We’re Writing Our History

It’s shaping up to be an uncomfortable read.

I’m worried. Not because of the pandemic. Not because, for the past five weeks, I’ve left my home to take out (and bring in) the bins — and nothing else. Not because my parents, sister and her boyfriend all work ‘on the front line’.

I’m worried because once the dust settles and the pages of history are sealed, waiting for future generations to discover, we’ll realise we should — collectively — have made a much better account of ourselves.

Yes, nostalgia can be a potent force; we’ve a habit of tidying up historical foibles. And I’m sure there are faults in the behaviour of some during other times of crisis.

Still, during the COVID-19 outbreak, I’ve regularly found myself questioning the general morality of our present.

Anyone who’s read, listened or watched more than a morsel of news these past couple of months will have come across stories of people — groups — flouting social-distancing measures, becoming aggressive towards police officers spoiling their fun, or (bewilderingly) showing the same level of contempt for NHS workers who’re simply trying to provide aid. They’re the ones trying damn hard to reverse the very same thing these Covidiots are railing against: a perceived curtailing of their basic rights and freedoms.

I feel confident enough to suggest there will be ample stories out there that are familiar to all groups of key workers.

Let’s not forget the range of people that label applies to, by the way.

Postal workers, shop assistants, delivery drivers, refuse collectors, bus and train drivers, teaching staff, prison officers, telecommunication engineers and on, and on. If you’d like a comprehensive rundown of the list, you can find it here.

All the above are keeping this country running while the rest of us were simply asked to do one thing:

Stay at home.

It’s hardly conscription.

Yet, for some, it proved too tough a task*.

Photo by Robert Couse-Baker on Flickr

We’ve seen demonstrations in the US from people who seem to think getting their hair done is more important than the lives of their fellow Americans.

How very patriotic.

And in mid-April, a pair of medical workers felt compelled to stand off against anti-lockdown protestors shouting ‘Go to China if you want communism’ while waving ‘Land of the Free’ flags from their cars. The warped American doctrine in action.

Here’s a sample of other messages displayed on signs at the same gathering:

‘Give Me Liberty or Give Me COVID19!’

‘F*** Flu Shots’

‘Trust The People’

‘Make 1984 Fiction Again’

‘I’m A Conservative And I Have Rights’

Read into those what you will.

In Michigan, with hair growing longer, the patience of some grew thinner, to the point where a group calling themselves ‘Michigan for Liberty’ descended on the state Capitol to protest against Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s emergency declaration and stay-at-home order (and common sense, presumably).

For context, an emergency declaration is enacted in order to help a state ‘save lives, protect property and the public health and safety, or to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe in any part of the state’, according to the Emergency Management Act under which it’s invoked.

This self-styled ‘American Patriot Rally’ was timed to coincide with lawmakers debating an extension to Michigan’s state of emergency, with protestors carrying signs reading things such as ‘Freedom Is Essential’, ‘When Tyranny becomes Law, Rebellion becomes Duty’ and ‘Let My People Go’.

And, as this was in America, some carried rifles and wore camouflage gear.

How quaint.

Once inside the Capitol building, said protesters wanted to go further still — inside the chamber further — chanting ‘Let us in’, like it was a good idea.

Meanwhile, in Las Vegas, the mayor came forward to offer up her citizens as a ‘control group’. You know, just so we could all witness first hand the carnage COVID-19 would wreak on a city that fully embraced its presence.

During the same CNN interview, Mayor Goodman distanced herself from the idea she’d be anywhere near the casino floor should her proposal come to fruition. Naturally.

Now, you’d think considering the reception given to that interview, Goodman might want to distance herself from the episode entirely. Well, you (and I) would be mistaken.

A couple of days later, she took to Twitter to post a statement (seemingly ghostwritten by a Thesaurus.com bot) regarding her feelings towards reopening Las Vegas. And Carolyn did yet another fine job of completely missing the point.

‘Although, it has not been clearly determined as to the effect that extreme warmth will have on the virus, it is assumed that it shall deter its ferocity. We certainly are looking forward to having our desert heat provide that required substantiation.’

Is there a chance she’s trolling us?

Over on this side of the pond, a group of 25 people decided the best way to celebrate our new-found state of solitude was by gathering for a karaoke party. Peaches and chicken to boot. A classic (no?).

Granted, this was early on in the UK’s diluted version of lockdown, but the government’s messaging was clear enough even at that point — to stay home and avoid public gatherings. (Oh and just so we’re clear, it’s never a good idea to gather for a karaoke party).

The weekend before Easter, some parks, beaches and other beauty spots were full, as people aimed to make the most of the glorious weather we had. News clips showed queues forming outside fish and chip shops along beach fronts. Not due to the two-metre gap social distancing should’ve created between people. Just because lots of people fancied haddock.

They walk amongst us.

Tourism is the lifeblood of rural economies throughout Britain — North Yorkshire being a prime example. You’ll find plenty of villages throughout the Yorkshire Dales that, under normal circumstances, would welcome day trippers, hikers and fell walkers alike with open arms.

