The assignment in English 404: Write a piece about the last two years of COVID-19 and its impact on my life.
You have got to be kidding me. Just when I thought I’d seen and lived it all. During my seventy-three years, I have survived the South Bronx, Washington, D.C., Watergate, Mayor Marion Barry, and the D.E.A., Los Angeles during the ’92 insurrection/riot, two divorces, too many drugs, and alcoholism. And then I’m thrown into the middle of a once-in-a-hundred-year pandemic! What the hell!!!
I’m not going to lie. When I first began reading about it in early 2020, I figured, “Okay, maybe this isn’t going to be that bad. I mean, it’s only a couple of cases. The public health people will have this under control.” Then, I began seeing that former President (I refuse to write his name) on television talking about it and my heart sank, and my fear quotient rose minute by minute until I began to panic. Fear gripped me as I realized that no one wanted to accept that this was real. Denial. I get it. How many of us have lived through a pandemic before? How do you behave with something you have no clue about, and worse (as if anything could be worse), you begin to hear talk about people my age being at high risk? The increased risk from what? Something in the air, by direct contact? Do I need to worry about touching people?
I was glued to CNN and MSNBC, my mouse scouring every website I could find to reassure me that this monster wasn’t coming after my family and me and my friends, and…okay, I didn’t panic like that. And maybe panic is too strong a word, anyway. But I was concerned enough to know that I had to begin thinking about making significant changes in my life. Masks, plastic gloves, gallons of hand cleaner, wipe down everything I buy, join Instacart, download every food delivery app I can find, hide in my house, don’t answer the phone, don’t answer the door, close all the windows.
Now, here we are, ready to throw our masks, gloves, and all the other safeguards out the window. Who has time to remember the still sick, still dying, and the dead? Six million dead worldwide, 957 thousand in the United States, and we’re battling over mandates and masks and vaccines while screaming about freedom. Yeah, the freedom to kill yourself and anyone who comes in contact with you. Assholes.
However, I wish I could say that the pandemic was my only concern. How soon we forget that back then, we were in the fourth year of the fiasco presidency of that guy whose name I refuse to write. The daily bombardment (I’m a news junkie) of crazy, the far-rightward shift in America, the arming of the White Supremacists, the enabling of the Karens and Kens in everywhere USA boiled my blood to the point that I considered buying a gun. A big gun. Okay, a couple of Big Guns. I didn’t because I kept saying, Don’t Panic, don’t sink to their level, focus on the reality before you and not the one on television or the internet. Yeah, that didn’t last long.
The murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020. When you’ve lived through the tumult of the last half of the twentieth century and the first two decades of the twenty-first century, you would think the death of another Black man at the hands of the police would be just one more horrible chapter in American history. For a moment, it wasn’t just another murder. It struck a nerve because of the crazy America that had sprung up under our feet. Combine that with a pandemic that millions of us were convinced had been mishandled by you know who and his cult. We were fed up, and we weren’t going to take it anymore.
But we did. As with everything that happens in this country, we shut down when we are forced to face the terrible truth about its dirty secrets. We ignore it or stamp out the painful memory before moving on. Everyone wants to get back to their everyday life before the pandemic. The one that allowed us to live in our heads, shut out the horrible reality and only let in the good reality.
Well, let this reality sink in. 1,017 people have been shot and killed by police in the past year. According to the Washington Post, which has been tracking the shootings, “Black Americans are shot at a disproportionate rate.” The Post writes that although Black people make up less than thirteen percent of the U.S. population, they’re “killed by police at more than twice the rate of white Americans.” The numbers are no better for the Latinx population. The Washington Post reports that they’re also disproportionately killed by police. I’ll give you a moment.
So here we are, March 2022. We are so anxious to act like the last two years were just full of extraordinary everyday happiness. All the bad stuff never happened. No one got sick. No one died. It was all fake news. We’re an exceptional country. Give the police more money and more power. Stop reading those bad books that remind us of nasty things. In fact, burn them.
What is important is that we go back in time to when America was great. And you know what they mean by that. They’re serious.
All uncredited photos were taken by Antonio Ruiz.