USA Stories: 5+ months post-quarantine
We’ve been back in the US for nearly 6 months after living in Australia for most of the time from 2010-2020. We are able to do that because we have little (me) to no family back in the US with whom we keep in contact. We three are our family. We have friends, but we may as well be anywhere in the world right now because we can be no closer in the same country now as we could when we were a 15 hour flight away. I haven’t seen my 90 year old grandmother yet, although it is wonderful to talk to her a couple of times a week at various times of the day rather than just my morning and her evening. She does not have a computer or a smart phone, so pictures sent via mail (I do love the Internet for these sorts of things!) and phone conversations are what we do. She loves to hear her great grandson play songs on the violin — this great grandson who shares the name of her son, my father, dead for 40 years this year.
Back in Australia, 5 months on, much of the country is fairly close to normal, with travel restrictions, but work and school are going on. South Australia is just going into a 6 day shutdown to prevent a flare-up after a cluster of 22 cases out of 1.7 million people. The ACT (Australian Capital Territory), where Canberra, what we consider ‘home’, the birthplace of our son, had one case yesterday. It’s their first case in a month.
Yes, I understand population differences. However, for me, the contrast is stark and comes down not to the Federal response [to this particular threat, because Scotty got really lucky on a few things] but to the mechanisms already in place to secure the health and welfare of all Australian’s citizens, permanent residents and visa holders. Dan held the line in Victoria, despite #ScottyFromMarketing and his incompetent cronies.
And no, it absolutely has not been ideal. Folks in SA flocking to shops, not being able to buy toilet paper (both countries…what is up with you hoarders?). We were in lockdown in New South Wales. We’ve been isolating one way or another since March, when the first cases hit our small border town of 49,000. Melbourne ended lockdown after 111 days…and that’s actual lockdown, can’t go more than 5kms from your home lockdown, you are inside because there is no where to go. US folks do not at all understand full on lockdown. NYers and San Franciscans get the idea. In Michigan, during ‘lockdown’, I could go anywhere I wanted because most places were open (clearly I don’t eat out or go to a gym because we’re in the middle of an airborne pandemic). I could go to Target, the grocery store, even the op-shop / thrift store to kit out our temporary pad (hurrah for not being homeless!). So I had to wear a mask, big deal. Well, I get that it was a big deal for the Karen in Sydney back in March/April and then I started hearing about it in the US as well before we arrived.
So okay, masks are political here. It makes no scientific sense (yes, I saw the article about the one study where there was no evidence, but I’d prefer to read the actual study and examine the methodology before taking a newspaper article’s word. Send it to me if that big a deal;) but okay. Masks are political much like everything seems to be political since we lived here. We returned for 8 months (Aug 2016-Mar2017) and do keep abreast of current events, but the divisiveness is tangible now. It was palpable when we were here last, battles and skirmishes behind the scenes. But now, the division assaults all senses and for many, the ability to think and to think critically.
How have we gotten here? Essentially, I don’t think, as a whole, we care about other people, really. Robert Strang, the public health chief of Nova Scotia, recently said of mask wearing
The message has been that we need to do it to keep each other safe. I think there’s something about our culture, our collective ethic, if you will, that means people accept that.as quoted in “I Am Living in a Covid-Free World Just a Few Hundred Miles From Manhattan” by Stephanie Nolen, 18 Nov 2020, New York Times
So, there it is. As a culture, we have no collective ethic. Whatever we once had has been decimated by apathy and avarice, ground down by poverty and all its accompaniments. The USA has finally been exposed for its ‘invisible hand of the market giving a finger’ to the 98% while the wealthiest continue to get wealthier as we continue to divide ourselves into oblivion even further (The ‘invisible hand’ is really doing much worse to us…why am I still trying to make it more palatable?).
Covid19 has been gasoline on a barely contained wildfire. The virus has laid bare the inadequacies institutionalized in all our systems. We need basic decency to realize who we are — basic decency, which is now called ‘radical’! While I’m not holding my breath, I am doing my part. I’m advocating with my voice and platform. I’m volunteering my time with a non-partisan group to realize the dream of this country for all who are here. My partner and I are staying at home (lovely to have a home again!) and homeschooling our son. Easy to do when you’re underemployed and living off dwindling savings;) We are very aware and raising our little 9 year old white boy to be kind, to be accepting and open. I’m looking for full time work that feeds my soul, as well as my family.
Despite the naked exposure of callous disregard for each other, I am encouraged. Encouraged every time I log on to a volunteer meeting, encouraged each time I’m invited to share my knowledge with a group of people on their way up, encouraged every time my son responds thoughtfully and with love. We’re not alone. There are many out there like us…and that, perhaps, is worth some exposure, too.