The Portland Phoenix

Miserable & Magical: Do it right, don’t do it over

I know I’m not the first person to say this, but if I were to draw a Venn diagram of people who support Black Lives Matter and people who think wearing a face mask infringes on their personal rights and freedoms, there wouldn’t be any overlap. 

That space in the middle – the one shaped like a confusing map for your average right-wing conservative man – is empty.

I actually saw a post on Facebook where Karen wrote that if people were going to march down the streets to protest, then her town should un-cancel its Fourth of July parade and fireworks. She said she wants to celebrate being an American. As she sits behind her phone denouncing those protesting for human rights. 

People like that outrage me. How can you sit there with a clear conscience saying it’s not fair you can’t watch fireworks while other people are saying it’s not fair that police get to murder them and get away with it? And what exactly is it about being an American that you want to celebrate? Perhaps you meant to say that you want to celebrate being a white American.

Unfortunately, people like her don’t want to see it that way. They also don’t want to see that COVID-19 is still here and very much infecting and killing people. It’s like we all just sort of decided it’s over. 

I have seen several people I know post photos of get-togethers where they’re risking exposing not only themselves but their children. I’ve seen so many photos of little kids all clumped together, hugging, playing, and not at all social distancing. I’ve seen pictures of a newborn baby being passed around like a sacrificial lamb. 

Look, I get the urge. I’m not a cold-hearted person who doesn’t want to see her friends and family. Do you know how badly I want to go home to my parents and brother? I haven’t seen them since Christmas. But I have asthma and they all work in jobs where they interact with people face-to-face. And, you know, I’d prefer if none of us died. Crazy, I know.

I just don’t understand how so many people have decided to just say screw it and start going about their lives as usual again. Do they not know that they can have a socially distanced hang out? Like, you don’t have to kiss your grandmother on the cheek or go to a packed beach or go to the movies.

AMC Theatres announced last week that when they reopen next month masks won’t be required because the company “did not want to be drawn into a political controversy.” Since when is public health and safety a political controversy? Were they also planning to stop stocking soap in the bathrooms? Fortunately, they reversed the decision after public outcry.

I know people just want to “get back to normal,” but was normal really all that great? What is normal about low wages and the glorification of being constantly at work? What is normal about being afraid of getting fired for taking a sick day? What is normal about valuing money over human life? 

People keep saying 2020 has been a wash or a waste. I’ve heard that we either need to start the year over or just skip ahead to 2021. I disagree. Has it really been a waste to look more closely at our broken health-care system? To question why our government allocates more money to police than to services that actually help people? To demand that Black people stop being killed in the streets, or in the case of Breonna Taylor (whose killers are still walking free, by the way), in their own beds? 

This year doesn’t need a do-over. This needs to be the year to do more. We can’t continue being complacent about a system that only values and protects the rich, white, and powerful. If you’re mad about your rights and freedoms being stripped away, don’t take off your mask – secure it on your face and march forward demanding change. 

Kate Gardner is a Portland-based freelance writer whose work has appeared in The Washington Post, Teen Vogue, SELF, and Bustle. You can follow her on Twitter @katevgardner.

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