This is the first blog entry I’ve attempted since my failed attempt at humor at Easter this year. It’s difficult to write anything meaningful in these stressful times. I’ve written poems this spring, but since my writing group isn’t meeting, they sit in draft stage waiting for an opportunity to be workshopped. Regardless of topic, poems all relate to life before, during, or after the pandemic hit the United States. This blog is no exception. Here in the middle of the country, COVID-19 arrived as other parts of the U.S. started to see a reduction of new virus cases. Infections continue to rise in my part of the state. Writing a blog on any coronavirus- related topic, like wearing a mask or not, is problematic as every stance has been politicized.
I retired at the end of 2018 from full time work as a college counselor and started a part-time counseling business with a colleague. We just finished a year in business and were beginning to develop a caseload when coronavirus arrived here. Our Public Health district shut everything down the first week of March. My colleague and I see a few people via telehealth but haven’t gained any new clients. We suspect this will change as people feel safe to renew old activities and begin new ones. We believe and many mental health experts speculate there will be an increased demand for mental health services as people try to recover. Health and Human Services in my state provides PPE (personal protective equipment) as it becomes available to agencies like ours. We received a shipment of gloves this week and wear homemade masks.
It’s been a very stressful time for everyone, doubly so for those with immune system concerns like my daughter, older citizens including my colleague and me, and the data shows that people of color are the most susceptible. At this point there are many speculations about why minorities might be more likely to experience serious illness if they test positive for the virus. This ranges from poorer health care throughout their lifetime, more likely to live in multi-family homes, commute to work together, work in crowded environments, like packing plants, etc. It will be some time before researchers who study how the virus spreads will have any definitive results.
My state and several surrounding me host beef, pork, and chicken processing facilities, usually called packing plants. As an avid gardener, I’ve never quite understood how a mass processing of meat, or a collection of factory building has anything to do with plants. Most of these facilities hire large numbers of minority workers because there aren’t enough white workers in the area and recent migrants are recruited to come to these small towns for the jobs. The work is difficult, work weeks are often six days long, but the pay is good, and workers can work overtime to earn more money. It was reported that a South Dakota packing facility employs people who speak fifty-seven different languages. Informing such a large workforce in every language about how the virus works has not gone well but more effort is going toward communication.
This part of the state is also home to three Native American tribes. Many Native people have compromised immune systems and the infection rate among the tribes also continues to rise. I selected the photo of Dignity to pay tribute to Native American people. Although the statue of Dignity was designed as a tribute to the Dakota and Lakota people, she seems to speak for many.
Knowing that one is more likely to become seriously sick if infected, is stressful on its own, but then to watch a black man die under the knee of a white policeman, is overwhelmingly frightening to many. The courts will sort out the guilt or innocence of the four officers involved in this latest Minneapolis death. Charges have been filed against all four of them. I can understand that people of color have little trust in the legal system that often discriminates against them and incarcerates them at a much greater rate but don’t pretend to be in their shoes. My late friend Jan was a passionate supporter of human rights for all people. If she was here and well, I can see her protesting to support the Black Lives Matter movement just as she protested other injustices in the past.
Jan died a year ago, and as the anniversary of her memorial services approaches, I find that everything reminds me of her. Jan was an avid traveler adventuring to every part of the world. The enforced confinement necessary to reduce likelihood of being exposed to COVID-19 would have been a real challenge for her. She counted time in days on an adventure.
I took the COVID-19 test and tested negative this weekend when my state hosted a testing site nearby. I didn’t think I’ve been exposed but I’d really wanted to know for sure before I participate in the re-opening of economic life. I’ve been ordering my groceries online and driving to pick them up. Grocery bags are delivered to my car by young masked workers.
Like many other people, I miss hugs from my children and friends. This is a real issue for many of us who live alone. The New York Times has come up with hugging guidelines to help us out.
What is the point of this blog you ask? Good question. As an older Caucasian woman who lives in a mostly white world, I have no solutions to these very serious problems, only observations. It’s a conundrum to me that wearing a mask to protect others, or not, labels one as either liberal or conservative. it often appears that Caucasian folks are frightened they/we will have to give up the privileged status they/we have always enjoyed as the white/non-white population balance shifts as it inevitably will.
I can and do donate money to causes that support people of color, volunteer to help when possible, work to be a role model for positive action, and try to live by the virtues of my garden signpost.
It’s clear these efforts are not enough and I’m writing this blog to make sense of an emerging new normal where we learn to listen to more voices and show dignity to all. Trista Tippet’s Letter this week says it well, https://engage.onbeing.org/_notice_the_rage_notice_the_silence?utm_campaign=20200607_the_pause&utm_campaign=20200607_the_pause&utm_medium=email&utm_medium=email&utm_source=onbeing&utm_source=onbeing