The U.S. has been divided into three new groups by the coronavirus:
The New Haves
The first group is comprised of the well-educated, white-collared professional-class. Most of them have been able to work remotely or are still earning some type of income. This elite class hasn’t suffered much on an immediate financial level during the coronavirus shutdowns.
Investments that aren’t doing particularly well at the moment but are expected to recover do not count as immediate personal financial hardships.
Members of this fortunate caste are mostly people who have been able to afford the luxury of staying home for the past six-weeks. They have been ordering takeout like the people preparing it couldn’t possibly be sick and don’t take public transportation everyday to get to work.
Incidentally, eating or drinking anything prepared or handled by another person puts you at risk of exposure to whatever germs they might be carrying. If they had the virus, they might have shed it into your food or drink.
People on lock-down complaining on social media that others in some parts of the country want to re-open the economy- that “It’s too dangerous!”- shouldn’t be trusting strangers to make coffee, let alone requiring those strangers to risk themselves making it.
Members of this first, very elite group have been accused, not without reason, of exhibiting very little sympathy towards people from any demographic group who are suffering financially during this outbreak.
The New Have-Nots
The second group of people who have emerged during the coronavirus crisis are the newly unemployed working-class.
These are the people who are lining up for hours in food pantry lines because they don’t know where their next meal is coming from.
This group includes people from every walk of life who have spent years building a small business. These are people who have invested their entire life-savings into such ventures and are now watching them crash and burn.
Many of them are not white.
For people living paycheck to paycheck, not knowing where your next paycheck is coming from, or when, is the kind of soul-crushing stress that never relents. It is the kind of stress that follows you into dreams that turn into nightmares.
Losing a business is similarly stressful.
Democrats may think this is an excellent time for esoteric discussions about how no one in America should be so financially insecure as to not be able to handle something like this. They sound exactly as cold-hearted, cruel and ruthless as any rugged individualist conservative who insists that people who don’t have the equivalent of 6 months worth of expenses saved deserve whatever they get for depending on the kindness of strangers.
Democratic Politicians in places that should know better are instead behaving as if this pandemic has elevated them, and their ideals, above everyone else and theirs. They are setting arbitrary restrictions when they should be asking for the public’s cooperation; they are threatening when they should be negotiating.
If what you are doing, including the messaging you are using, is causing people to ignore and flout public health guidelines, you are doing it wrong. This high-handedness is creating more problems than it is solving.
When people lose their jobs, they don’t have anything better to do than protest.
One nation, invisible.
For an army of overlooked service industry workers, food handlers, truckers, medical professionals, dry cleaners, plumbers, maintenance people, mechanics, janitors, landscapers and a million other working professions, Covid-19 has not meant time spent safely at home with their families.
New York public transportation isn’t empty; far from it. The number of everyday riders has been reduced, but so have the number of trains. Platforms and cars are just as crowded as ever. True, the number of people touching turnstiles, buttons, hand-rails, handles and seats has been reduced, the number is still in the millions each day.
That is how many people the economy still needs, even running a skeleton crew.
Members of the elite class in particular need to stop acting like we don’t have any information and data about what will happen when we all start going about our business again. Not all of us have been able to stop going about our business in the first place.
The grocery clerks who were ringing up your stockpile six-weeks ago are the same grocery clerks working today- that’s them, behind that stifling, uncomfortable mask they wear everyday for 8-hours at a stretch. The same people are still driving the same cars that are delivering your groceries, your prescriptions, your laundry detergent, and your latest Amazon purchase.
The same people are cooking your restaurant meals- even if they are prepping and boxing them instead of bringing them to your table.
These are all people. Actual human beings with entire lives- they too must go to the grocery store, the laundromat, the home and garden center. They live in families, or with other quarantined roommates- all of those roommates, husbands and wives come into contact with hundreds of other potentially infected surfaces and people every single day.
Treating these millions upon millions of people as if they are invisible, or as if they are some kind of automatons safe from disease is a very classist attitude, at best. Not to mention a world-view that reeks of self-importance and delusion.
The real question is not whether it is time to “reopen the economy.”
The question is whether or not it’s time for the educated and professional class who have been “safe” at home for the past months to rejoin the workforce. And the working people who never left it.
The U.S. economy has certainly suffered, but it never really closed.
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)