covid, Fox News, America, and me

who's a hero now?

(This is going to be long, bear with me and settle in.)

As a lifelong nerd with a writer’s morbid side-interest in all the ways people can die and a habit of following all sorts of people on twitter, I started seeing the news about covid out of Italy, straight from Italy, at the end of Feb, and very early March.

I couldn’t tell what the Italian broadcast I was watching said, but I didn’t need too — they were inside an ICU, I could tell from the ventilators and the pumps. And the second I saw multiple people flipped over on their bellies, I thought, “Oh, no. This — this is bad.”

I emailed my parents about it on March 9th.

Subject line: News Out of Italy is Grim

Stay home as much as you can please. I have a gut feeling this is going to get a lot worse before it gets better.

Love y'all -

Me

At the time, they told me they pretty much do, and they would.

But they were lying.

I choose to believe that they didn’t always mean to lie.

I think early on, in early spring, when it looked like this was controllable and it was spreading slowly (except for poor NYC) everyone, including them, had Really Good Intentions of pitching in and stopping this thing in its tracks.

But then politics got involved and fucked us all over.

My parents, like many of your parents, perhaps (or people over 60, according to the ratings metrics) watch Fox News. And all of a sudden it became a red state/blue state thing, where the red states said ‘fuck y’all’ and hoped we’d drown, because apparently being up on germ theory is not a requirement for public office.

My parents visited in late spring.

This was after the Easter fiasco, where my hospital had the biggest surge (at the time) of covid patients in our hospital system. Where I got given one box of gowns for a whole shift with two covid patients — ten disposable, impossible to re-use (think thin trash bag plastic) gowns, for me, our respiratory staff, and our janitors that day, for a 12 hr shift. (I wound up stealing chemo gowns, slightly thicker, more easily re-used, and personally reused these all day inside my rooms, so that the other staff could have the plastic ones.) When our bosses were marking out little dotted lines with tape on the floor inside covid patient rooms, saying that we could go safely so far into the room (but not a millimeter further!) safely, without gear on, to conserve gear. When we were begging n95s from the community, from people’s wildfire stashes and professional painters.

So there we were in my backyard, hanging out, and they start telling me things about ‘the economy’ and ‘God knows when it’s your time.’

I’m staring at them, feeling dumbfounded.

Here I am, telling them I’m drowning — literally drowning. My job has never been more frightening or worse — and I’m a fucking tough lady, I was a burn nurse for a decade and I’m covered in 60+ hours of tattoos — and they’re all parroting Fox News talking points at me.

I’m watching people die of something that we don’t know very much about, that we were (at the time) still not 100% sure of transmission capabilities. I’m watching videos of nurses in China in fucking bunny suits while I’m being given sneeze guards and being told it’s important for me, the person in the literal line of fire here, to worry about the economy?

Because the stock market, aka the rich people’s feelings graph, is more important than the human lives I’m attempting to save?

Including my goddamned own?

My choices are to either call them out on their bullshit or to sit there dumbfounded, as my soul sinks like an anchor into the molten core of the earth.

I sit there. We’ve had these fights before. Been having them ever since Trump got elected. I know I’m not changing their mind, so why try? I’m so good at fighting for my patients, but I’m really, deeply lousy at fighting for myself.

My mom emails me later to tell me that I ‘seemed depressed’.

I email her back to say, ‘Actually, I’m suicidal’, because it’s true, and I block her for a bit for my own mental health.

Sometime in the summer my brother watches Pland*mic. (I put the * in there because I don’t want it to be searchable — I don’t want a flock of conspiracy weirdos showing up here and debating me over an easily discredited and entirely bogus video about absolute bullshit.)

He texts me, “They pulled it from YouTube, they must be scared of it being true!”

I text him back, YouTube pulled the video of me calling him the best brother ever, it must be true.

He sends back a laughing emoji.

After that, he sends me a few ‘people who wear masks are lemmings’ memes — and I know we’re both leaning hard into my mother because eventually she snaps and emails us both that: “Everyone has opinions about covid.”

Well, just as one does not simply walk into Mordor — no.

One does not simply ‘have opinions’ about covid.

There is science. And there are facts. And what’s true is true and what’s true is right.

