This pandemic reminds us all of our impending end. I know something about death.
Working cattle many years ago, my horse managed to roll completely over me, leaving me, well, dead. I found myself above the planet, looking down at all the relations I had all over, and I saw a golden string connecting me with every person I had ever known and loved. Then there was a “not now” moment and I had to re-embody the broken thing on the ground (and go to a hospital).
Another time, some policemen in Colorado beat and maced me until I was unconscious. I awakened to find myself in a cell confined by some kind of anti-Houdini hog-tie restraint. I must have pissed off somebody. Two deputies came in with a spray can. “What’s that?” “It’s cyanide. We’re going to kill you.” Funny guys. I lay on the floor all night, just breathing through the pain until a nice doctor untied me and sent me to hospital.
So, once or twice experienced, death is no big deal.
What I learned was not to fight someone over a few rolls of toilet paper, or to stab a man for bottled water. My understanding and faith is that most people confronted with mortality will act with kindness and abandon greed. I have seen people do so throughout this crisis.
I have also seen the huge holes and deficiencies the pandemic reveals. Our healthcare system is only semi-functional due to its just-in-time supply sourcing, necessary to its demand for profitability and need to return value to shareholders and executives. Our unemployment system is dysfunctional due to years of underfunding, neglect, and outright stinginess on the part of the state.
We also have realized that cutting off people’s water or power is bad during a pandemic. Maybe we will see that it is never appropriate.
Evictions are stalled and the world has not ended, the same for rent and mortgages. In Wuhan, China (COVID-19 epicenter), the government suspended all rent and mortgage payments - as far as I know, just cancelled them until the crisis were over and people back to work.
I know that as long as there is food and the lights stay on, we are OK. Mostly, though, I think about hurricanes. Here on the Florida coast, we know one, or even two, might come every fall. We prepare. There are full-time people who do only that. The fact is that new virus pandemics are like hurricanes, and might and do come at any time. Epidemiologists know that; the WHO knows that. For that reason, just as with hurricanes, plans are developed. Essentials are stockpiled. Recovery efforts are funded.
I just want to see that in the future, we make those plans, develop those stockpiles, strengthen our systems for pandemics. Rather than yell at the Gulf of Mexico for making hurricanes, we get ready.