*And now, theydies and gentlethems, A Pandemic Parable*
On my cruise ship travels, I had the privilege to visit any port we anchored (and indeed, it was a privilege I was HIGHLY thankful for, as it was not afforded to most anyone else on the ship). One said port was Tianjin, China- the port we would use — by three-hour bus ride- to get access to Beijing, The Great Wall and other adventures in antiquity.
As this was during what I called a cruise circuit- when the same cruise or Itinerary is repeated several times for a season- we ported in Tianjin four times. Chinese visas were pretty tricky for us, so we were only able to get off of the ship two of the times, and one of those times, I decided to go to the mall at nearby Tanggu. We were ported at Tianjin overnight, so we also headed to the club that evening, where someone confused me for Kobe Bryant.
But, that’s another story.
At the mall in Tanggu, there were a few stores where the English was delightfully lost in translation. Once such store was called “Enjoy Easy”.
“I enjoy easy. Sounds like my kind of place!”
Inside, the enjoy continued. There was an aisle labeled STORAGE- it was where you could find the underwear.
Huh. Those ARE storage!
Another aisle labeled FOOD had eyelashes and hair bows.
Things that make you look like a snack. Got it.
The crown jewel of my finds in Enjoy Easy was a miniature thermos a la the thermoses you would get in your Strawberry Shortcake lunch box. Or Jem and the Holograms lunchbox. Anyway, you get what I’m saying. Small thermos.
It was metal, painted green with an orange plastic cup/lid. It was sprinkled with varying sizes of orange shamrocks and a phrase, written like a newspaper headline and subheader:
HAPPY LIFE EVERYDAY
Keep calm when you succeed
In June 2015, there were two momentous, societally altering Supreme Court decisions that were handed down the same day: Obergefell v Hodges and Shelby County v Holder. Both rulings came at a critical time for each respective civil rights issue, on the heels of many progressive successes, and both were handled differently.
Obergefell v Hodges, the ruling which would make same-sex marriage legally recognized in all 50 United American states was a ruling that fortified progress. Rather than leave the decision up to the will of the people and their penchant for stubbornness, they decided to settle the question once and for all, and for ALL. Several states had already passed their own laws allowing for recognition in their own individual jurisdiction. it was getting close to a majority marriage equality country anyway, but the Supreme Court decided it’d be better not to chance it and to bring all the states along in one fell swoop. People will catch up.
The backlash was swift. Conservatives martyring themselves into superheroes like Kim Davis. Bakeries not wanting to make cakes for gay weddings, churches saying no to the ceremonies, and the whole religious-freedom-as-a-means-to-discriminate-against-a-person’s-being thing, among other things.
But, the ruling was done. Gay marriages occurred across the land and if they weren’t honored, there was suddenly a legal recourse for it. There are still people who “disagree with the lifestyle blah blah blah” but there is a response to their dehumanization attempts that wasn’t there before. And because they not only can’t be assholes so easily, but they are now more exposed to people living happy full lives in the LGBTQIA community (anecdotal evidence is the only evidence that matters, after all), current public opinion continues to place marriage equality in the majority of societal approval.
Shelby County v Holder was an illustration using the opposite tack. Chief Justice Roberts, where he felt the progress should be helped along and maintained for posterity with Obergefell, felt that the progress had been working long enough with Shelby County, thank you very much. In fact, the ”preclearance” provision- which required nine states and several counties with histories of Jim Crow voter suppression to gain federal governmental approval for major changes in voting law- had been working so well that voter disenfranchisement had plummeted in the fifty years between the passing and gutting of the Voting Rights Act (the registration gap between whites and Blacks shrunk from 30% to just 8% in ten years, for instance). So it makes perfect sense to scrap that provision because it looks like people have gotten into the right habits and we can trust states to just do what they’ve been doing all along.
If it ain’t broke, break it just to see what happens.
To be fair, Roberts thought section 4b, which discussed the requirement, was unconstitutional as written and urged lawmakers to update the law in Congress. But, it didn’t change the fact that the law as stated was having its intended affect, and with Congress in the control of conservative politicians, there was little political appetite to restore what they saw as a hindrance to their own personal political ambition.
Meanwhile, conservatives on the ground, being the same go-getters that they were in tantruming about Obergefell,decided to celebrate this ruling by enacting the most violently restrictive voting laws since Jim Crow in states across the country, but especially in the South, North Carolina and Texas particularly. They commenced with almost yearly voter purges that disenfranchised millions of voters in the years since the ruling, and many of those purges have been called on their illegality, some of them after they had already affected an election or two. And let’s not forget the constant reduction of voting locations, hours, and days in places with traditionally Black populations, with surgeon-like precision.
By the numbers, between 2014 and 2016, 16 MILLION people were removed for voter rolls during purges; in Georgia alone, there were 1.5 million names purged in six years (2012–2018), most of them voters of color. As a result, Black voter numbers had been dwindling, hitting a modern low in 2016 before massive attempts to correct the purges and ensure proper identification (and an immensely unpopular candidate) brought about a tremendous swing in 2020.