Immediately after Donald Trump got elected, I began to worry about the consequences of living in a post-truth society. Right around the same weekend a(nother) black man was shot in the back, while running away, on video, and the cop who shot him got off scot free — just as that one guy took his gun into the pizza parlor to search for the democratic pedophiles his despicable corner of the internet had told him were there.

I happened to be up at my parent’s house that weekend and tried to use those examples to explain things.

We were literally watching a man get shot in the back. Running away. Not to get a gun — just running away from a cop.

And the cop got off.

And then that damn fool read enough stupid shit about codewords that he believed his Pizzag*ate stuff, and couldn’t be bothered to use his own brain to think things through.

He was so sure he was going to get to be the hero. (We’ll come back to this, I think.)

I knew then that the writing was on the wall for actual truth.

I just had no idea that it would ever get this bad.

From my email in response:

I cannot help that the president and Fox news have been lying about covid all this time. But that doesn't turn my science into 'opinions'. I despair of the fact that we now live in a post-truth society where anyone can make up stuff and post it online. But...science is science, truly.

Unfortunately, sometimes science does change. That's it's nature. That's actually the whole point of science -- to change, and grow as we learn more. But what this means is that if you're going to participate in scientific culture, you've gotta really keep your eye on the ball. So bro I know you were talking about herd immunity in Sweden -- well, that data's a month old, and their major scientists (who chose that path) realize that they made their mortality rates far higher there than other countries. And herd immunity's a dream at this point, it would cause so many deaths, plus recent studies have shown that covid antibodies don't stay in your body long enough to prevent a second infection (just do a google search for covid antibodies herd immunity and see). So there's no actual hope for herd immunity at this point in time. (Notice how I say 'at this point in time though' -- because if some real science comes out and backs that, I'd be effing thrilled.) 

Any time I ever say anything that's 'science based' on any of my feeds, I know I have an obligation to look things up and make sure that whatever I'm talking about is based on the freshest data from the most trusted sources, because people trust me and I have a professional obligation not to let them down. 

I'm sorry I keep telling the both of you news you don't want to hear. (For what it's worth -- I don't want to hear it either! I don't like thinking I'm going to be in the trenches dealing with this for the next year AT ALL. In fact, guess what?!?! NO ONE WANTS TO HEAR GOOD NEWS MORE THAN ME. But I also refuse to have non-scientific smoke blown up my ass.) 

I have a friend who watches the political ball as intensely as I do — sometimes when things get hot, we’ll email each other several (seeevverrralll) times a day. (Hi Dave, lol.)

And he said something wise to me awhile back, and it was this — “You know, your parents have been on the receiving end of weapons grade psy-ops for years now, right?”

And I think about that a lot. Sometimes it’s the only thing that allows me to approach this situation with any equanimity.

My own mother once told me that protestors were paid, knowing that I was flying my dang self out on a SPIRIT AIRLINES REDEYE (that’s when you know shit’s legit) to go to the 1st Women’s March four years ago. I told her that that’s what they want you to think, so that it dehumanizes people when they get hit by rubber bullets.

No progress was made on either side.

Fuckin’ Fox.

I remember when Trump got elected, how devastating that was.

And I’ll be honest, my first (of many) dark thoughts when covid hit was — shit, this is going to be what bones us.

You see, up until then, yeah, the GOP had been being maliciously incompetent, but I thought surely — surely — this will be the moment that they set all that aside. They’ll get the government together enough to function and ‘fight’ covid for some degree of fighting, and then Trump’ll spend the next eight months patting himself on the back for doing a better job than some other country.

And the people who trust Fox news in this country will believe that he saved us, that he did a good (enough) job, that there Was No Other Way, and because he’s white and he has a dick (and, for an oddly masochistic segment of the population, because he is a dick) he’ll get voted in again.

I knew the evil ran deep — I’m not blind, and I’ve been fighting against it ever since his election — but up until then I had just assumed the evil was some sort of generic uncaring thing (or at the most, specifically perpetrated on other ethnicities. Note: I’m not saying this is OK, I’m saying it’s what I thought it was.)

But of course they’d figure out that (even white) people travel. That we all move from state to state, in cars and on planes, that we all go to churches and malls and grocery stores and breathe the same air.

