Guest editorial: For a lot of people, normal wasn’t working. Let’s find a better way when this is over.
We are waiting for things to get back to normal. Just waiting. We are waiting until our government tells us what to do.
A lot of us are killing time, trying to make the best of it — cleaning closets, hanging with our children, being “productive.” Making things fun — I sometimes feel there’s a competition on social media for the coolest quarantine family and neighborhood. Waiting for normal to happen.
We are doing our part. Trying to wait it out until things get back to the way they were. The irony is that some of the people working to take care of our food needs can’t afford health insurance and may not be able to afford coronavirus treatment if they are sick.
I’m not judging anyone for trying to occupy themselves or if they are working to get through this time. I’m just having a problem not questioning things. Maybe we should use this time planning and thinking. Why are we all just waiting in a holding pattern? What if things get worse? What if things really fail and there’s a food shortage? Do any of us know how to provide for ourselves? What if we get through this and it happens again? Those of us with financial means have relied on others to grow food for us, and get it to the markets and restaurants where we just buy, buy and buy. Are the government stimulus funds going to help community gardens, chicken coops and small companies that process food locally — or just going to the big corporations? Why are small businesses having to take out loans to bridge them through this — why can’t they just be given emergency funds as grants?
What is normal and why do we want to get back to it? Normal has been great for some of us — those of us with the means to live a good life in this country. Some of us have health insurance, we have homes, we have disposable income that we use to keep the restaurants and stores in business. We go on vacations and keep the resort industry in business. But now — our eyes are being opened to the reality that we are still being “taken care of” by a group of underpaid workers. The service employees that are making hourly wages and tips, many without benefits. We’ve always known that our service workers are underpaid, but of course we didn’t want to acknowledge it. Politicians and corporations have fought against higher minimum wages and affordable health care. Most of us have gone along with this and looked the other way.
Let’s use this time to think about paying people more. Grocery store workers, seasonal workers, wait staff, cooks — every person in this country should be paid a living wage with benefits. Restaurant employees should not have to count on tips to earn a living. People who work in hourly positions at private schools and daycares should not have to lose their income because the school closed. Sure, the government is trying to provide a safety net with unemployment and stimulus checks, but this is temporary and will all go away when things go back to normal. There’s some rent and mortgage relief being offered, but the money needs to be paid back when things get back to normal. If people were living paycheck to paycheck before the virus, how will they ever get out of debt after?
Maybe now is a good time to change what we consider normal in America. Our current system seems archaic. It’s capitalism gone mad, where we have an upper class and lower class, not much in between. The middle class has been struggling for a long time now and most people were not prepared for this emergency.
A new normal can be put in place. I’m not going to call it socialism. It doesn’t have to have a name — we just need to change. Let’s give all workers health insurance and a living wage. Our economy will prosper again, but it will prosper even more if all workers have affordable health care and are being paid a living wage.
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