To my fellow Americans — How about not?

Woman with firework
Photo by Dawid Zawiła on Unsplash

So terribly, terribly much has happened thus far in 2020. Especially if you live in America.

Remember when we were all optimistic for the start of a new decade? I don’t either. Watching America deteriorate is essentially my only pastime now. Not particularly by choice, but more like watching HGTV in a hospital waiting room. The chairs are hard plastic and a child is crying in the corner, but the tiny television in the far distance is the showing House Hunters. And I guess that’s something.

Americans are dying.

Honestly, I have no idea where to start with these last four months. You’ve read the news. I have to assume that you’ve read the news, because you somehow made it here. The short version of the story is that Americans are dying. We’re dying in our homes, dying in the streets, dying in hospital beds with none of our friends or family allowed to visit.

We’re dying everywhere now. And maybe we always were. I can’t say if we deserve some of it, or if we could have prevented all of it. Maybe this is no different than life has been in the past. Maybe the only difference is that this time we’re dying on camera.

The videos are horrifyingly quiet.

For all the outrage, for all the clicks, all the views, there is silence all through these videos. It doesn’t sound American, on the face of it. We’re a country that’s loud. It’s not enough to have public displays of fireworks on Fourth of July. No, every citizen with a backyard (and a few without) always seems to find some parking lot vendor to buy hours worth of exploding noises to ricochet around the neighborhood.

Yet the videos are horrifyingly quiet. It doesn’t matter if it’s “I can’t breathe” out on the street, or a facetime from a COVID inflicted patient alone in a hospital bed, with no visitors by their side. Even Breonna Taylor’s blank police report holds silent volumes.

We’re privileged.

I believe I’m developing a mental tinnitus. It feels like there’s a hollowness ringing through my emotional state when I check my notifications each morning. Everything’s a bait and switch, like painting “Black Lives Matter” across a road and then making no substantial policy changes. I’ve caught myself wondering “okay, what happened this time” as I start a new day. To top it all off, last night I developed a cough. I haven’t told my parents yet, but my temperature is elevated. I haven’t left my apartment in four months, but I know what’s about to happen. My partner was told to report back to work two weeks ago. Sure, things are “getting better”. Yes, it was only half time. And everyone was required to have a mask on their person. But, as it turns out, there was no regulation about needing to wear it on your face.

Americans are privileged. We’re privileged. There’s no other explanation for how we got here. We’re in this place where illnesses are considered a political belief, where people believe our societal system can only survive on the coffins of people of color.

We need a timeout.

Could we have seen this coming? Probably. Did anyone expect all our flaws to suddenly swamp us at once? I doubt it. And even if we could, I have to admit that I don’t like dwelling on what could have been done in the past. It’s never been part of my personality. But do we need to spend some time reflecting on where we go from here? Without question.

We’re like spoiled brats. A normal Fourth of July, complete with cookouts, large gatherings, and fireworks is still what most people seemed to expect for America’s birthday. Well I don’t agree.

We don’t deserve a birthday party. We don’t deserve to be rewarded for our recent (and past) behavior. We need a timeout. Like a brat that’s been throwing tantrums, we need a quiet moment of isolation. Instead of loud noises, more stimulation, we need to spend some time reflecting on quiet things.

Anyway, that’s why I didn’t celebrate Fourth of July in 2020.

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