They’d realize — wouldn’t they? — that ignoring the biggest public health crisis of our entire generation would murder hundreds of thousands of people and do something about it.

Right?

And then…I watched them not give a shit from front row seats in real time. As news from NYC got bad, as we got our first wave, as PPE ran out, as hospitals begged for vents.

That was bad enough but then the actual sabotage of science — of politicizing masks — masks! MASKS.

MAAASSSKKKKKKSSSSSS.

GODDAMNED FUCKING LIFESAVING MASKS!

(You all don’t know how lucky you are to have any healthcare workers left at all. If I had had to deal with the bullshit other HCW do in other states, where people don’t wear masks, and act like babies in grocery stores when told to wear them, or make fun of — or assault! — those who do? Good fucking luck keeping nurses there after all this.)

But where do these people get their news? Who is explaining science to them? Which party has defunded their education since time immemorial because even though they like to call us ‘sheep’, Republicans would prefer that all of their workers be illiterate drones fed into the grinding gears of capitalism without complaint?

(And remember! These people also think they are the Christian/patriotic heroes! We’ll come back to this.)

Sometimes I sit around and wonder who first thought it was okay to say that it was okay for some other segment of the population to die.

Like who was the Chuck Yeager of that shit, that someone from Sinclair Media group sent them a memo which was all, “Yeah, it’s okay if grandma goes, whatev’s — just be sure to sell it on the air,” and to which they were all, “Sure. Absolutely. Six o’clock.”

(You might be tempted to grant them some grace, and say ‘hey, they were in an at will work state, trying to keep their job, and they needed the health insurance (for people who’d like a short list of other ways the US is fucked)’ to which I would say, ‘Yeah, like the Nazis needed bootlickers’, but I digress.)

The point is, someone, somewhere, thought that it was acceptable to start ticking off human lives as though deaths were inevitable and things that caused or hastened those deaths were necessary.

More from my prior email:

Both of you seem to think that there's some acceptable number of casualties that're tolerable, which is ghoulish.

And at the least, neither of you seem to realize that the more people who get sick and die, the longer I have to do my job. For every group of elderly people that hang out and get each other sick at a casino -- that rolls down to me. For every kid who goes back to school and gets his whole family sick -- that rolls down to me. For every prison outbreak we have -- that rolls down to me. The longer we allow there to be preventable deaths -- the longer my actual, real-to-me, I-mostly-enjoy-living-it life is in actual, real, danger. 

I'm really aghast and saddened by how quickly the both of you are willing to write other people off statistically as if their lives had no meaning just because you didn't know them personally. (And above and beyond the sheer deaths, the life-ruining complications people who survive covid will have to live with, and will somehow have to get insurance for.) It's really dark and callous and frankly frightening. 

And it makes it hard not to listen to either of you two talk about this, with your conditional maths from your desks at home, without thinking that I, too, am an acceptable casualty. Or that the work I do, trying to keep my patients alive, has no value, because you've already written them off besides.

Fast forward to the middle of October. Our case load has lightened significantly, my brain’s doing better —God bless the Bay Area, people taking shit seriously, wearing masks all over, I’m so proud of all of us — and I feel safe driving up to my folk’s place to hang out, outside of course, in my n95.

We all go on a walk, and my mom tells me she wants to move.

*record scratch*

I’m conflicted. I realize yeah, it’s probably better for them to move away from me, their thorny-yelly-judgy-daughter, from their POV. I’m angry that I’ve lost the past 7 months of time hanging out in person with them because of covid. (And I’m also angry at Trump for having fundamentally changed the nature of my relationship with them, although I know that he, and Fox, likely only exploited what was already there.)

So I’m okay with them going out to Texas, to be with my brother, amongst more like minded people. If you love someone, set them free and all that.

But — not-the-fuck-during-a-pandemic.

Thus begins my second phase of efforts at keeping them safe.

Because there’s no financial reason for them to be in a rush. Texas, as everyone knows, even in Oct/early Nov, is becoming a hotbed for covid. I tell them they should wait for Spring, till everyone gets vaxed, people will still want houses and be thrilled to spend money, etc etc etc.

