On refusing to stop living a "normal" life during covid.
We are in another covid wave. Reported cases are up, even though the majority likely aren’t being counted because of our reliance on at-home testing. And so the usual talking heads repeat their tried and true tropes: the individual-responsibility-ists implore us to wear masks and social distance. The more social-justice-minded highlight the stories of disabled and immunocompromised people. People yell at other people on social media for being irresponsible, ask us to think of the most vulnerable among us. And the covid-is-over-ists counter that we must get back to normal, stop complaining and move on. This cycle repeats over and over, each time there is a new wave.
But nowhere in this cycle is a recognition of why, exactly, people are being so “irresponsible”—why people have stopped caring, continued partying, traveling, and living their lives—even as cases and hospitalizations once again rise.
And that’s because there has been a fundamental miscalculation in the stakes of covid. We have learned to frame this pandemic in terms of life or death, safety or danger, responsibility or irresponsibility. We argue over staying home or going out, traveling or not traveling, normalcy or precaution.
Rarely in this calculation do we think about the time we’ve lost—the fundamental unfairness of asking people to disrupt their lives, to stop doing the things that bring them joy and solace and prevent themselves from dying in other ways (of overdose, depression and suicide, of loneliness).
Rarely do we realize the political potential in fighting not only for the right to live, but the right to have fun, be social, dance, see our families, and experience life to the fullest, safely. What is a reasonable period to ask you to put your life on hold? Two weeks? Two years? Five years?