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What can we learn from this moment?

Updated: Mar 25

We are being told not to go outside. That it is unsafe to leave our houses. It’s a good time to reflect on how that feels.

I am feeling varying waves of anxiety and depression holed up in a cabin, in the beautiful woods of Vermont, down the street from my aunt and uncle, with plenty of food and water. Safe.

I saw a post today on social media (though I’m being mostly very selective about going on) that said “Remember last year when the worst thing was the Game of Thrones finale?”

It’s easy to see this viral outbreak as horribly inconvenient, or scary. Because, certainly for myself and many of those around me, our lives are not scary, and have not been scary. I grew up in a very safe town in a very safe part of New York State. I could walk around town at night with my friends without a second thought for my safety. I went to an expensive, safe college. I live in a safe part of Brooklyn and, (especially as a man!), I do not have to consider the route I take home at 1am.

Over the past few years, I have spent a lot of time with people who have been legitimately scared for their lives and safety, the luckiest few of these only for a relatively short period of time, or when they were very young and have few memories, but most of them for years, sometimes decades. Populations in which every person was “at-risk” or “vulnerable.” Everyone. Afraid every day. Every time they left their houses, or even, for some, inside their own homes. And most still have friends and relatives still in these regions that now are seeing no pathway to escaping permanently unsafe conditions. For many, the rest of their lives will be lived in danger.

I was texting with Nasradin this morning (patriarch of the Sudanese family we have been filming with, who has been in the US for 3 years, and is seeing fewer and fewer fellow Sudanese enter our country) and he said (of his family) “We all are fine. Just I wanna go to work.” He is one of the lucky ones.

And let’s not forget that there are people within the borders of our own country who are not “safe” on a regular basis, let down by a government promising freedom and opportunity.

At this current moment, myself and most of the people reading this (and I’m praying so hard for the vulnerable and at-risk) do not need to fear for our lives. Things are very disrupted, and extremely inconvenient. But we are very likely to survive and recover. So it’s on us, then, to be diligent and follow the rules, to be extra cautious right now, err on the side of over-the-top, for the healthcare workers, and the immunocompromised, and the vulnerable, and the FedEx drivers and mail-people bringing us our disinfecting wipes, for the police officers, for those flipping the switches to keep our water running and electricity flowing, for the Uber drivers transporting the sick to doctor’s offices, for those who have less than us, for those who have been unsafe before and thought they had left those feelings behind, and for those who will still be unsafe when this pandemic is no-longer front page news.

Maybe, hopefully, with some practice (we need the practice- I know I do!) we can create some momentum around compromising what we are so used to having in the interest of keeping others safe.

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