I know I’ve been ‘the emotional’ one in the past. So I send them emails dry as mummies, with screenshots regarding Dallas ICU capacities. I preface everything with, “I hope you know I’m only telling you these things because I love you” even as I explain germ theory to them like they’re children. (Fuuuccckkk you, Fox news.)

I tell them that they only reason they’ve been safe so far is because Northern CA has been safe, and it has nothing to do with luck, their health, or them, it’s just statistics, and stats can change.

Nope. Nothing I do or say matters. They’re intent on moving. They (two 70+ people) fly (!) back and forth to Texas (!!) to stay with my brother who has two kids and I know they’re all maskless (!!!) indoors, right after Thanksgiving (!!!!) to buy a house.

Some time in the middle of all this I get sent a photo of them with 6 ppl over the age of 65 indoors, maskless, from different states, visiting them because they’re moving — and my mom gets a head cold.

I try to convince her that means her mask game is weak (because it so does) but the movers (who I offer to buy her out from) are already booked, and that’s that.

So in mid-December I go up there, to get a few personal possessions and to see them for the last time for quite some time — because I won’t feel safe visiting them till they’re vaxed like me, plus till my whole brother’s family gets vaxed, because I know that even when my vaccinations finish (1/10, hallelu) I could still be an asymptomatic carrier and as someone who has been doing her GODDAMNED BEST not to kill anyone else, I’m not about to fucking start now — and we have our final, local hang.

My husband asks me not to hug them. I lie to him and tell him that I won’t.

Instead, I bring along one of the rain ponchoes I had overnighted off of Amazon after work boned me on PPE that day — I bought a set of 20 — just in case.

I don’t actually wear it the day of though. I just park a block away from their house on my way home and pull off my top two layers of clothing and wipe all of my exposed skin with hand sanitizer and alcohol swipes before taking off my mask.

But driving home, I finally get it.

As a writer and as a nurse, I like to think I’m hugely empathetic and that I go out of my way to understand other people’s POV.

Honestly though, I was so sure of my rightness, that I hadn’t ever tried to see from their POV, because I was so sure it was wrong.

(And, yeah, they are wrong. Wrong wrongity wrong. Don’t worry, this essay isn’t going that way.)

But I had my first glimpse into their recent lives.

Like — they were going to restaurants. I haven’t been to a restaurant since February. People from their church are visiting them with their kids to drop off cookies. My cousin’s bringing over her four kids under twelve to sing Christmas carols to them inside their house without masks on — I know, they showed me video.

I felt like fucking Ariel from the Little Mermaid on land for the first fucking time.

You mean I’ve been living this life of monk-like deprivation and extreme work conditions in an effort to maximize survival rates and…you…just…haven’t?

No wonder they think I’m insane.

They have no context — absolutely none — for what I’m going through, as a nurse. Or what hundreds of thousands of people are going through, as patients.

And honestly, you, you reader at home, you might not, too.

So let me catch you up with a recent bon mot. (I don’t usually tell work stories this close to when they actually happened, but this work story is happening in all sorts of ICUs right now, all over the country, so I’m not really worried about anyone picking out any identifying characteristics.)

We had an elder of a family at our hospital. They didn’t want to have a family Thanksgiving, but another elder overruled them, and then someone from the younger generation got both elders sick, along with themselves.

So earlier this week I was taking care of the sickest of these three, and they were dying, and the only reason we allowed other family members in the room with me was because they’d all already had and survived covid.

I spent nearly two hours bagging this medically sedated, chemically paralyzed, on their stomach (just like Italy) patient, because a ventilator alone couldn’t provide enough pressure/force of air into their lungs to keep their oxygen saturations up so that they could stay ‘alive’ long enough for everyone to get to say good-bye. I’m hyperinflating their lungs so they semi-function, blowing their delicate feathery crevices out into the smooth inner surface of a balloon inside, trying to force the covid-ravaged tissue to accept air.

I sat there listening to them facetime in other family members praying for a miracle, saying that it was going to happen, when the simple answer was, the second I stopped bagging that patient, with the ambu bag between my legs like a thighmaster, pumping 30 times a minute, they were going to die.

While I was seeing my folks, I had largely resigned myself to their fate. They were going on a cross-country trip whether I liked it or not, but you know me, I can’t not try. I knew they’d be driving across I-10 and be visiting other relatives all along the way. It seemed like the height of madness to me, you know? I knew they were going to get exposed. I just knew it.

