We did the right thing. We washed our hands, didn’t touch our faces (we think), limited grocery trips to once a week, stopped seeing our families, our friends, our loved ones. We wore masks religiously. We practiced patience even as our anxiety was ratcheted up daily by new cases, new hospitalizations, new deaths that used to be front page, headline news and now have become depressingly routine and are sidelined in favor of political antics in an election year.
And it didn’t matter. Because a few people–vanishingly few, if you think about how many people there actually are in this country (~330 mil)–decided that their own pleasure, their own needs, their own discomfort, were more important than saving lives and stopping the spread of a fatal disease against which no-one has any immunity at all. They and their selfishness ruined it for the rest of us. And now we have to start over. At a time when all I want to do is wrap my arms around my parents, who had a father and brother pass away while all this was going on, I can’t, and not only that, I have no idea when I will be able to again.
I miss my parents, who are not young and live less than a half hour from here, and who I was used to visiting every few weeks or so. I have not seen them, other than by Zoom, since late February. I miss my friends–I am autistic, I don’t have that many close friends–they are my lifeline, my translators, my cheerleaders, my links to a neurotypical world that I only partially understand. With the unique clarity of emotionless observance bestowed by my autism, this whole mask-wearing sturm and drang is seen for the patent absurdism it is. Get over yourself, people. Wear the damn mask. Even Captain Ape, my significant other who leans more conservative than me, has been wearing a disposable mask without complaint since March and recently purchased a cloth one for himself for long-term use.
And it doesn’t matter. None of it does. We are right back where we started. I presciently cancelled a vacation to the Eastern shore in late May, calculating for a rush of self-centered vacation-goers that would descend on the area over Memorial Day weekend and cause a re-closure therein, and sure enough, the area has now enacted a strict quarantine. Instead, a few of us will be going to a little-known beach community in our own state, minus our parents, for a week. This is a somewhat inadequate substitute for the usual two-week mass-family get-together we enjoy at a popular beach town that is a home-away-from-home for us, but we are blessed to be able to do it and I am grateful, and, honestly, a little terrified, that even doing this constitutes an unacceptable risk.
But all my careful planning doesn’t matter. My parents, our loved ones, all the vulnerable people we know and care for and worry about, they are at an even higher risk than they were four months ago, now that the virus has reached in to every community, large and small, to manhandle its population with absolutely no regard for politics, with even freer rein in communities with fewer health resources. Nothing has changed since April.
No, that isn’t true. Now, things are immeasurably worse. We had a chance to fix this and it was squandered by a bunch of self-centered a**holes falsely claiming that their freedom to infect others and get a haircut and go to Applebee’s was more important than everyone else’s freedom from disease. These people like to claim that asking someone to wear a mask is “forcing” people to do something. They fail to understand that not wearing a mask is forcing every single vulnerable person, and every single person who lives with or cares for a vulnerable person, to stay away from whatever gathering these non-mask-wearing, self-absorbed pricks decided to spread their spit around.
And I am angry, and I am tired, and I am frustrated, and I want to scream and cry and hit something, a lot of somethings, (or someones, let’s be honest) as hard as I can. Even though I didn’t spend all that much time outside the home or hanging out with my friends before all this, it was far more than nothing, and now it looks like nothing is how it’s going to be basically until I get it and maybe recover or until there is a vaccine.
Now, we who did what we were told, who followed the advice of health experts, are being punished for other people’s self-absorption. We are paying the bill for their profligate activities. I can’t even visit my faith community right now because they refuse to force people to wear masks for meetings and fellowship. Because they claim that they are open to all and can’t tell anyone what to do, conveniently ignoring the fact that by not enforcing mask-wearing, they are excluding a significant number of people from receiving the comfort they, and I, incidentally, need.
That’s right, people. Not wearing a mask is a gesture of exclusivity, not inclusivity. And if everyone, including you, had done the next right thing from the beginning, we wouldn’t be in the mess we’re in right now. Because of you. You, you non-mask-wearing, self-centered m-f. This is all–yes, all–your fault. I can’t see my parents because of you. I can’t go to a church basement because of you. I can’t go back to grad school in person in the Fall because of you. My income is suffering, and will continue to suffer, because of you.
We all made sacrifices. You refused. We did the right thing. You didn’t. And because you didn’t, we have to start all over, at a time when most of us are ill-equipped to endure another four months of solitude.
Your insistence on personal freedom has taken away everyone’s else’s personal freedom. I hope it was worth it.