By CHARLES ANDREWS
To do that “nice” and “kind” thing, in this column, to offer some light for locals as we all struggle through this difficult but opportune time. I want to mention some of the positive things that our City government is doing for us during this crisis, especially the things that may not get so much attention.
I’m sure there are many. I reached out last week to those who would know, all our City Council members and our City Manager, but so far, no response. They are swamped, I know. Like so many, they didn’t sign up for this. They are behind the scenes, but heroes nonetheless.
So I will get around to that. This ain’t going away any time soon. But as so often happens, something I want to write about gets bumped back for something I feel I have to write about.
A BRAND NEW WORLD
A utopian cliche, right? Songs are written about it. Plays and musicals. Poems and books. Since ancient times. Oh, that impossible dream. Of course, there are probably as many versions of “ideal” as there are people on the planet, hard to get wide agreement on details but, how about, a world that works for everyone? That’s quantifiable, measurable.
Sure, you can get into a political tar pit but really, aren’t there some things that are beyond argument by rational, decent people? Here’s the yardstick: if you applied this to yourself and your family and friends, would you fight it?
Let’s start with no one going hungry. No one without shelter. Everyone safe from preventable harm, like war.
Whew. Deep breath. Just those three does give us a brand new world, I’d say. They encompass things like safe drinking water and food, and healthcare. So yes, let’s talk about that big ugly hole in the richest, most powerful nation on earth.
FOR YOU AMERICANS:
— health care for everyone. Now see, there’s my signature example.
Think about it. What we’re going through has shown us what is possible, that the voices of power were telling us just two months ago was not possible. (Just like sheltering the unsheltered, but that’s going a whole lot better now.) Remember, just a little bitty time ago, when SOME PEOPLE were saying we need healthcare for everyone in this country? That it’s not only a moral obligation, a human right, but that it makes economic sense too, in a country where our health care costs are multiples higher than in all other industrialized nations.
Why, asking for that will keep any candidate from being elected president, others said with certainty, because too many millions love the healthcare plan they have through their company.
Bingo. Now everyone needs it, and many of those millions have lost their jobs and the insurance that went with them. Which brings up something we all know but now it’s in our face: how many people slowly suffocate their souls for way too many years at a job they hate, just for the health insurance? Is that any way to live?
ALL OF A SUDDEN
Our government is declaring, everyone sick gets treated, no matter what. Because to do otherwise would leave bodies piling up on the streets, as they did in the ferocious flu epidemic of 1918 that infected one out of four people on earth and killed 50,000,000. (Did you know that in all likelihood we Americans started the “Spanish flu”? On a Kansas military base. Then carried it to the rest of the planet via World War I.)
Even though Trump has utterly fallen short in his handling of this pandemic, and tried to tell us it’s up to the states — “no, I don’t take any responsibility at all,” and “we’re not a shipping clerk” — the truth everyone sees is that that horrible boogeyman, the federal government that Reagan began demonizing, is in fact what we need to survive.
But right now I’m more worried about the near future. I’m worried about Trump’s drumbeat to “open up the country,” ending the stay safe at home measures that are starting to get this under control, against common sense and the advice of all the medical experts. There’s an election coming up and he knows, “it’s the economy, stupid.”
Of course the economic damage from stay at home is massive, but it’s recoverable and it’s a choice: the economy better before November, or perhaps millions of American lives lost.
BUT LET’S LOOK AT IT
More long term and big picture. We’ve gotten a glimpse of that more ideal world we were always told was unobtainable, and seen that it isn’t. Do we want to go back?
You can now see the Himalayas from India again. Can you imagine, the biggest, tallest thing on earth had disappeared under polluted skies. The critters are returning. Someone posted video of a park with hundreds of squirrels cavorting, hundreds. After being shut barely three weeks, Yosemite is seeing the wildlife come out of hiding; the bear population has quadrupled. We need to rethink how we coexist with wildlife. Streets are empty, crime has plummeted (can’t burgle when everyone is home). We’re having to be much more thoughtful about what we eat, and getting our exercise.
Most importantly, more than 90 percent of people are voluntarily staying at home, for the general good. That’s an amazing act of agreement, and of love. So more won’t die. People are connecting with others through social media in ways they never have before. Creativity stifled from public exhibition is bursting forth online from individuals like never before.
Sure, our world has changed forever and it won’t be easy to mold the new one to our liking. But now, maybe for the first time in history, we see it is possible. Don’t lose the vision. Don’t “open up” to the deadly old ways. Sure, I love my car, but I think I like clear skies more.
Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 34 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at firstname.lastname@example.org