And of course I’m their medical executor person, and they already know I have strong feelings about end of life care (which’ll be a separate essay for another time), so we talked about that. My stepdad used to be an LVN at an assisted care facility, and so we talk, again, and he says, ‘Not everyone needs to live, not all life is life’ (in his defense, I’m paraphrasing mightily for space.)

And — I agree with that sentiment. Working where I do, I see a lot of people kept on far, far past their time, IMO, although I realize that that is not a decision for me to make — because if I do, and not the family, I’m on the slippery slope to eugenics — and the same line of thought that make a body count of 350,000 tolerable.

I point that out, and the conversation moves on.

The day before I spend two hours of my life trying to give other people some sense of closure in theirs is when I find out that my mother has covid.

(You knew that that’s where this was going, didn’t you?)

She’s better enough now that I feel safe talking about it, otherwise this would’ve been a vastly different essay, heh.

I am shit at work for the rest of the day. I tell my coworkers, I tell the intensivist, everyone is very nice. I want to go home. I want to cry, and throw up, and then cry again.

She caught it from my Aunt and Uncle, visiting them in Arizona. (FUCKING ARIZONA. WHO THE FUCK STOPS THERE IN A PANDEMIC. UNBELIVABLE.)

My mom tells me they seemed fine when they visited — my Uncle just got a tickle in his throat after they left. (I wonder why I’ve wasted my breath trying to explain asymptomatic spread THIS ENTIRE TIME.)

(And? Once more, with feeling, FUCK YOU FOX NEWS. You could’ve been using your platform for good, and keeping your predominantly elderly viewers alive with actual science, but no, SO FUCK YOURSELF.)

I’m on the fence about going into work the next day, truly. My mood is as flat as a very flat thing. (And that’s when shit gets scary, yo. Everyone who’s ever been suicidal before recognizes that. Suicidal people don’t have manic waves of energy usually. They get very quiet and feel very thin. Like you could just slip out underneath an airlocked door.)

But I know work’s the solution for many of my moods — I do best when I’m focused on other things — and so I go in the next day, and that’s when I get to be the nurse there with my patient.

Pumping his lungs with a bellows between my legs, buffered by my hands.

Listening to his entire family present both in person and electronically, crying, praying, wishing that things could be different for them, as they make the kind of gut cries that come out from the center of your being. Like there’s not enough air inside you, nor will there ever be. (Not entirely unlike their elder.)

Knowing that their bad decisions led to this particular outcome.

Knowing that shit like that’s going on all over the nation.

Knowing that shit like this could very well happen to my mom.

I go on break when it’s my time.

The way we’re staffed right now, we’re very lucky to get breaks. You either go, or you don’t get them, and bagging someone’s exhausting — I’m aiming for at least 30 times a minute on the monitor, 35/min was what the setting was on the vent and I’m not a machine — and remember I’m in isolation gear. N95 on, and in my plastic gown. I’m covered in sweat, like a high school wrestler trying to make weight running laps in a Hefty.

I go on break because I’ve seen this particular drama play out before, and I don’t feel the need to be its lone observer. I find nothing Mutual of Ohama Wild Kingdom or Jacque Cousteau in watching other people’s grief. I’m a sympathetic crier, so it’s hard for me to witness it, harder still when I can’t hug the people crying, and a thousand times harder when I can’t stop doing what I’m doing because if I do my patient will straight up die.

And by the time I get back, thirty minutes later, they’re gone.

All of that effort, all of those tears, those hopes, those prayers, those strongest wishes and fervent desires — all that pain and trauma and likely emotional scarring — and all for what?

Nothing.

None of it had to happen.

Not one fucking drop.

At any point in time, the government could’ve intervened and created sensible proposals that saw everyone housed and fed for long enough to trace and end this thing.

At. Any. Point. In. Time.

Seventy million people — including some of my relatives — voted for a government which is actively trying to kill them.

I don’t know what to do with that.

I can’t bag them all, one by one.

Is it going to take one person in each of their families dying for this to stop? Like some sort of eleventh plague?

I honestly don’t know.

