Did you have a Happy Halloween? It seems like many Americans did, judging by the number of Covid-19 cases since the holiday.
Over the last several months, I have asked God to protect my friends, neighbors, and loved ones from getting sick. I’ve envisioned God creating an invisible plexi-glass shield around and above them that prevents airborne particles of Covid-19 from entering their bodies. As my mother works in Chicago’s largest public hospital, my middle brother flies from state to state, and my retired father has trouble sitting still, I pray for their protection. I also pray for my own. But now that we are weeks away from Halloween, I see that not everyone had that invisible barrier between themselves and Covid-19.
Clinicians and essential workers were already having a hard time with the worst public health crisis in 100 years. However, since Halloween it has gotten worse. While we were in our costumes imbibing, enjoying the company of others, or trick or treating, we added to the rising curve by not wearing Covid-19 masks, interacting with non-household members, and talking to people less than six feet (the height of a basketball player) away. For those of who didn’t feel sick, we’ve spread Covid to people we’ve interacted with over the last few weeks. Perhaps it was when we took our pizza and then tipped the delivery person in cash. Maybe it was when we smiled and said, “Good morning!” to our cashier as we slid our credit card out of our wallets. It could have been when we ate indoors in a restaurant that was not full, but not empty either. The responsible among us who experienced symptoms told others with whom they had been in contact about their ailments, while others try to hide it from others because of the stigma and negativity that our society has towards those with the illness.
Yet, even those of us who have not contracted Covid have felt the effects of the pandemic. With a 13% unemployment rate in May, the United States is already doing worse than during the lowest point of the Great Recession. Yet, the tax dollars that hard-working Americans pay to the federal government have not been used to help us out of the worst public health and economic crisis in one hundred years.
This is very different from the path of much of Europe, where the European Union provided grants and loans to its 27 member states. The EU’s largest economy, Germany, provided wage subsidies to its workers receive that will last until the end of 2021. On the other side of the globe, South Korea recorded its first case of coronavirus on the same day as the United States. However, they clamped down on the virus earlier, provided $12 billion to its citizens and businesses in addition to $230 billion in loan support, and has already doled out its fourth round of stimulus checks. In comparison, American lives are threatened because our president and political leaders care more about making billionaires wealthier than keeping up their half of the social contract. The US economy has gotten so bad that it has turned us into a nation of beggars in the age of GoFundMe.
It is not our fault. In a democracy that works, we the people recognize our rulers in exchange for protection of our rights to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and even the pursuit of property and capital. We should not have to work at Walmart cash registers for minimum wage because we need to put food on the table. American lives are more important than making rich people richer.
All working-class Americans across racial and ethnic backgrounds need a government that works for all of us. Whether you’re the descendants of Europeans, original natives of our homeland, or immigrants from around the globe, we have the same need: cold, hard cash. Essential workers deserve the hazard pay that comes from caring for at-risk populations. Small businesses that cannot afford lobbyists need help to weather this pandemic storm so they can come out ahead once the vaccine is widely available. The Republican and Democrats that we elected are having no problem paying their rent or mortgage or feeding their families. Whether or not they pass a stimulus package does not affect their livelihoods, especially if they have the stock options that shield them from a faltering economy. We’ve paid into the system. It’s time it paid us back.
All of us need to demand that our elected officials, no matter their party, make our own tax dollars available to Americans. We should connect with others in our neighborhoods, schools, churches, and local organizations to strategize at the local, state, and federal levels for more stimulus packages across the board. We have to research and support local organizations who are already involved in making these demands.
As we do so, we cancel our big Thanksgiving dinners this year and share meals with the people in our household, or those of us in single-person households, we enjoy a good meal and relax and enjoy the long weekend. But on Monday, we fight.