The COVID dress rehearsal is an unmitigated disaster

President* Trump,

This morning on my walk as I enjoyed some more of my favorite things (cool air, the walking itself, quiet laced with occasional bird cheeps, time alone) I was reflecting on how hard it feels to navigate that thin space between being real and being whiny, especially when one’s circumstances are objectively stable and enviable. I was feeling guilty about being sad and anxious when our jobs aren’t being threatened, we’re safely housed and have plenty to eat, our internet is reasonably stable, and we can afford our daughter’s tuition.

I understand that how I feel is how I feel and it’s not as though I can somehow park all my sadness and anxiety just because I recognize how relatively fortunate we are. I’ve never much liked that particular “coping strategy” where it’s suggested that people compare themselves with others who are worse off so they can feel better about their own circumstances. It’s both invalidating of the person’s own perspective and feelings and it sends the message that we could (should?) feel better if we just thank our lucky stars we weren’t born X…. super poor, with a genetic predisposition to schizophrenia, into an abusive family, and so on until the cows come home.

Besides, it’s not as though I’m not aware every single day that the system is tilted in our favor – even as lesbians – because we are White. This awareness doesn’t exactly bring any relief or serve as a balm; if anything, it adds to the sadness and the anger. It adds to the shitty ping-ponging between the hair-on-fire urgency I so often feel about systemic racism and the deflating resignation that this thing is so damn deep and wide that I can’t do anything meaningful to change it and that really (on bad days), it seems like none of us can.

Part of what I was thinking about this morning is how it feels like our collective situation with COVID is like a dress rehearsal for the even bigger issues we have to face as a country – systemic racism and climate change. Dress rehearsals are supposed to be the rehearsals where there’s just some fine-tuning needed, that the foundational work of learning the lines, the blocking, the lighting, the costume changes, and everything else have already been painstakingly laid in through tons of hard work and community building among the cast and crew.

That’s not how this feels though, is it? Our response to COVID is so chaotic and ass-backwards that we can’t even agree what the play is let alone how it should be performed and by whom. We have some audience members sitting tight in their seats politely waiting for the show to start, some going back stage to see what the problem is and if they can help, and others yelling that it’s their right to yell and that they can even yell “fire” if they damn well please because this is f*cking America and they can do as they want, others’ welfare be damned. And we all know that our current director is shamelessly egging on the last group, so there’s that.

If COVID is indeed our dress rehearsal for figuring out how to respond to the demonstrably lethal and havoc-wreaking threats facing us all, then we seriously need a new approach and new leadership because climate change and systemic racism are even more formidable challenges to our collective well-being and any hope for a sustainable future. Yes, there are absolutely lessons from COVID that we can carry forward, but they’re mostly of a “how not to” nature and we desperately need to start doing way more that is actually constructive and responsive to overcome this challenge. Basically we need to get our act together on COVID so we can stop squandering people’s lives and livelihoods and can start laying in examples of grit and creativity to bring to bear on the other issues that aren’t going away.

May we be safe from lunatic “leadership.”
May we be willing to scrap this version of the play and the nihilistic script we’ve been handed.
May we act as if we’re a strong country that values all its people’s health.
May we accept that we need to do this without the current director.

Tracy Simpson

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