In a divided America, there is one thing we can all agree on: everything sucks more now than it did before the pandemic. I don't remember ever agreeing with BLM co-founder Bree Newsome, but when she tweeted out "I'm at a point of being completely out of words for the society I live in," I realized that she and I are fully in agreement on that point. We have different reasons, different ideas of what the cause of the wordlessness is, but there's one undeniable fact: things suck way more now than they did before the pandemic.
In the glee to use the coronavirus pandemic to remake society, we are making everything worse. It's not just the conservatives that think life is worse; it's leftists too. And we are all correct in our assessment. The podding, inflation, crime increases, not to mention the obvious pandemic-related deaths, from both the illness itself and the countless other causes of death, from missed cancer diagnoses to the inevitable deaths of despair, have remade our society into one we barely recognize.
The emergence of the emergency came and crushed so much of our lives, from the actual deaths to the social destruction. We see it all around us. The pandemic inspired leaders to take more executive power in nearly every city and state in our nation. Under the guise of needing to take swift, unequivocal actions, governors, mayors, and the president have enacted sweeping requirements that have not been legislatively backed by the people's representatives. This is not how America was intended to be governed.
Whether you are pro or con, when people mask they are less present in social life. For school children, the fully masked school day means less smiles. Encouragement can only come in verbal form, and children go all day without being smiled at, without smiling at, anyone. The mask presents a disconnect between individuals of all ages and the others in their physical space.
If you are in a place where masking is commonplace, you know that people who are masked are more able to act like the people around them are irrelevant strangers who barely exist. Once we add social distancing, and the random kibitzing of people united by being in the same lines. Whether it is a useful weapon in our fight against the pandemic or not is not the point, face masks make life worse.
In some schools, the pandemic has also created a permanent "remote school" practice, where even when kids are in school, fully masked, socially distanced, they have computers on their desks and login to Google Meets in order to talk to their teacher, follow lessons, or chat with each other. Teachers don't come over to assist students at their desks because they don't want to "spread COVID." Rightly or wrongly, this makes life worse.
Remote work has its benefits, but for many the isolation of perpetual solitude is more horrifying than rush hour traffic. Labor shortages and job losses caused by the pandemic-inspired business closures, combined with extended government funding to try to make sure no one falls through society's cracks, resulted in a rush toward self-check out kiosks at shops and fast food restaurants and an extended unemployment holiday. Supply shortages and inflation loom. There aren't enough workers to fill the positions available.
We hear all sorts of reasons as to why, from wages not being high enough to unemployment stretching too long to fears of death from COVID-19. Whatever the reason, life is made worse by not being able to find a staff person in a shop, by interacting more with machines than with people, by not being able to grow your business because you can't find employees to grow it, and by not having sustainable, meaningful work to engage in.
The country is near evenly divided on vaccine mandates, 51 percent in favor, 49 percent opposed according to a recent poll, undoubtedly there will be many more. But there is no doubt at all that requiring individuals to show their ID and proof-of-vaccination to gain entry to gyms, restaurants, bars, theatres, nightclubs, museums, galleries, and countless other things makes life worse.
Our freedom of movement is inhibited, our ability to exist with any kind of real autonomy is squashed. Whether you think it is necessary or not to require both vaccinations and proof thereof, it's hard to deny that these requirements, and the restrictions on those who are not compliant, make life substantially worse.
Those who are meant to enforce the vaccine requirements, in those cities that have demanded compliance, are civilians. The average hostess at a busy Manhattan eatery is the one tasked with telling patrons they can't come in without showing their papers. This doesn't make anything better for her, for the patrons, or life in general, to know that before you can eat anywhere, among other things, you have to present your medical verification cards. And it certainly doesn't make life better for a hostess, or a bouncer, or any manner of people tasked with checking people's papers, to know that they may very well encounter people who are unwilling to comply to the point of anger and violence.
These are just some of the ways that life has been made worse. There are countless others, and each of us has experienced them. The things we are doing are not making life better, they are making life worse. As we embark upon the seemingly endless and coming crises, from climate change to racism to whatever other emergencism that comes down the pike, let us remember this moment: where the one thing we could all agree on is that everything sucked.
The way forward, as a nation, is not to remake everything all at once and in a hurry, but to stick to our values, hold up our core principles, and remember that the process of representative democracy is what brought us the prosperity, freedom, and independence of the past, and it can do it again, if we let it.