There is no party here tonight. No plans to go out. I am spending the evening in bed with a bowl of ice cream, watching Netflix. My husband is at work, renovating an office building. He goes in at night when he can be alone. He wears a mask anyway, following the science that tells us the virus is an aerosol and can linger in unventilated spaces for hours.
This horrible, awful year has cost more than an occasional night out. As the pandemic spread across the globe, it didn’t just lay waste to people’s lives and health. It shone a strobe light into our failing institutions and beliefs, exposing deep fissures some people previously suspected, even fewer talked about; the majority were oblivious as they worked their way through the rat’s maze of their lives towards their expected reward at its end. This year showed us that more often than not the game is rigged, the prize merely an illusion created by the maze-makers to keep us working.
We saw hospitals unable to cope with the influx of patients, the consequence of decades of Conservative austerity that gutted their ability to respond to a crisis. After laying off thousands of medical staff, cutting hours and pay, these same people were suddenly held up as “heroes” by the very governments that once derided their requests for fair working conditions and pay. This included rousing cheers for all the immigrant labourers that the western world had spent the previous four years trying to throw out of “their” countries.
We saw long term care homes, once government run facilities but now private for-profit enterprises, suddenly unable to care for the cascading number of sick and dying seniors as the virus spread like wildfire in their overcrowded, understaffed and airless buildings. The doors were locked and family forbidden to enter as management tried to simultaneously save their residents and cover their ass. In a few cases the staff, afraid of getting sick, abandoned their charges and dozens of our “respected elders” died alone, their last moments no doubt full of confusion, pain and terror.
We saw politicians ignore science and expert recommendations to protect their position, power and wealth. The growing partisan divide between our political leaders kept our elected representatives from working together to protect the public. Instead, many denied any advice that would cost them votes or money. They awarded PPE contracts to their friends and took secret trips abroad all while telling their constituents they couldn’t see Grandma at Christmas because it “wasn’t safe to travel.” A global crisis that should have brought humanity together instead created an “us vs them” mentality that continues to cost lives. The fail-safes built into our laws to protect us from authoritarianism proved faulty as Trump and his twisted cronies flaunted their activities with no repercussion, and we were forced to admit that our ”laws” are only as good as the person charged with upholding them.
We crushed the first wave. The second wave, however, is crushing us. We’ve been sitting at home for nine months and people are fed up and missing their families. Inconsistent government directives are causing some to give up and do what they want. The far-right sect is using this pandemic to spread disinformation and fear in an effort to grab power from the responsible leaders who are actually helping us. We are split between those who put people before money and those who put money before people, and unfortunately it’s an almost 50-50 ratio.
The pandemic is threatening our health, our finances and our lives. So many people have been forced to say goodbye to their loved ones over Zoom on an iPad held by a nurse. I am thankful my husband and children are healthy; none of us contracted Covid so I have been spared the wretched horror of having my loved ones taken from me.
As I watch the clock tick towards midnight, I think about all the positive changes this period of history could allow us to make, if we have the courage and collective will to take advantage of it. We are finally having real conversations about living wages and universal health care, admitting the days of pulling oneself up by their own bootstraps are over because their ability to even acquire the boots has been taken away.
We are currently in a 3 week lockdown and vaccines are being shipped. I will continue to stay home until my family is vaccinated. I read the news stories about the slow speed of the rollout, vaccines sitting in storage, the Ontario government not moving nearly fast enough. The voice in my mind says “April”; a quieter voice behind it anxiously whispers “maybe August.” I am focused on April for now because August is so far away.
Happier new year, everyone.