by Roxanne Tellier
The last Monday of May is when America celebrates Memorial Day, a federal holiday which honours and mourns the military personnel who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. Patriots observe both this holiday, and the other day of note, Remembrance Day, to signify their appreciation and respect for past and present members of the military. These are America’s heroes.
This year, however, that holiday coincides with something that only a tiny percent of a percent of Americans, if any, have ever seen before – the sudden death of nearly 100,000 citizens in just two months, by the novel coronavirus known as COVID 19.
North Americans have been spoiled for the last hundred years. Sure, there were two World Wars, and a Great Depression, but few under the age of 50 even remember those days, let alone recognize the impact these events had on people. As peacekeepers, Canada felt even less of the sting of loss.
When the Towers fell on 9/11, 2001, Americans came together to support each other. Within hours, support systems and charities had been organized to protect the victims and their families. America mourned the loss of those 2,974 victims confirmed to have died in the initial attacks, and they mourned those victims TOGETHER – as a nation.
I remember those days well – it cost me my online mail order business, but I understood the impulse and impetus of this wave of patriotism. Suddenly, America curled in on itself, and, to protect the country, turned it’s back on buying outside of its own borders. I remember companies offering incentives that ranged from deep discounts to free shipping, just to satisfy and supply those Americans who wanted to make their purchasing dollars part of their commitment to a greater and more unified UNITED States of America.
19 years later, America has never been more greatly divided. As the largest number of Americans to die in one place, in one short time period, than at any other time in modern history, mounts, America’s president stokes dissent and disunion, riling up gun toting ‘militia’ into attacking state capitals and journalists, and egging them on in their benighted plot to protect their ‘freedom’ to not wear a mask that might help one other citizen breathe one more day.
About 30% of Americans think that the virus is a hoax, perhaps perpetrated by the ‘deep state’ that will do anything to impede trump’s re-election. (In England, 1 in 5 believe the virus is a hoax, enacted by their government for some nefarious but usually incomprehensible conspiracy reason.)
Sadly, a lot of those ‘freedom fighters’ are discovering the very hard way that not believing in COVID 19 is not a prophylactic – disbelief doesn’t protect them if they are infected at one of their rallies, or in their daily interactions. The illusion of freedom they might feel when not wearing a mask is easily trumped by the reality of a ventilator mask, should they or someone they love become ill.
Shockingly, America’s president seems hell bent on decimating his own nation. Speaking with all the wit and intelligence of a man being fed bits of his own fried brain, he first urged the citizens to ignore the virus, even as it dug in to the lungs of the people. Once the disease was firmly in place and had killed about 50,000, he then mused aloud that perhaps the ingestion of bleach or other household cleaners, along with some sort of internal transfusion of lighting, might be the answer. When neither of those actions prevented another 50,000 from dying, he told the nation that he himself was taking the controversial drug, hydroxychloroquine, a drug so toxic that clinical trials attempting to verify its efficacy had to stopped because the fatalities far outnumbered those who experienced any relief from taking the pill.
And as the total of American dead ticks upward to a round 100,000 … one hundred THOUSAND … dead – America’s hero goes golfing, for the 185th time since ascending to the presidency. This is the same inability to comprehend the pain of others that trump displayed on 9/11, when his only comment on the horror of the towers coming down was that now his own building would be the tallest in New York City.
His lack of empathy, his lack of remorse or of any sense of responsibility for putting so many citizens, not only in mortal danger, but of having caused actual deaths, cannot be quantified. His actions are those of a man that is already dead inside.
In light of the controversy and accusations of trump being indebted and in service to Russia and Vladimir Putin, it is very, very hard not to wonder what further atrocities he could be committing were those accusations proven to be true. Because at this point, Putin would seem to be on track to call the current state of America to be ‘Mission Accomplished.”
Meanwhile, trump sycophants and collaborators insist that the frightened citizenry should leave the safety of their homes, and return to their jobs and normal shopping habits, in order to restart an economy that has ground to a halt. Asking workers to return to a workplace that is as yet undetermined to be safe is a cruel request, which pits the worker’s financial needs over their health and wellbeing.
In truth, America’s economy could support the entire nation for years, if necessary, as it did during the Second World War, when America’s economy was essentially shut down for nearly four years, in service to the needs of wartime.
