We sit in this moment of time where we are exploring how to pivot back to “normal.” We are being bombarded with think pieces about working from home, discussions of productivity and attempts to explore what we should learn from the pandemic.
I am not ready for these conversations or this shift. It is not about whether I want to work from home or go into the office, even if all the climate catastrophes that are flooding my news alerts have me thinking about the environmental benefits of remote work.
I have this troubling feeling that we are sweeping an overwhelming pandemic under the rug. That we are trying to turn it into something that has already passed, when we are still losing thousands of lives nationally and globally.
Perhaps part of the desire to look away stems from the politicization of mask-wearing and vaccinations. I think most of us are exhausted and just want to get along with our friends, family and neighbors.
But I cannot look away. I need a moment to mourn.
We lost 2,977 people from the 9/11 attacks. That felt like a staggering number of people to lose from an event; yet, at this moment, we have lost more than 200 times that number of people in the U.S. alone. That count continues to grow by about 6,000 people in the U.S. per week. Globally, more than 4 million people have died from this pandemic. The count in Washington is hard to comprehend: More than 6,000 people have died in Washington from COVID.
I need some ceremonial mourning or a ritual to honor this magnitude of loss. I need to find a way to move forward without forgetting. I need acknowledgement for the COVID long-haulers and other people who got really sick from this disease.
I need gratitude.
I need to find a way to celebrate and honor the doctors, nurses, orderlies and all the support staff of hospitals. What does it even look like to honor their sacrifices?
How do we honor all the people who worked to minimize the experience of hunger throughout this pandemic? What does it look like to honor all the workers at farms, grocery stores and nonprofits and the people who participated in mutual aid networks who together reduced the number of people who would have faced hunger without their existence?
How do we celebrate the unique role government played in saving us from something even more catastrophic? Through stimulus checks, increasing food benefits, child tax credits and creative efforts to prevent widespread evictions — so much was done to prevent a catastrophe.
Can we shift into conversations about how to honor this tragedy instead of pretending it didn’t happen? One way is by living up to the potential we have shown and renewing our commitment to end poverty and homelessness.
Jill Mullins is an intersectional feminist, attorney, activist and much more. She has written for NW Lawyer, King County Bar News and LGBTQ+ outlets.
Read more of the July 21-27, 2021 issue.