My dear readers, as Simon Bolivar once wrote a letter to the world and addressed it as a "son of unhappy Caracas", likewise I write to you as a daughter of the "unhappy United States." Overnight, my homeland was transformed to a land where half of the country was denying the suffering of the other half of a country. A land where people insisted a virus was only the problem of certain people, and when it was not their demographic who was touched they did not care. A land where people wrote off a pandemic as a hoax. Alas we went from a land of plenty to a land where I was standing in line with rationed food and waiting for hours. We printed off more dollars, but what does it mean if the people can't even buy toilet paper? And finally, a land where I myself eventually found myself in exile one can say.
The most tragic part of it all was that if we acted with a centralized government and strict shutdowns as others nations do, millions of lives would have been spared. If we heeded the calls from abroad, you would not be reading this troubling article.
With indignation I watched as the word I hold most dear "liberty" was used as "license", and when my dear patria turned state against state in petty ambition. This pettiness in the end led my patria to the tragic state she is in today. Liberty and rights are forever what I stand for, and these principles I shall uphold my whole life. But before I get to the politics, first I shall tell you my story.
One of the most chilling details I remember, was the rapid pace in which the virus devoured my nation. I was on a train going back for spring break from my graduate studies. A rather mundane trip I filled with pleasant foreign language podcasts. During spring break, the virus officially escalated and I sheltered in place with only a couple textbooks and a book on Simon Bolivar. My dear reader, I wish I could tell you that this was all being dramatic. I built an entire life in DC where I attended grad school. I read at the Library of Congress daily and always feared that day would someday end. Never did I expect to be taken of it so soon- without a chance to say goodbye. However, my predicament is shallow compared to the real and raw suffering millions in my country have faced. I saw the painful pleas on facebook from friends who had sick loved ones. A few of my very own friends fell sick with the disease. People tearfully saying goodbye to family members virtually- or not at all, being deprived of even the comfort of a funeral for those they held dear. How I longed to reach out and hug my friends who lost those they loved but I could not do more than a WhatsApp call. They would share memories of their loved ones, but it was not the same. I cannot even pretend to describe what these friends and acquaintances must have felt.
I went to the store for supplies, and saw empty shelves. One of the most chilling details was the bread. Many Americans are used to aisles of cheeses from France and Italy at our fingertips, and breads in every type imaginable. As much as I'd hate to be stereotypical, like many Americans my favorite section of the grocery store is the part filled with French cheese. The cheese was there, in limited qualities. The bread only came in one brand, and one flavor. I heard stories about this happening in countries around the world, and never did I imagine it would hit my homeland. The food itself tasted different as ingredients became scare. Those in minority and impoverished communities were impacted even stronger, I shall leave those stories for them to tell. I had to pull back my hair and wipe down every item individually.
One of the things that plagues my mind the most is- my country could have overcome this. In some states we acted immediately and shut everything down. However in others, they did not see the raw effects we saw. Because these stories were not conveyed, they became discontent. They protested that it was all fake, and could barely believe pictures that I and others were posting of the long lines to get food, and the rationed food. It seemed too foreign, too surreal.. My dear reader, you know by now I'm no fan of the president so alas I must complain about him again! A president should be a role model for a nation, when one part of the nation suffers we all suffer with that part. However, he refused to wear a mask and encouraged states not as badly effected to keep protesting for their rights.
While I have listened to the concerns of those claiming this is a violation of their rights- I must push back on this. The right of one man ends where the rights of another begin. You do not have a right to transmit this virus to another person. The right to life is the most fundamental of our rights, and should forever be protected and upheld come what may. In indignation I wept as we were accused of being "against liberty." There is nothing I hold more dear than liberty and our rights, these are principles I dedicated my life to. However, if I was to run down the street with no pants- is this liberty? If I was infected with tuberculosis- would it be liberty of me to still do what I please? Alas, I realize these arguments calling for "liberty" are well-intended, but miss that liberty does not mean license.
This I promise to you my dear reader. I promise before the world, that I shall always speak for this right.
A virus is like the wind, it moves and moves and does not know any borders. A virus is sneaky and will travel on others without them knowing they are carrying it. Like a hurricane coming up a coast, we knew it was coming but we refused to heed the calls. A hurricane keeps destroying and destroying. A hurricane does not notice if it is destroying Florida or Cuba, it just keeps taking. This virus does not stop at the border of New York or New Jersey. If we do not stand together to defeat this virus, we will all be impacted by it. If we do not heed the calls and warnings of those countries that were impacted and claim that it is "their problem, not ours" in the end, we are the ones that would be fooled. Furthermore, when people from heavily impacted areas are faced with food shortages or in the case of New York City (I've been told) absolute devastation they will travel to less impacted areas for the basic need of food.
We needed a strong centralized leadership to defeat this virus, but when we needed a strong leader we were met with fragmentation and different parts of the country being pitted against each other. Instead of people rallying in support of the Eastern states and all having a shut down with the government paying for us to live, we made this into a contest. We pitted state against state, ideology against ideology and life against life. We ran into license and said we embraced liberty. In the end, this pandemic revealed that my country was much more deeply divided than any of us knew. It revealed the deep seated racial prejudices some people still hold (material for another article), it revealed the deep seated prejudice people have for people from other states as well.
If we stood together when the time needed us to, if we truly united in the name of protecting human life I would not be writing this article today. For in retrospect it is always easier to reflect on the mistakes a nation made, but alas we all knew this was coming but refused to hear the calls of the suffering. My dear patria, factionalism between states has haunted you since the beginning. United we stand, and divided we fall. I realize how simple that phrase sounds, but words are nothing without actions. Heed the calls of the suffering, and we shall move into the future to create a world where human life is protected.