Originally written in April, 2020
I have a wonderful student who has suffered from anxiety long before the pandemic and is understandably having a hard time now. They lives with and care for an elderly relative, and one of their parents works in an essential profession, and so is self isolating from the family, which is especially hard on the elder.
Long story short, we talk regularly and they were expressing their fears and said that they “just wished that things would get back to normal.”
My response was:
I should clarify: I’m cautiously optimistic in general, I just think the physical distancing will last well beyond April. Not happy about it, but we shall see.
Meanwhile, I hope we don’t go back to the same normal because that’s how this happened. I hope we retain our awareness of the ties between deforestation, pollution, and global warming to the spread of disease. I hope we also retain our awareness of the part that all the Arts play on our lives and how necessary they are for our well being and we get back to funding them, in schools and beyond.
I most certainly hope we never lose track of how wonderful it is to be physically present with friends and loved ones and what a gift it is to be embodied, healthy, and in contact with others.
I hope we adhere to a new normal that is more egalitarian and never again devalues clerks and truck drivers, sanitation workers, or anyone in the food system, or takes health workers for granted.
I never want to return to the previous normal again and I hope the world agrees en mass and that we raise the bar on our expectations. I hope we’ll be kinder and more appreciative and that we insist on national healthcare for all, and that the wealthiest are made to pay their fair share. I hope people realize that for the greater good, it’s best to provide healthcare to everyone. Viruses don’t respect boundaries of race, class, age, gender, or location. If they’re able to spread, they will, so the healthier the least of us are, the stronger and healthier the entire nation will be.
I’m happy to say that my student rallied and realized that they had the right to expect better. They also realized that they had some anthropology training and could be interviewing their family members, getting to know them and allowing them to know him, creating new, adult relationships and bonds. This is something I would encourage everyone to do, if possible.
I’m not recounting this to get pats on the back. I’m telling this story because I truly believe that this should be a period where we put the pieces together and we become active in ensuring that things DON’T return to the previous normal. I’m hoping that we see our strengths and that we push beyond our understandable concerns to create something new rather than fall into the dystopian future that our common oppressors have been promoting for years, a bleak future that seperates us and augments the scarcity models that rewards competition and segmentation.
My hope is that from our separate points of isolation, we act collectively. That we usher in a new paradigm of respect, unity, cooperation, and strength.
Update: And it’s now September and people are restless and numbers that were lowered are on the rise. The US Covid-19 deaths stand at 187,777 as of 9/4/20 (https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/).