For locals, these visitors are akin to their livelihoods. For them to set up signs asking people to stay away would require a threat greater than financial ruin, but that’s precisely the step villagers have been forced to take. Makeshift signs implore visitors to stay home, groups of cyclists to refrain from congregating for a post-ride chat, for anyone who happens to be passing through to continue past…

Photo by Matt Seymour on Unsplash

Ignorance is one thing. Confrontation is an entirely different matter.

Together, they make unsavoury bedfellows.

‘Their sense of entitlement kicked in and I endured more abuse than I ever have when dealing with drunken idiots outside nightclubs.’

The above quote is from a North Yorkshire police community support officer (PCSO) who came across several groups ignoring official guidance to stay home — some had travelled from as far away as Kent.

(If you’re not familiar with England’s geography, let me put it this way — it’s a bloody long way to drive for a picnic.)

There’s more:

‘One group spitting on the ground in front of me, one bloke screaming in my face in front of his children after he had also abused a farmer who had challenged him about his dog chasing sheep, and climbing over drystone walls to avoid footpaths.

I dispersed a party on top of the Cove having a barbecue on parched ground. The excuses were endless including “BBC spreading lies”, “we don’t believe in the disease”, “human rights”.’

Fortunately, none of these encounters ended with the PCSO being assaulted. Others haven’t been quite as lucky, with one farmer said to have been punched 15 times and kicked in the ribs after asking a walker in the Peak District to go home.

Nice to see the famous Blitz spirit in action.

Then there are the cases of individuals coughing or spitting at police officers and bus drivers, ambulances being attacked and — wait for it— 5G masts being set alight because some div online decided they cause coronavirus.

Given a greater word count, I’d now go on to discuss the more insidious behaviour surrounding COVID-19 conspiracy theories playing out online. Alas, that tale shall not be told here, but if that sort of thing’s your bag, I’ve no hesitation in pointing you towards Natalia Antanova’s excellent piece for Bellingcat.

On a personal note, my street isn’t busy; however, I’ve witnessed people stopping to chat with their mates who’ve parked up outside, one of them leaning in the car because, hey, what’s a few feet between friends? On more than one occasion, I’ve seen the same group gathering across the road to swap gossip — and viral loads. Oh, and then there was the group of men (yes, adults) who decided to jog off for a game of football the other day.

By the way, I’m not actively looking out for this stuff. It’s just… there.

Considering the title of this piece, it would be remiss of me to go without mentioning how well the current president of the United States is dealing with this crisis — and the indelible mark he’ll leave in history.

Not exactly known for his considered approach to leadership, the Covfefe in Chief strode up to his lectern to address a waiting nation and, with poise reminiscent of a man eight pints deep on an empty stomach, suggested COVID-19 could be cured by injecting bleach.

Bleach. Injected. Into a human.

And Trump’s right. Injecting bleach could kill COVID-19. The problem here is the quite literally fatal flaw in his proposal. See, it would unfortunately also most certainly kill the host: aka us.

Should we have expected anything less from Don? Probably not.

Not to be outdone though, Vice President Mike Pence decided he was above wearing a mask on a visit to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.

This wasn’t a boardroom meeting, either; Pence visited doctors and patients.

Regardless of any federally mandated advice, the wearing of masks by all visitors is Mayo Clinic policy — and Pence was made aware of this prior to his visit.

When asked about his decision to go sans-mask, Pence told NBC News he didn’t think he needed to wear one as he’s ‘tested for the coronavirus on a regular basis, and everyone who is around me is tested.’

I can’t see room for any missed instances of infection in that plan. Can you?

Pence finds himself in a profoundly persuasive position and this is the behaviour he chooses to endorse as a role model. It’s a dereliction of duty and it’s dangerous.

The science urges us to take certain preventative measures to halt the spread of this disease, yet across society people are placing their own interests above that of the whole. Which is why the rest of us must continue to step up and take responsibility.

This, like all preceding chapters in human history, will pass in time. Normal might not look quite like it once did, but a large amount of normality will be restored. Humanity has faced down great challengers before, emerging the victor — and stronger as a result. The same can be true here, if we’re smart.

There’s far more to be discussed on this topic and — despite the overwhelmingly cynical tone on display here — abundant evidence of human generosity, positivity and altruism shining through.

I’ll leave those tales for others to tell.

What I hope to have done is remind you, dear reader, that history is written in the present and we’re all responsible for the contributions we make.

So, please, if you’re tempted to do something that goes against official advice or puts others at risk, take a moment to consider how you’ll feel about looking back on the part you played during this pandemic.

In time, someone will ask you about it.

*I should point out that I realise there are people who legitimately feel their home environment is unsafe, be that due to the risk of domestic abuse towards themselves or a child, or by living with someone who’s deliberately ignoring official government advice. I empathise with your situation. Please, if you need it, places like Refuge and Women’s Aid (both for women and children), Respect (for men), Galop (for LGBT+ persons) and the UK government’s website can offer support. The same sympathy is extended to those struggling with mental health conditions at this time. The NHS has a comprehensive list of helplines for you to use; please make the most of their guidance.

**A sincere thank you to all the key workers across the world helping to keep their countries and communities going.**

Now Wash Your Hands 🤲🏼 // #writecheckproof // Instagram, Magpile, Medium, Pinterest, Pocket, Spotify: eyupitsjohn

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