This whole thing comes down to your real values. You have a simple choice. Do you value money or life? And you can see by the reactions and the calls those who truly value life and those who value money. As an individual in a system that requires you to have money to have life, you have to make a decision. How much do you value your current level of living and how much are you willing to sacrifice to not have to put your life and the lives of your loved ones in danger?
What’s Your Identity?
Unfortunately, as simple as the choice would seem, there’s another component at work. What’s your identity? How do you identify yourself? While the LGBTQI community already understands the importance of a declared identity, many Americans don’t realize how they identify and how important that identity is for them.
In the U.S., work is the default identity. I’m a fireman. I’m a grocer. I’m a writer. I’m a (whatever it is you do for work). The first question people ask when they meet you is “What do you do?” Few people respond with “I write poetry, take yoga, and go geocaching.” Until recently, stay-at-home mothers, whose work was and is undervalued, had problems answering this question because the expected response is some sort of occupation. Your work is who you are. You spend more than eight hours a day there, and you think about it more than that. So, if you’re out of work because of a shelter-in-place order, how do you identify yourself?
Return to Work
If you can reconcile your identity with staying at home, you’ll be stronger when you have to make the choice not to return to work. Your job is going to call you back. You’re going to feel essential because you need the money to pay bills and to feed your family. The problem is that you’re taking a huge risk, and if you’re job doesn’t offer sick leave, you could find yourself infected and in the hospital. Afterwards, you’ll have a hospital bill and no work because your job will have hired someone to take your place.
Maybe you can cross that bridge when you come to it and maybe you’ll never come to that bridge. You could be an asymptomatic carrier of coronavirus, which means you have it and are spreading it, but you don’t know it. Maybe one of your co-workers is an asymptomatic carrier. Maybe one of the customers you come in contact will have it and not tell you. Note that checking someone’s temperature doesn’t tell you if they’re contagious or they have coronavirus. It only tells you they have a high temperature. Someone with a normal temperature can be contagious.
The Problem Isn’t Coronavirus
With coronavirus, the problem isn’t that you might get it and die – though that can certainly come into play. The biggest problem is that people getting sick with COVID-19 will overwhelm the medical system. Not only can you pass the virus on to someone else and kill them. The fact that you and the people you infected are taking up valuable hospital space means others aren’t going to be able to get the care they need, which will result in higher death rates of those without coronavirus.
These things that muddy the waters make it hard to do the right thing. You have to be able to choose your family and your health over money, and that’s not a choice everyone can make, especially if you’re having to do it as an individual trapped in a system that doesn’t respect your humanity with corporations and people who don’t care about you, just your productivity. It’s clear that when someone says we can die to save the economy; they don’t care about life. They care about money, and most of the people saying this have adequate access to healthcare, are making millions of dollars or are in positions of power.
Choosing your family and your health is difficult because money is a part of the equation. If you don’t have food to eat, you won’t be healthy for long. If you don’t have money, you can’t get food unless you have enough land to grow your own food. But to create a system that values people over profits, it’s going to take someone standing up and saying, “I am not going to put my family, my community, or my country at risk of another epidemic by going to work. We need a vaccine. We need job guarantees for if we get sick, and we need medical guarantees if we get ill.”
That’s the crux of the whole problem. We may never get a vaccine, but it doesn’t make sense to go to work where you don’t have guarantees of work if you get ill. It doesn’t make sense to put yourself at risk if it’s all going to get wiped out by a visit to the hospital because you or a member of your family got ill.
What Will You Do?
It’s clear that no one is going to get any real help from the current government. If you can hold out until November to vote them out, more power to you. Otherwise, make the best choices you can without devaluing your life or your family’s life. Choose love over money and lower your risk by reducing exposure. And when you have to go back to work, practice social distancing, wash your hands, insist on wearing masks if you can find them, and pray that this decision doesn’t destroy the economy it’s trying to save by putting you and your coworkers at risk.