Little kids don’t get many choices. The first one I remember was just after we had moved to the farm. There were two child bedrooms up for grabs and being the oldest my father told me I could choose. Seventy years later, I can picture the living room in which we were standing and the excitement I felt at this novel occurrence: I had a CHOICE. Hesitating only a moment, I ran into the bedroom on the right, yelling “THIS ONE! I WANT THIS ONE!”
The bedroom setup in this house was not exactly palatial. The two bedrooms that were for my brother and me were next to each other and about the same size, but not really equal. The bedroom on the left had two doors–one going into the living room and the other into the room that was for our parents. Their room also had two doors, and was essentially a passageway between the left bedroom and the dining room. The kid bedroom on the right, my bedroom, had only one door. This meant no one would walk through my room and it would provide some privacy–not a consideration at that time, but certainly one I grew to appreciate later.
I have no recollection of the process by which my choice was made. It’s doubtful I had much to go on at five years old, nothing with which to weigh my choice, and certainly no understanding that any ethical considerations might be involved. After all I was making a choice on behalf of my brother as well, and knowingly or not, I got the best room.
Having a choice is a wonderful freedom, but like all freedoms comes with consequences. During this time of the Covid-19 pandemic, there are difficult choices that need to be made, often without sufficient or trustworthy information on which to base those decisions. As someone who has the great fortune to be sheltered from the worst of the pandemic effects, I experience a daily dose of guilt that my biggest dilemma is how careful we should be to wipe down the boxes of food and toilet paper that are delivered or how often we should wipe down the door handles.
The restrictions and overwhelming uncertainties rip and tear at our communal fabric and sense of security as we struggle to plan for a future that we can’t yet imagine. Beyond the tragedy of the virus itself, there is the tragedy of lives disrupted, jobs lost, owners of businesses deemed unnecessary and their employees now loosing sleep over how they will survive. Over the past week we have seen demonstrations arise against social distancing and quarantine measures necessary to contain the virus–measures that are also doing serious damage.
A minority of those expressing dissatisfaction over social distancing measures make the choice to participate in these protests carrying AK-47s or waving confederate flags, taking advantage of any crowd to express opinions that have little to do with response to the pandemic. And those who already hate anyone who is different, be they immigrants, Muslims, Jews, or LGBTQ, make the choice to take advantage of the situation by trolling through the Internet disrupting religious services and stirring up the pot of intolerance and discrimination.
It is tempting for me and the people who are in my “echo chamber” to paint all the protests as solely the result of an inept president and his supporters, and to assume the protesters are just people who clearly don’t want to make the “right” choices or suffer personal limitations. My blood did boil a bit at signs saying “I need a haircut,” thinking to myself that no one really NEEDS a haircut. Yet barbers, hairdressers, and salon owners really do need us to need a haircut, restaurant owners really do need us to want to go out to dinner, and movie theater owners really do need us to want to watch movies on their screens rather than on our own.
Making sweeping assumptions, formulating responses based on a headline or a comment on Twitter, or just being too damn sick and tired of the whole situation to check on the facts are dangers for all of us. Those of us for whom social distancing is mostly just inconvenient, who are either retired or can work from home, and who are lucky enough to have a cabin in which to experience cabin fever likely have choices that others do not. The next time I start to chuckle over a snarky post on Facebook and am tempted to instantly hit the Share button, hopefully I’ll pause a moment, take a deep breath and think about my choices and their consequences.
©Martha Hurwitz, 4/25/20
Ragtag Daily Prompt: Trouble