I did not get my break. I have one on the books for this month, but in actuality, work is the least of my stresses. At least when I am checking guests in I get a reprieve from social media, where I can watch the parents of my former classmates argue over whether or not I hypothetically deserve the right to exist, or bemoan restaurants and businesses that have the audacity to choose public safety over personal convenience. Moreover, while the lack of a clear defined and implemented effort to combat said virus seems to be coming from our esteemed leadership, the devastation it is wreaking is as crystal as the blue waters we will not be visiting for some time. This weekend is the Fourth of July, and while Fireworks will still surely ring out from sea to shining sea, and baseball is back; there is very little reason I can find to celebrate.
We are halfway through the longest year of my life; and instead of seeing lights at the ends of tunnels, I have a growing headache as I run through the last six months. There are highlights and victories, a clambering for change and a pivot towards something that resembles real equity and justice; but they evaporate with the next clip I see of a red-faced person shouting at a teenager in Starbucks for following his company’s rules and wearing a mask. I said it before, the drastic loss of many of our hobbies and leisure plans is a genuine loss. There is real mental fatigue and harm that comes from feeling isolated and disconnected from the ones we love. As humans, we are creatures of habit, and our routines have become so drastically upended that we are afraid and uneasy of the future in a larger way than we ever have been. In some ways, we can relate more to young children, in that not having control over things causes us to lash out.
However, we are not young children, and as adults, we need to act like it. Especially if we are adults interacting with actual children. Not to harp on the video of the teenager working in Starbucks, but the gall of a person to walk into a business and berate an employee for simply working a job that exists solely to provide a convenience in the midst of a skyrocketing pandemic is everything that is the worst of America. The idea that freedom trumps humanity is a uniquely American problem that echoes throughout every facet of our society and is exactly why we have skyrocketing numbers of the virus and escalating rhetoric on social media. You know there are large portions of the world where due to population and air quality, masks are as commonplace as a coat when it is cold and an umbrella when it rains, and the reality is all of those people still drink overpriced coffees and take vacations, and manage to do so without viral temper tantrums. It is as simple as remembering that each of us is one person, and there are over seven billion of us sharing a rock that is hurtling through space.
It has to have been hard to have a summer of trips to Disney and Europe cancelled, and over what, a virus that does not even take the time to realize how long it took to plan the perfect Disney Dining plan. Everyone is mad that their plans were cancelled. Do you know how I know that? Because at least a couple times a week I find myself suddenly flattened mentally as I remember that instead of going to San Diego in September, I am having a staycation in July where I will spend my week working on house stuff while my wife works. It absolutely sucks that she cannot have time off and that absolutely has made things tense at moments, because for all of my good intentions and her remarkable patience, we are people, and we have breaking points. Which is fine, of course it is fine that we have breaking points. We are just flesh-bags filled with organs and hormones after all, grieving everything we lost over this virus is completely normal. Being frustrated with restrictions and rules that vary from city to county to state is normal. Forgetting that the flipside of this is the nearly 130,000 American families who have had to bury a loved one is an insult to the idea that we are “one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
If wearing a mask means someone’s grandmother will get to have another Thanksgiving with her family, I will gladly wear a mask. If not going to the beach and attempting a third straight year of beating the high score on giant Space Invaders ends in a single life spared, then that high score can wait. My luxuries and leisure is the antithesis of what matters currently. Inconvenience does not equate to a loss of liberty, and the fact that I have now used two articles to scold adults who could simply just remember how lucky they are to have another day shows just how vast our disconnect from humanity has grown. Instead of imploring you to wear a mask, or be respectful to service workers, I just want you to remember that we are in this together. You can have another vacation. I promise you, the years I did not get to have one due to financial hardships did not leave me with the lasting scars that COVID leaves on human lungs. Literally, if we do not all work together, we will be dealing with the effects of this virus for a lot longer than a lost summer of vacations and pool parties. We might be many individuals, but at the end of the day, we are but one nation.
- Asher Kennedy is a writer, activist, transman and cisnerd living an hour outside of Washington in the Eastern Panhandle of WV. An alumnus of Shepherd University where honed both his writing and musical skills, he is the current treasurer of Hagerstown Hopes, serving as a member of its Board of Directors. He is also the co-facilitator of both the Trans and Spouse groups. Through his work with Hagerstown Hopes, he works alongside Trans Healthcare MD to bridge the gap for medical knowledge and coverage for the trans and non-binary communities throughout Maryland. He has been featured on RoleReboot (rolereboot.org) and is an avid speaker for local college and community panels. He is on Twitter @ItsAsherK, and can be found re-watching the same six episodes of The Office in his spare time.