Friday, December 18, 2020

In Memory of My Father

In early November, my father caught the novel coronavirus. This week, he died of COVID 19.

My father probably caught coronavirus while volunteering at a food pantry. The volunteers all wore masks, but not all the patrons did. The pantry offered curbside pick-up. And so my father probably loaded a delivery of food into a car whose interior was filled clouds and lungfuls of airborne virus.

My father's death could have been prevented.
A stronger safety net would have prevented so many people from needing to visit food pantries to avoid hunger. Instead, Republicans in the House and Senate refused any of the measures that might have given people more money to buy food or pay rent with.

A more responsible national leadership could have ensured that our country's leaders spoke with one voice, to accurately describe the danger of the pandemic and advocate mask-wearing as a nonpartisan safety precaution. Instead, Republican leaders at every level of government first abdicated their responsibility to ensure an adequate supply of protective equipment, then falsely minimized the danger of infection, and finally discouraged mask-wearing as disloyalty.

My upbringing still makes me feel rude to criticize a specific political party, rather than blaming "the government" or "both sides" - but that blame for our national failure in this pandemic falls almost entirely on the Republican Party. It might be rude, but it's also accurate, and necessary.

My father died with his children hundreds of miles away, unable to travel to see him, with nowhere to stay if we came, and no way into the hospital except by phone. My father died on a day that set a new record for coronavirus deaths, a record that will almost certainly be broken next week or the week after.

During the upcoming holidays, do what you can to protect yourselves and to protect the safety of others. Remember that your choices are not between total isolation and unsafe intimate contact. You can meet online. You can meet in-person at a distance, or wearing masks, or outside - and taking at least two precautions is better than taking one or none. You can avoid large groups and crowds.
Remember that your choices will affect not only yourself. They will affect everyone you meet. Not just your family, your friends, your immediate coworkers. But also anonymous service workers, who you meet in encounters so brief you might wishfully think that nothing bad could possibly happen, whose jobs mean they can't say no to you, even though their masks might not protect them unless you wear yours too.
My dad was kind of a nerd. He loved Star Trek and Star Wars, pulp action stories like Doc Savage and alt-history military fiction like Harry Turtledove. But the right way for me to honor my father right now isn't to remember the things he loved, it's to remember not to endanger anyone else's life the way somebody endangered his.

I will be back next year.