known. I love people. I don’t like to stay out late, too often, but I love being with people. It is as important to my writing as reading or teaching myself the rhetorical importance between the quotation styles of Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, Catherine Pace, or Samantha Schwelbin. People are for whom I write, and so I love being with people, immersing myself in the communal rather than the solitary.
But even so, being without people, spending so many hours alone in a room crowded with books and the hum of a minifridge and few people to talk to, I’m still weary at the prospect of even easing lockdown slightly in California.
My brother told me that Butte County, where he lives, is easing the lockdown, with shops starting to open up. He said, however, that downtown Chico, where the homeless are mostly free to wander in this crisis, is still largely boarded up, still much the same picture of desolation as it was when this all started. In Sonoma county, the parks just reopened.
As I write this, it’s Friday. It’s the first sunny day this week. And I wonder what will happen to Butte county, to Sonoma.
In California, we have only now begun to see genuine declines in cases. It feels too early for that to mean reopening. Politicians fear a major economic collapse, which is almost certain now with unemployment reaching numbers higher than were seen during the Great Depression.This crisis isn’t about the economy. It’s about human lives, the very thing that drives ideas such as the economy, property, healthcare, and notions of capitalist progress. And though money is about life, life is not about money. Without human life, there is no money, there is no notion of progress, whatever you deem that vague word to mean. And I doubt that these easings — parks reopening, shops letting small numbers of people in at a time — are truly worth the genuine risk of another large resurgence in cases, even in California where the infection rates are terrible but are not as bad as on the East Coast or in the South.
And as I sit on this sunny day, I worry that people from San Francisco will drive out to Sonoma, trying to get a nice beer or take a walk along to the Russian River to enjoy a warm sunny day. I worry people will be driving from Sacramento to Chico, heading up to the rivers to fish, or go swimming in the public pools, or going to hike up the rocks of Upper Park en masse. Is reopening right now a good idea?
Truly, I don’t know. I don’t think any of us do. I fear that it will only make things worse.
As the days get hotter again and June gets closer, the wish to reopen is becoming greater and greater. More and more of my friends across the country are getting sick of being inside all of the time. We are all craving for things to change, for some glimmer of hope. But I’m not so sure about the easing of lockdown. It seems too soon.
I am twenty-five. I am fit. I eat well and have no major health issues. I’m not scared for myself. I’m scared for those I love: My friend in New Orleans who has a poor immune system, my ninety-one year-old grandfather in Los Angeles, my sixty-five year old father, my sixty-one year-old mother. My eighty-five year-old friend in Rhode Island. My fear is for an innumerable amount of family and friends and strangers that I might one day meet at a bar or on the street. It’s for them that I fear. Because, honestly, if they were to die from this, it wouldn’t only be the fault of the disease. It would be the fault of the politicians who fear economic collapse which is already a guarantee. A healthcare system that is as much in love with debt as credit card companies and universities. And the incompetence of a government to truly do its job in protecting and caring for its tax-paying citizens and residents.
I want to go out into packed streets and wander around shops, not buying a thing. I want to go to the used bookstore and thrift shops in town. I want to drink a shot of espresso. I want to talk with some strangers about Arrested Development. I want to see groups of people piled into public parks. I want to have a bonfire on a beach. I want to hear the stories of strangers. I want to share a meal. But for that to happen, I want us to stay seated, patient, and demanding of our public servants to be absolutely certain we are safe before reopening, guided by the importance of human life before money and politics.