Sometimes I look at the news and I give up hope.

Everyone I’ve met (online mostly, thank God) who is anti-mask (or anti-vax) views themselves as the hero of their own story.

They all think that they’re the one person who really has access to What’s Going On. That they’re going to be the person to break the conspiracy open! and prove that hundreds of thousands of health care workers and centuries of science are lies!

They believe themselves to be Lone Mavericks of the Truth, serving the God of Personal Freedom, like health-points can be earned on a video game system, where functional lung tissue is is assured if you believe in both Jesus and that America is a meritocracy.

I can’t entirely blame them, as a story writer myself.

I understand the allure of thinking that you’re the one pointing the good shit out (I mean, look, here I am doing it) and playing devil’s advocate. It’s really satisfying to think you’re right, no doubt.

But first, you gotta make sure you’re right about the right things.

You gotta make sure you haven’t been lied too. That you’re not being manipulated. That Fox news isn’t trying to get you to kill your grandmother because rich people think paying for your social security is a drag.

I know we all want to be heroes.

That’s why I became a writer. I wanted to be like the people who saved me, the authors of my youth.

And I’m telling you now, if you’re not staying home as much as you can — and I really mean it, staying all the way home, getting groceries delivered if you can afford it, no trips to the salon, birthdays, restaurants, bars, pedicure — you’re missing your chance.

Don’t be the person who killed your friend/neighbor/grandpa. Stop trying to be/play Conspiracy Hero, The Game, in person and online and start being a real one, instead.

I’m sorry that wearing a mask doesn’t seem majestic or involve diesel trucks or firearms — that they don’t make movies out of people wearing scraps of fabric on their face.

I’m sorry that we’ve spent so long making contrarianism a sport that both-sides-style news reporting seems legitimate even as it leads people to their graves.

And I’m sorry that saying no to people who very much want to see you, and who are always going off to do fun things without you, makes your monk-like/under-the-sea-life in comparison seem dull and bland.

But this — this right now, this very moment — this is actually your chance to be heroic as fuck.

If you stay home, I promise you, you’re gonna be like Superman, John McClane, and John Wick, all put together.

You’ll be my hero.

Swear.

I had blisters on my fingertips from bagging (because my fingernails were a bit too long) the next day.

The same day that my mom says she wishes I could fly out to Texas and help take care of her.

I tell her the truth — I wouldn’t even fly out for her funeral, if she died. (I tried to say it nicely though.)

Because right now, today, I know I could very easily be an asymptomatic carrier — just like my aunt and uncle were, and whomever killed my patient. I work with covid patients, I’m in and out of their rooms every day.

It wouldn’t have been right for me to endanger a whole plane’s worth of people for the trip, nor anyone on the far end when I landed. You can’t keep an n95 on 24/7, you know?

If she were to have gotten sicker, all I could hope was that some other nurse would’ve taken care of her just like me.

So please believe me when I say I know this shit is hard. It’s been downright fucking cruel and right now the government is tying itself into knots to not give you $2000 because it doesn’t feel like you’ve earned it, like the last nine solid months of this shit haven’t been enough, what the hell.

I can only hope Biden’s administration does us better.

But until they can get there, we’ve got to save ourselves, okay?

And I know that’s hard, too — like, I couldn’t even stop my own mother from getting covid. (So what kind of nurse am I? Existential essays for another time, I suppose.)

I’m already scared of what will happen if Biden does his whole hundred day mask mandate — will vast tracts of people rise up to fight him, like they did in Michigan, when that militia tried to kidnap their own governor?

But the alternative is to give up and say that this amount of death is okay.

Let me decisively, authoritatively, tell you — it’s not.

There’s no death from covid that’s a good death. Or an easy death. They’re all gasping for air as their lungs punk out and drown. Nobody talks about that, how torturous it is, if you’re at all aware of things. That you will see your own death coming like the fucking shark from Jaws, until we intubate you, and then after that, well, a lot of times, good fucking luck. And if you survive that — rehab post-covid is definitely a whole other future essay.

Here’s the thing they never show on those heroic stories we all grew up on — the aftermath.

Like, we all want to be the Heroes Heroes Heroes!

But they never show the afterwards, where/when because a certain small group of valiant people did the right thing just in time, no one believes them.

