Where is our network of mutuality?

We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr

As the pandemic wears on, we are all coping as best we can. The federal government has abdicated any responsibility or assistance. We are left to do what we feel is right with little guidance or regulation from our state government. We are failing as a country.

Social media is full of memes defending one’s right to serve up a big helping of Covid to family members at Thanksgiving. One such meme states that we must see out-of-town and elderly family members this year as it may be their last year alive, ignoring the apparent irony.

I see these statements proclaiming it is our right and obligation to infect others during holidays mostly in the rural areas. Rural governors seem to be against any mitigation efforts. One of my best friends lives in Nebraska in a town of 3000. In a county of 6500, there have been 365 Covid cases, a shocking per capita number. Her local grocery store started mandating masks for employees only recently after Nebraska had one of the country’s highest infection rates. Masks are not required in her county, and restaurants are open for business. When did we abandon science?

My brother lives in a small town in Texas and attended an outdoor event 10 days ago. That event has now led to much of the town’s population being infected with Covid, including my brother. However, the mostly white and affluent attendees are not getting tested because they don’t want to increase the official infection rate. One attendee, a teacher, isn’t getting tested because she doesn’t want to report to her school district if she tests positive. Texas regulations state she needs to quarantine for 14 days — but she isn’t. She works in a lower-income school district where many of the students live with multiple family generations. She believes Covid is ‘no big deal’ and allows her children to participate in parties and sports as they want. I don’t understand how this selfish behavior is okay or tolerated.

I moved to LA from a rural town of 1800 in Michigan, and when I check on my friends there, I see a lot of resistance to Covid being real. The one hospital within a 3 county area has only two ventilators and 23 available beds for the over 300 active corona cases (as of 11/18). This town has an average of 150 inches of snow per year. It is relatively isolated, which has led to a necessarily strong community feeling. They take care of their neighbors, holding fundraisers and potlucks for those stricken by cancer or premature baby birth. Yet, in the face of Covid, most of the county believes that they are “oppressed” because they are required to wear masks. Where is our network of mutuality?

Are we, as a country, really going to let a pandemic overrun us? We know what to do to curb this. It’s so embarrassing that in the last four years, we have allowed the science-deniers and the wannabe fascists to control this country’s narrative. We seem more selfish and less likely to accommodate others’ needs than we were just four years ago. A quarter-million of us have now died because of it. We saw this coming in December or even earlier. We lived through the first and second waves. And yet, we are allowing a third wave to overwhelm our health system, exhaust, demoralize, and kill our health care workers. It is frightening and discouraging to watch the deaths increase daily, with no end in sight. I don’t know how to express my anger and disgust at the federal government’s inaction and my fellow Americans’ actions.

We can do better. We should do better. We need to do better.

Audrey Zetta is a writer living in LA, wearing a mask, staying in, and giving giant tips to delivery people.

Feminist, dirty liberal, thoughtful absurdist.

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