So it CAN be done… it’s just that the current administration – egged on, as always by lobbyists for America’s largest corporations – does not want to do so. Returning to work, re-opening America (or Canada, for that matter) is not about some vaunted ‘freedom’ when the only ‘freedom’ here is to purposefully endanger oneself for the enrichment of others. No, pushing forward when safety is not even slightly guaranteed is solely to ensure that businesses and government treasuries can continue to enjoy record profits, built on the blood and phlegm of the sick and dying.
The people, confused and frightened, are being told lies, and are being given conflicting information on how to protect themselves, not from scientists and health care professionals, but from a man on record for having told 19,000 proven lies since being inaugurated in January 2017.
They have been told that the majority of those dying just aren’t important, that those who suffer are old and frail, a burden on society. And yet, when the New York Times ran a full front page of obituaries today, of just one thousand who have died, just one percent of the one hundred thousand, the stories of those who have been sacrificed to the incompetency and lack of leadership, the economy, and a terror of losing re-election, was writ large upon the page.
Here were the names and details of people of all ages, from babies to seniors. Two of the dead were first responders on 9/11, heroes who ran back into burning buildings to save other Americans. There are business people, health care professionals, musicians, artists, entrepreneurs, and each and every one of these people were the fellow Americans who have, in some manner, in the last hundred years, been saved by the bravery and heroism of the United States Armed Forces that surviving Americans are supposedly remembering today.
No one is asking anyone on the planet to put on a uniform and march off to war against the coronavirus; this is not that kind of war. You are being asked only to show respect or love for your fellow men. That is what you honour today, or on Remembrance Day, or, hopefully, every time you attend the religious establishment of your choice. It’s not that kind of sacrifice. You’re only being asked to wear a mask and stay six feet away from other people. It’s not an encroachment on your rights and freedoms, it’s a request that we behave as though we really do believe that every single person is created equally and deserves to be treated with care, simply for being another human being.
In 1918, during the Spanish flu epidemic, people wore masks, to protect themselves and others, and so that they could continue to enjoy attending events. Recognizing and respecting the needs of others isn’t a hardship, any more than recognizing that the familiar, “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Service” keeps your local establishment in a state that allows all to enjoy attending.
Honestly, Canadians really can’t pat themselves on the back either. Although we’ve had significantly fewer deaths than the United States, we have our own share of disrespectful people who are playing Russian Roulette with not only their own health, but the health of others.
But it’s you that I don’t understand, America, because you are known for your patriotism and fierce national pride. When nearly 3000 people died in 9/11, many were so incensed at that attack on American soil that they wanted to nuke the perpetrators back to the Stone Age. In 2020, as 100,000 of your friends and neighbours perish, there are those refusing to acquiesce to the very rules meant simply to allow citizens to move around with a little more freedom, while armed groups try to snatch the mask off a journalist’s face.
What happened to the America that respected the dead, the first responders, and those hard-working journalists that brought you the nightly information you craved, often at their own peril?
Now, as large groups of health care workers die in peace time, in their efforts to save you, or your mom, or your boss, you can’t even bring yourself to wear a mask. Just imagine if those doctors and nurses, EMTs and ambulance drivers, and the people who clean the buildings that you want to enter, demanded their own rights, and walked out en masse? Say goodbye to gramma, and maybe yourself
Where is the respect for those who put themselves on the line every day for YOU? Those people, considered essential workers, don’t have the luxury of staying at home, but are instead caring for you, feeding you, and cleaning up after you. They deserve no less freedom and rights than you do.
As Dan Levy so eloquently said,
“Imagine seeing it not as an infringement on your freedom but rather the simplest, easiest act of kindness that you can do in a day, not just for yourself but for other people who might have autoimmune issues,” he continued. “People who, if they were to contract [the disease] with those issues might have some devastating repercussions. So, yeah, see it not as anyone or anything infringing on your freedom but rather if you have the freedom to leave your house — if you have the good health to leave your house, ‚why not put on a mask, make it your good deed for the day and do something nice for yourself and other people.”
It doesn’t always have to be about you –Memorial Day doesn’t honour cowards who stamp their feet and demand special treatment. Rather, we honour those who put the lives and needs of others over their own, because respecting the rights of others means a continuation of the respecting of our own rights. More than simple kindness, your good deed ensures that, someday, there will be someone somewhere alive to do a good deed for you in return.