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    Life in the Time of Coronavirus: What Matters Now

    By Andrea Shorter–

    Where does one begin? What is there to say that has not been said already amongst us ten, twenty times a day?

    As I shelter-in place—washing my hands more frequently, in between calls, skypes, texts with friends and family, scouring for toilet paper, checking in with local nonprofit service providers for vulnerable populations, glued to the news and updates on the spread of the contagion and the obscenely deficient response that has paralyzed nearly every aspect of our separate and common lives as we once knew only moments ago—I can only think of what matters now, and hold onto those things that matter now to maintain calm, focus, priorities, and a necessary semblance of hope and sanity.

    So, in this moment, I’ve gathered that … what matters now is knowing that while things are undeniably bound to get progressively worse for a good long while before they get better, we have the personal and collective resolve to save ourselves from greater exposure and loss of life by doing the materially inconvenient things required of us all in life in the time of coronavirus.

    What matters now is looking out for our most vulnerable elders, family, and friends with compromised immune systems, our incarcerated brothers and sisters, our low-income, our poor, and making sure to the best of our socially distanced abilities that they are taken care of, and are not alone. No one is alone. 

    What matters now is that this time government bail-outs actually get directly into the frequently washed hands of those in real need—the tens of millions already barely surviving paycheck to paycheck who are now out of work for who knows how long, to the millions of small business owners, and countless others in grave need as we sink into a global economic depression.

    What matters now is that we adapt to what painfully looks like the way of things for the foreseeable future, by taking care of each other in best, safest, and most humane ways that we can in this time of social distancing, self-quarantining, sheltering at home, and not allowing the reality of being #AloneTogether to turn into depressive isolation that can be as mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually harmful to some as being exposed to a virus.

    What matters now is that we not confuse adapting with accepting the disappointing and wildly unacceptable lack of response by a wildly ill-prepared to govern and to lead impeached president and his hollowed-out administration. Know that you are not alone in not accepting what is wholly unacceptable.

    What matters now is staying informed and up to date on the news of and about the pandemic as well as efforts to contain it, while not being overwhelmed into despair by the truly overwhelming totality and inherent despair of it all.

    What matters now is getting the nurses, doctors, and other responders the supplies the supplies they need NOW to protect themselves and to stay safe and healthy so that they can take care of those in need during this crisis. How can this be that nurses are making respiratory masks from Michael’s crafts supplies to protect themselves on the frontlines of helping the rest of us in need? How in the world does this happen?

    What matters now is toilet paper, and not hoarding it to the point of awaited store stock having to be limited to 1 6-roll package per customer when it is on the shelf for 30 minutes a week. Come on, hoarders, we all have to go. Be kind.

    What matters now is washing and sanitizing our hands more frequently than we might have just three weeks ago, and not hoarding soaps and hand sanitizers to the point of store stock—aw, you get the picture. Same as said before. Come on, hoarders, we all have to wash up. Be kind.

    What matters now is understanding that we are very much in a we-ism situation, not a me-ism situation. In a pandemic, what we do or don’t do in the singular interest of me-ism can have unintentional impact on not just the singular “me’s” but for we-ism. Make sense? This principle has always mattered—no more, no less than ever before. Just feeling and acting as it matters more so now is ok, if not the most important thing we can do, together. Hence, the heart and art of we-ism.

    What matters now is that in the practice of we-ism we resist useless, dangerous us versus them blaming, ours versus theirs, blatant or passive aggressive racism, xenophobia, and all other disease of mind and spirit that serve no purpose right now. No doubt there is ample buck stopping at the utter failure of leadership and urgent response from, well, whom? An impeached president who continues to prove without fail day in and day out, hour by hour, minute by minute, tweet by tweet, lie by lie, disregard by disregard for the welfare of others, gross by grosser demonstration of a mutant lack of empathy for others, resentment by resentment against declared enemies of his sense of self-importance above all else?

    What matters now is that we vote like our lives depend on electing the Democratic nominee for president, and his soon to be first female vice president, because our lives just might depend on it.

    What matters now is that we respond to the 2020 Census. Notices for participating in the Census are in the mail, with your household’s individual information for completing the Census online. Do it. Be counted.

    What matters now is truth. Not spinning, not dodging, not politicizing.

    What matters now is that we remember how a shift in societal response to epidemic forged new blueprints during the fight to address the HIV/AIDS crisis. We should be grateful and better for the lives lost, affected, and forever changed by the emerged and galvanized genius to fight HIV/AIDS. We should be the better for it.

    What matters now is managing end-of-days temptation to devour in one or two sittings multiple boxes of Girl Scout cookies recently stashed in your freezer, with a good bottle of wine.

    What matters now is to build and support community through local newspapers like the San Francisco Bay Times and other small businesses.

    What matters now is that I just received a text from my friend Zwazzi, former director of women’s programs at Glide Memorial. She texts that “a number of folks are at 7 pm tonight to pray and send healing energy against the coronavirus” and will be “holding up healing, good health, and peace.”

    What matters now is that we pray, meditate, and hold up healing and peace in the days ahead. And, of course, having a good TP, soap, and sanitizer supply also helps.

    Thank you, Zwazzi. Count me in, sister.

    Andrea Shorter is a Commissioner and the former President of the historic San Francisco Commission on the Status of Women. She is a longtime advocate for criminal and juvenile justice reform, voter rights and marriage equality. A Co-Founder of the Bayard Rustin LGBT Coalition, she was a 2009 David Bohnett LGBT Leadership Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

    Published on March 26, 2020