Freedom

It is the sixth week of quarantine. In that time, we’ve had an entire “mask-off” moment in the form of seeing every way in which the government and economy fails to support its people exposed for everyone to see and no one to learn from.

At Present

To date, we still don’t have a vaccine, an appropriate amount of testing, or an appropriate amount of protective equipment for personnel on the front lines. Due to this and the speed at which viruses spread – which we have multiple historical examples for – the order to quarantine and social distance was given some time ago and it has taken less than six weeks for people to protest having to stay inside.

If you think that not being allowed to go to the park, the salon, or the gym during a global pandemic is an actual loss of freedom, then you don’t know what freedom is.

Me, 2020

These protests seem to ignore the fact that lives are at stake for all the reasons above plus the fact that while COVID-19 is especially dangerous for people who have health issues, anyone can catch it. 1 out of 5 people who catch it will experience severe symptoms.

It is an asymptomatic disease meaning you can have and carry it and pass it on to other people and not show any signs of being infected with it. Let’s not forget, it can also cause long-term lung damage.

So you can imagine my deep rage, as we watch things unfold, when I read that the governor of my state is planning to re-open small businesses statewide by the end of this week. The list of business types on the docket to re-open are listed here. Let’s take a look at this:

Gyms, fitness centers, bowling alleys, body art studios, barbers, cosmetologists, hair designers, nail care artists, estheticians, their respective schools and massage therapists can reopen Friday, April 24, Kemp said, provided workers wear masks and gloves, stay six feet away from each other and are screened for symptoms.

Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/rachelsandler/2020/04/20/georgia-will-reopen-gyms-hair-salons-and-bowling-alleys-as-early-as-friday/#786cdc912ce7

So… a number of places which allow people to be served for nothing more than vanity at best. Now you can pump iron and get your hair did provided that the people who work at these places – in a time that essential workers don’t have the protective equipment they need – have protective equipment and maintain six feet of distance.

As a massage therapist. As a nail care technician. As a cosmetologist. How? Make this make any sense.

To the Slaughter

The truth is that much of this means that we’re sending poor people off to die because we don’t have the infrastructure to support our systems of economy when people cannot grind themselves to death trying to pursue good lives for themselves at the most basic level.

Leveraging your “freedom” to force other people to work in conditions that will lead to a plague is trash and you don’t deserve the gift of free will or the ability to exercise it.

Me, 2020

Without people to sacrifice, our economy fails us. Our government fails us. Often, we fail each other. I feel like this summary speaks to the practical considerations pretty well, but also we need to talk about the idea of “but freedom” because y’all are out here screaming at empty government buildings and demanding that you be allowed access to the routine life you were used to before COVID-19 happened.

Freedom, but for real

I’ll just go ahead and put this out here for the record: if you think that not being allowed to go to the park, the salon, or the gym during a global pandemic is an actual loss of freedom, then you don’t know what freedom is.

There are people who live a life where they don’t have physical access to things all the time. Hello, every disabled person everywhere across their varying types of issues!

My black af mom was born into this “nation of freedom” at a time when her mother and grandmother wouldn’t have been able to vote.

There are people who are discriminated against daily just for existing. Swathes of people can be fired from their jobs because of their gender identity and sexual identity or denied jobs for the same.

I am incensed at the very notion.

How dare you compare this continued oppression which remains openly unaddressed to not being able to go out and style your fucking hair during a pandemic?

If we want to talk about ways to stay connected to our loved ones at this time? I’m all ears. If we want to talk about how to handle this situation with our lovers? Sure. If we want to talk about allowing people to manage routine things like shopping for groceries or getting out for some fresh air with the kids and your animals, then sure…

But we aren’t.

We aren’t talking about schools, hospitals, or factories and how they could be manufacturing more equipment to address the PPE and ventilator issues or how we could improve the resources available to them as we work to right ourselves or even retraining skills so that people can migrate to other places in the workforce that need more folks.

Instead, we’re re-opening cosmetology schools and jobs that specifically cannot be done without touching people. You’re talking about re-opening fucking Applebee’s. You’re talking about jobs that typically low-income people have and are degraded for having and/or aren’t tipped well for doing because they are legally allowed to be severely underpaid.

You have done what you and your ancestors have done, determined to bend the whole world around your incessant need to avoid being inconvenienced in the slightest of ways for a time and paying in blood that isn’t your own to do it. The added kicker? Re-opening these businesses now allows people to frame the people they are openly willing to murder as “lazy” and deny them unemployment benefits and – more importantly – safety. Because they are going to be around people who do not care whether they are infected or not and willing to expose people to a life-threatening disease for their sense of normalcy.

I will not allow you to take the concept of freedom and mangle it to mean, “I want to be able to go out and get my nails done regardless of the deadly consequences to anyone else.” Fuck that.

Fuck. That.

People are losing whole families behind this pandemic and, of course, disproportionately according to how poor they are, but sure… bowling alleys, I guess. Leveraging your “freedom” to force other people to work in conditions that will lead to a plague is trash and you don’t deserve the gift of free will or the ability to exercise it.

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