Why some newspaper editor hasn’t hired Christine Flowers and I to publish an occasional ‘Point – Counter Point’ segment baffles me. I’m convinced if we were given a topic to write 500-words on, we’d come back with totally opposing views almost every time.
I’ve taken the liberty to counter more than a few of her opinion pieces on this blog but there have been plenty of times I agree with what she writes (but it’s no fun writing about being in agreement – who would read that?)
However, today, I’m in such agreement with her article – ‘Why we’re ‘not all in this together’ – I decided to add my two-cents worth of opinion.
Early on, TV ads were giving praise to health care workers handling coronavirus cases which was well deserved. As time passed, the same praise is flowing to the essential workers. I get it, but there’s a part of me that doesn’t. Christine addresses it like this…
I started seeing tributes to grocery store workers, SEPTA drivers, food delivery folks … and I thought: Hm, this is a bit much. Yes, I know they’re performing a valuable service and I am profoundly grateful for the way they’ve kept us on the edge of normality. That said, the cloying tones of the tributes are getting to me.
Those workers do deserve a big thank you, but is this where our appreciation for them stops? Christine says…
…we can excuse and appreciate a little overkill when expressing gratitude to the men and women who – let’s be honest – have no choice but to do the dangerous jobs they’re doing. They need to work, as we all do, and their dedication is admirable and in some cases superhuman. But I sincerely doubt that they appreciate the television ads telling us “We’re all in this together.” Because we’re not.
There’s a world of difference between the nurse working the intensive care unit during COVID-19 and the clerk working the drive-thru line at Chick-fil-a. The nurse choose his/her profession and trained for years to serve the sick. It’s courageous not to walk away from that mission in the middle of a pandemic knowing the risks. For that, they are paid well and will likely continued to be paid if they got sick themselves. By contrast, the Chick-fil-a clerk is standing in the rain taking your order for minimum wage, not because you would starve without her, but because you need a little comfort food to make yourself feel better. If she gets sick, she’s out of work and income. That’s how we treat her type of essential worker.
I doubt that the SEPTA bus drivers who have to deal with passengers who bang on the front doors and refuse to use the back entrance care about the song Alicia Keys wrote praising “essential workers.”
This reminds me of a conversation I had in October with film director Todd Robinson, director of the great film ‘The Last Full Measure’ (playing now on all streaming services). He spent 20-years with soldiers to research this film and told me soldiers get very little satisfaction hearing people thank them for their service. Todd said what we should be doing is asking soldiers is there anything we can do for them to help in any way possible. Empty platitudes mean next to nothing other than making the person who says them feel better.
Christine mentions how this pandemic has cleaved us along partisan lines, reinforcing our preexisting biases and hostilities and has helped keep us as far apart as we can be. “And it is folly to pretend otherwise, just so we can feel better.” She recognizes that ….
…some of us have all we need to survive another year like this, and some of us have lost our livelihoods forever. Some of us are managing to keep our mental health on an even keel, and some of us are plunged into the abyss. Some of us take SEPTA, and some of us drive around in our Lexuses, with the windows up and our masks on.
My favorite line his her last line…
Can we please stop running ads that perpetuate this fairy tale, and figure out how to survive as one nation, under God, divided, but still working on it?