The tension between opening up and mitigating the virus is worldwide. From large German street protests against wearing masks (and other restrictions) to South African restaurateurs arguing that shutting restaurants kills more people than the virus, it is an organic, confusing debate.
The debate reached the streets immediately outside where I live this morning. We had trouble walking the dog because so many cars were parked end-to-end with at least 30 people converging in a small garage for what in America we call a “garage sale.”
Both my wife and myself, wearing masks, confronted the participants to little avail. Slightly more than half were wearing masks. Within the garage there was no social distancing. The event clearly was a virus spreader.
In America’s pitiful response to mitigation rules and regulations are now left to the individual states. My state of Illinois is technically in a Phase IV of a 5-step reopening, although community leaders like the Mayor of Chicago are able to mandate further restrictions. Phase IV allows gatherings of up to 50 people, but social distancing and wearing masks is mandated.
In the event adjacent my home, neither social distancing nor universal mask wearing happened.
Moreover, like many states in America, the reopening plans are going sour. Illinois’ case load is accelerating rapidly. The mayor of Chicago has begun to close down the city. Last weekend the state of Illinois warned my very rural county that its case load, too, was accelerating beyond the guidelines for reopening.
But beyond the technicalities complex decisions for opening schools or having weddings or going to church are far less problematic than a “garage sale.” Garage sales are where a residence or group of residences displays “in their garage” no longer used home items available for purchase.
These do not include medicines, masks, school books, or any other necessities of every day life. That is not to say there aren’t some individuals who might make a living out of buying and reselling, but a garage sale is about as far from being considered “essential” as a Hostess Twinkie is to a balanced meal.
We called the police who thanked us for the report, which was gratifying, but who then did nothing.
It’s painful and aggravating when situations like this pit citizen against citizen. But I am constantly filled with my memories and understandings of the much less privileged of the world, like in Africa, where debates over working or dying, making a living or jeopardizing someone else’s, happen in the course of every normal day.
The virus infects that ordinary dilemma with a starkness we had never expected. But it should in many ways make it easier for our everyday decisions.
Such as to follow science and the advice of leaders.
But when the leaders are evil, nincompoops or psychopaths, we are less likely to follow them. It becomes argumentative to decide to send your kid to school but then to tell your neighbor to shut down their garage sale.
We normally look to wise old leaders, mzee as the Swahili call them, to tell us what do.
When there are none left standing, what then?