In the spring of 2020, the world changed. Travel was discouraged, sometimes forbidden. It was eerily quiet. We stayed home more than anyone in the world outside the novels of Jane Austen. (The Bronte and Eliot heroines are more mobile.)
We stayed home to make the world a safer place. Some of us embroidered, some read books, some watched TV, still others turned it off, others did puzzles, others played games, still others coughed, still others died.
When the states reopened, politicans were fully informed of the dangers. (There have been a few investigations of possibly fudged numbers at test sites.) Dr. Anthony Fauci repeatedly explained the danger of reopening until the states met federal guidelines. “There is a real risk that you will trigger an outbreak that you might not be able to control.”
Epidemiologists and public health officials continue to warn against gathering in crowds. Churches, parks, and beaches are teeming with people. But pent-up energy has become so explosive that people believe what they want to believe, and many ignore the warnings. And yet the globs of coronavirus spit travel a long way when people talk, chant, and sing.
And now there are the protests. A group that was doubtless clinically insane recently stood on the State Capitol steps and protested AGAINST VACCINES. One misinformed, evil man announced that no one had died of Covid-19. And there is the national wave of protesters against racist police brutality and the unjust killing of George Floyd. However good the cause, it is unwise to protest in a crowd during a pandemic. Would Floyd, who tested positive for Covid-19, have wanted protesters to infect or be infected? With the utmost sincerity, I believe it is time to listen to Obama, who reminds us in an essay at The Medium, “How to Make this Moment the Turning Point for Real Change,” of lessons we can learn from Civil Rights history about the importance of negotiatinv with state and local leaders.
…I’ve heard some suggest that the recurrent problem of racial bias in our criminal justice system proves that only protests and direct action can bring about change, and that voting and participation in electoral politics is a waste of time. I couldn’t disagree more. The point of protest is to raise public awareness, to put a spotlight on injustice, and to make the powers that be uncomfortable; in fact, throughout American history, it’s often only been in response to protests and civil disobediencethat the political system has even paid attention to marginalized communities. But eventually, aspirations have to be translated into specific laws and institutional practices — and in a democracy, that only happens when we elect government officials who are responsive to our demands.
“When we think about politics, a lot of us focus only on the presidency and the federal government … But the elected officials who matter most in reforming police departments and the criminal justice system work at the state and local levels.”