Very clearly and very precisely, the agents of stagnancy saw an inch and took a moon landing (via Space Force, of course). And now, correcting the course will require infinitely more time, toil and trouble than if we had kept our eyes on the prize all along.
Long and short: in 2015, we had two rulings that were calling for the same thing: for us to keep doing what we were doing. To keep protecting people and their civil liberties. To make sure that the Constitution is a living, breathing instrument rather than a fossil. In the decisions, two routes were taken, but the lesson is the same:
Opposing agents will do whatever they can. And they’ll try hard to work around any obstacle you try to place. If you remove that obstacle, they’ll rush in to sweep up the fools making a bigger, more complex, more difficult, more costly dilemma.
“You did say PANDEMIC Parable, right?”
True, though my emphasis was on parable, hence the political comparison.
You need something more directly related, don’t you?
I bought the size-of-a-She-Ra-lunchbox-thermos thermos. Two, actually.
They were designated as gifts for others, but they stayed on the shelves in my ship cabin until they could be delivered in person. It was a perfect reminder that when things are going well to stay the course.
Keep calm when you succeed.
It was definitely something to remember because the ship would soon enter the designation *Code Red*
You see, Code Red is when 5% or more of the entire ship is ill, most commonly from norovirus, a ghastly gastrointestinal nightmare people get from using the bathroom, not washing their hands, and touching surfaces repeatedly all over the ship. It’ll have you shooting from both ends, is incredibly contagious, and will kill you if you’re not careful.
When said Code Red is called, many protocols go into immediate effect. All crew take part in sanitizing every surface on a regular basis. We also take shifts ensuring guests sanitize their hands when entering any establishment of food service or public gathering, and self-serving buffets are made full service. The surge in duties, for cleaning and cooking crew especially, strains the workforce and gets some of them sick as well, so as performers, we chip in and help out, taking shifts serving food to the crew during breakfast hours, for instance.
The guests had only two rules to help us out: those who were well MUST sanitize regularly. Those sick must be quarantined and may not leave their cabin for any reason.
“But, but, but…….we’re in CHINA. And those excursions to the Temple of Heaven are EXPENSIVE and we waited all year for this trip and I’ll be DAMNED if I’m going to miss this because of some stomach bug!”
And so, many guests disobeyed their quarantine, going out for fresh air on the decks, heading to the excursions anyway, and getting sick wherever they went, oftentimes not saying anything if they weren’t CAUGHT upchucking. With the crew greatly strained, people started cleaning up these messes that did not have the proper gear, and THEY got sick, not to mention the other guests unfortunate enough to happen by a hidden pile of puke.
Even just getting people to sanitize their hands regularly was a chore. Guests would act like total misbehaved children; saying no to us outright (my friend Ebony, one of the cast and an AMAZING singer/actress, would say “well, it’s either this or explosive vomiting and diarrhea. You pick.”), rubbing their hands together as they approach saying “oh, I just got some sanitizer over there” (there is no sanitizer dispenser over there, ma’am), or trying to avoid us by walking around to all possible entrances (we’ve got the place surrounded).
It got so bad that the captain had to get on the speaker, for the third time, this time threatening the guests: “If you are caught breaking your quarantine for any reason, if you are caught leaving the bathroom without washing your hands, we will drop you off at the next port and you will have to find your way home, no refunds. You are endangering the guests and our crew and we have been working way too hard to break this outbreak for you to continue to ignore others health and livelihood.”
Code Red, which, if handled efficiently, can last only a couple of days (and doesn’t happen as often as the media would have you to believe), took THREE WEEKS to end.
Each of these instances focus on varying issues, but they have one thing in common- they require a consistent message, approach and accountability to reach a successful conclusion of the problems faced. Healthcare IS politics and civil rights, after all, and the issues involving mitigating COVID are myriad, but one thing is for certain: the virus, like the opposition to gay marriage and voter protection, is ruthless- that is, it is without ruth. Therefore, we should take the lessons past- including the teeter-tottering, unsuccessful attempts to phase society into a return of “normalcy” during this pandemic- and let them inform. And continue to take action.
Keep calm when you succeed.
Haste makes waste(d time). We either handle this now, with a coherent plan of funding combined with medically sound advisement (social distancing and masks and vaccines, duh), and continue to blunt the curve, or we try, yet again, to test the virus without all the tools fully realized and see who wins out.
Because, if it’s not already clear, Viruses DGAF. COVID won’t stop, don’t stop, until the sun pop and being too hasty regarding success has already proven to just prolong the issue. I’m no mayor or governor, and I do feel bad for the small business owners and all of us suffering right now- myself included- but there will be no businesses if everyone is dying due to preventable rapid en masse infection and healthcare worker exhaustion.
We have to press, not give, no break, because the opposition, whether stagnagents or an air-borne virus, LOVE a vacuum.
One of the most consequential(ly bad) conservative leaders is named *Hoover* for a reason.
(I’ll see myself out)