The heroes come back from blasting the asteroid away from Earth — and a subset of people say, “Nah, man, that asteroid never existed.” Or they barely contain the alien invasion, and then people are all, “Aliens? What aliens? Fuck you!”

Maybe if we showed more of this happening in fiction, people would want to be heroes less.

Because I’ve been getting called a hero this whole goddamned time, and I can tell you, watching TV in my patients rooms, listening to lies come out of loved ones mouths, and being a person of the internet — it feels like shit to me.

But —

I don’t actually want there to be fewer heroes in the world.

I just want people to be smart — to be heroes about the right thing.

To take stands that actually make a difference — to live lives that really matter.

Laying down inside a Costco like a toddler because they want you to wear a mask is in no way shape or form heroic.

You, Mr. Costco, who have been given the span of all of your days, with fine lungs to breathe and apparently whine with, and this is how you goddamned spend it?

Or You, Mr. Call People a Pussy On the Internet for Wearing Masks and Think We’re All Lying — or people tramping through Target for Instagram — don’t you fools realize YOU ARE STILL ABOVE GROUND?!?!

And you could take such simple actions to keep others there with you?!?!

The bar for true heroism has NEVER BEEN LOWER.

You don’t even have to go to war to be a hero right now, friend!

You just have to stay home and when you (very rarely!) go out — wear a mask.

That’s…it.

It’s so simple.

And if we’d all agreed just to try hard from the jump, if no one had tried to opportunistically pit us against one another, so many lives could’ve been saved.

(Fuck. You. Again. Fox. News.)

People who know me ask, “Well, have you talked to your folks about the irony of all this?” and the answer is, no, not yet (because clearly I’m more of a 6,000 word personal essay kinda woman, heh.)

The truth is, when people are sick (and she’s still in the recovery phase) I try to keep my interactions with them therapeutic.

The runner-up truth is, that mentally, I can’t afford to listen to any more lies.

Anywhere. From anyone.

If I hear one more lie, one more half-truth, one more ‘I’m staying home, except for this birthday party’, one more ‘the economy’, my head will explode.

PEOPLE ARE DYING WHO DIDN’T HAVE TO DIE.

BECAUSE OTHER PEOPLE ARE KILLING THEM.

BECAUSE FOX NEWS AND THE GOP IS FULL OF BULLSHIT.

So here we are at the end of this essay, and once again I don’t have answers for you. I wish I did, but the situation on the ground is evolving (a phrase I’m sure I’ve heard in heroic movies in the past.) I (clearly) don’t know how to convince people that they need to stay safe, for their own sake, and others. I don’t know how to fight the pervasive American exceptionalism that our current media feeds, that makes people think the solution is to pull apart instead of come together.

I don’t know what to do with a nation that thinks opinions are facts. (Or that Go Fund Mes are an acceptable alternative to nationalized healthcare, for that matter.)

I write to try to pull people’s eyes off of the ground, to get them to look for the horizon.

I hope that when they do that, they can’t help but also see their neighbor.

But all I really know is that I see you.

I want you to live, even if Fox news doesn’t.

I think you deserve health care and safety and enough money to make staying home and safe financially worthwhile.

In fact, I think everyone deserves a chance to live. And none of us should be lied too about matters of public health along the way, seeing as your health really is everything.

It’s pretty much all we’ve got.

Everything else in life is negotiable. But Health is literally Life.

Ask anyone about to drown.

So.

Writing this helped me. I hope reading it helped you. Maybe made you a little angrier, or your heart a little softer, or you feel more firm in standing your ground in the face of Future Unmasked Events.

That’s all I can really ask for in the end. Small subtle changes. Repetitive ongoing acts of heroism. The strength to say, ‘I’m staying home, thanks’, or call out your crazy Uncle on Facebook — or maybe just block him for your sanity’s sake.

Just keep trying to go through life clean. Know that the decisions you make now may not seem big — but they are.

I’m sorry we can’t fight aliens together to be the heroes of this story — in many ways, I’d rather be doing that, than fighting invidious misinformation and propaganda from the government.

But we’re only in the story that we’ve got.

— Cassie

PS: Buzz Aldrin once punched a Moon landing denier.

Now that’s a hero.