Georgia is reopening today, and per Governor Kemp’s Executive Order this begins with bowling alleys, gyms, body art studios, barbers, fitness centers, hair designers, cosmetologists, nail care artists, estheticians, their respective schools and massage therapists. This is to be done with “Minimum Basic Operations”, and come Monday, 4/27/2020, theaters, private social clubs and restaurant dine-in services will be added to the list.
Every day since the announcement went forth on Monday I’ve felt it. The shock and dismay of what I was hearing and reading. The disbelief. The denial. The genuine lack of understanding and physical ache that’s come with that persistent pit that’s settled into my stomach. These have been some of the internal responses I’ve been wading through, and truthfully, I’m not okay.
How can this feel ok when we have been urged and instructed to stay home unless absolutely necessary as an effort to flatten the curve?
When our schools have been cancelled for the remainder of this year (through May at the very least), and we’re learning to teach our children against the background of a pandemic?
When healthcare providers and a myriad of other essential workers are putting themselves at risk to continue doing their job?
When small shops are pooling their resources, and in some instances sidelining their standard production, in favor of meeting the ever increasing need for masks?
How does one comprehend this when Georgia still has a shelter-in-place order through April 30th, but the supposed good news is we can break free a little early in order to get our nails and hair did?
Please, help me understand!
As the co-chair of The Community Outreach Committee of Governor Kemp’s Coronavirus Task Force, Ms. Bernice King shared the following pointed and passionate thoughts after giving her official statement on the heels of the announcement. One that took many, (herself included), by surprise.
“Today when I received this news, the first response that I had was tears, it was devastating to hear. It was difficult to hear. And it’s difficult because I’m not sure that we are understanding the importance of balancing the economy with a commitment to humanity. I get the importance. I get it that people’s pockets are hurting and we’ve got to find a way to restart the economy, but we have to use wisdom in how we do it. I am concerned deeply that we’re setting ourselves up to see accelerated deaths especially in communities of color, communities that look just like me. Vulnerable communities. Marginalized communities.”
As I absorbed her words I began to have a better sense of what I’d been struggling to articulate. Much of what she stated is precisely where the rubber hits the road for me.
It’s not about being cold-hearted and detached from the very real financial needs facing so many Americans right now. I am deeply burdened for those who own, operate and serve within these businesses. I know for many their livelihood depends on what happens next and I want to support who I can and see them succeed!
I’m burdened for those who don’t have a deep financial safety net for the just in case (raises hand), knowing that to alter a single paycheck can leave them in a terrible position.
My heart was heavy when, a few days ago, my friend shared about the depression gripping someone close to her who is having to make difficult decisions about a company they’ve worked hard to build their entire life. They are completely wrecked as they must consider the subsequent consequences that closing the doors would have on them and those whom they employ if it should come to that.
Those stories are endless, and I wish that I could write this with some brilliant solutions. I don’t have that but the thing is, I’ve got to believe there is a better way.
If high end steakhouses receive small business loans (that they return only after feeling the heat), but family-owned iconic restaurants are setting up Go Fund Me’s after being denied, there’s something wrong with this picture!
There’s something wrong with putting the onus on a company to open up with “strict guidelines in place” or stay closed knowing that’s an impossible ask in their profession. And what of those who are pregnant, immunocompromised, caring for an elderly family member, are the sole providers, or aren’t comfortable with a decision that seems like it was made hastily, but are (or feel) forced to return to work anyways?
I know it’s complex and for many reasons that surely go over my head, but why must we give into the pressure of believing that wisdom and compassion must constantly conflict?
As unemployment claims go unpaid, as small businesses loans get denied, as a second wave of such assistance is being considered, and mayors and individual entities are setting up funds, I would venture so far as to say that there are fiscal solutions that don’t equate to putting lives on the line.
Perhaps as you read this you’re shaking your head at this lofty belief I’d dare hold onto, but what underlies all of this for me is not whether or not a business is open or closed, rather, whose lives could possibly be lost, and how much do we care about the lives of those who are already gone as a result of Covid-19.
Once communities that have already been clearly outlined as being at high risk continue to be put into more risk, how do you justify it? Does this mean that you don’t care about those communities because they’re not and don’t look like yours? Does it mean that you simply aren’t willing to pay the unemployment or approve that loan? Does it mean that getting a massage and a pedicure and a haircut is worth the lives of our healthcare workers who have been in this fight from day one?
I have questions that I want answers to. I have questions that I wish I could provide answers for. But mostly I have tears and heaviness and a broken heart.
The thing is, I believe in science and facts but I don’t want the science to be true here. I don’t want to see numbers surge as predicted, while Georgia and other states begin to open back up. I don’t want to see devastation continue to hit Americans and ravage our most vulnerable communities. I’m outraged as the farce of “the great equalizer” dies along with the disproportionately high number of Black people dying, and systemic racism along with racial disparity continues rearing its ugly head.
To be clear, I don’t want to see anyone dying. And I’m disgusted that any of us would be willing to sacrifice the elderly or those with pre-existing conditions who would “die anyways”, or somehow celebrate that more people have died from the flu.
I would much rather see a miraculous turn-around of epic proportions. For some that’s wild and crazy or foolish and naïve faith to believe, but I won’t cast that aside even in the midst of my sorrow.
However, if things do progress as projected, I can’t help but wonder how and if things could have been greatly minimized had we been a little more patient. A little more willing to love our neighbors and look out for others in more selfless, (albeit uncomfortable and challenging) ways.
I also know that there are so many complex facets I have not even touched on, from mental health and all those who aren’t actually safe at home.
It’s complicated. I get it.
Yet and still, this was never going to last forever. And if five weeks or six or eight is more than what those of us who are able can collectively do for the greater good because it’s our “right” to come and go as we please, or that an economic boost ranks higher than those who have been burying their dead, then I guess the takeaway is our neighbor be damned.
Only time will tell, but one thing time has already proven is that we continue to choose profit over people, money over the marginalized, and exceptionalism over empathy as long as we remain safe in our bubbles, keeping the world of other’s suffering at bay.
I’m not here to stop you if what feels good and safe and right is to venture out today, whatever the reason, but what I will do is ask you to at least consider the question I have asked myself over and over again.
What…or who is the cost?