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Protest organizer Josh Schisler had said in a press release that attendees should maintain social distancing measures. Unfortunately however, the majority of protesters did not wear masks and were close together. Columbus coronavirus protests at the Ohio Statehouse, 2020-04-18. Photo: Ɱ - Creative Commons Atribución-CompartirIgual 4.0 Internacional.
Protest organizer Josh Schisler had said in a press release that attendees should maintain social distancing measures. Unfortunately however, the majority of protesters did not wear masks and were close together. Columbus coronavirus protests at the Ohio Statehouse, 2020-04-18. Photo: Ɱ - Creative Commons Atribución-CompartirIgual 4.0 Internacional.

Op-Ed
Imagine the Fear that Comes with Job Loss, 
Making Ends Meet and Feeling that Your Rights are Being Stripped

Apr 24, 2020

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Author: Courtney Mulroy is a Clinical Quality Consultant and patient advocate who resides in Santa Rosa, CA 

I've been attending and helping to organize rallies and protests since I was in my teens. I believe its one tool, in the many ways, we as citizens can influence policy makers at a local or national level. I recognize its efficacy can be debated and protest certainly wouldn’t change the world alone. If that were true, we’d be in a post-racial world after all the amazing work of the Civil Rights movement (hint: if you think we are, well…I’d love to chat). Protest does one thing for sure, it helps to shift the conversation, at least in my experience. If not on a broad scale, within your friends and family circles and many times the most effective change can be made at a local level. If your protest is lucky enough to get media attention, well they can paint you in a variety of ways, but it does spark conversation on the topi c at hand and that’s the point. Ideally you may even get movement behind the agenda as well, but sparking conversation at least helps people form an opinion on the topic as they work through the information they have, their experience and the brand of moral compass they use. And that’s what we want, we want informed citizens who care about their community and policy.

So…protesting! It’s a good old part of America isn’t it? And sometimes we agree with why our fellow citizens are causing a traffic jam on the sidewalks or streets, and other times we disagree with the reason behind the rally. If you’re truly lucky, you can see protesters and counter-protesters in the same space – what a rush. I think most of us can agree, its our right to protest when we believe something is awry. Whether it’s for a cause we believe in or not, we should all have the right to demonstrate. It says so somewhere in our official documents, right? This is the common ground I want us all to reflect on during this unique time.

We are seeing a movement of fellow citizens rise up to voice their concern about quarantine laws. Image:Wikimedia

What’s going on right now is VERY interesting to me. We are seeing a movement of fellow citizens rise up to voice their concern about quarantine laws. My background is public health, I didn’t go the epidemiology route, I chose health policy, but I still have some classes in my memory bank about infectious disease control and disaster preparedness. Additionally, I love protesting. And here I am watching these two worlds collide, this is like my Orange Bowl you guys! I am seeing a lot of criticism towards these protesters, they are being labeled as selfish, simply organizing because they want a haircut, or being dangerous to their communities.  Whether there is truth to those accusations is up to you. But we all have brains, and we know that a lot of this movement is driven by deeper reasons such as uncertainty, anger, fear, belief the government has wronged its people, etc.

And those are the SAME reasons I protest when we boil it down. I’m angry that our government doesn’t protect Black people by addressing institutional racism on a larger scale, I’m scared for people who don’t have health insurance and need birth control or surgery, I believe the government has royally messed up (understatement of the year) by putting families in cages while the private prison systems profit off of dead children and I fear that the government has overstepped its boundaries when they tell me what I can and cannot do with my body. These aren’t the same reasons the quarantine protesters are out there, (well, “my body = my choice” is the same reason at baseline) but the same feelings are behind their rallies.

Do I agree with their reasoning? As a public health professional and an individual who worries about vulnerable family members and friends, no not at all.

I may not trust the government at this time, or most times, but I have enough trust in the medical field and disease experts from around the world to agree we need some restrictions to flatten the curve. I do agree there is a limit to the restrictions, my limits are just different than theirs. As a citizen who is also afraid the government has too much control at times, yes, I get why they’re protesting. And more importantly I agree that they should have the right to do so, even if the repercussions are also there. 

Some folks have lost jobs, others cannot work from home and suddenly find themselves destitute. ImageNow, this feels like a time where a lot of us can agree on some of these baseline notions, protesting is good, universal feelings are real, American rights… ya know. However, to find common ground, we all need to stretch our imaginations like I just did above. My gut reaction is, “What the heck are ya’ll doing?? This is a threat to public health and my grandpa. And you’re coming out for the first time to rally for this, but where were you for the caging of children and for Black murder at the hands of police and Wall Street running our politicians?! The caucacity of these people, oh my!” But when I take a breath and think about it, yes, I get it. You voice those passions you uncut, doomsday preppers (I say this with love – I have a formed an apocalypse team, too, you know who you are). I get it, its scary out there for many people. Do I think this movement is not without hypocrisy? Absolutely not. BUT, my request today is to stretch your imagination to bridge the gap of common ground for those on the other side of the fence.

For those of you who have criticized the Black Lives Matter movement for example, can you see that there is some truth to the statistics of our Black neighbors (Black children), being shot unarmed? Imagine how scared you would be if police treated everyone like they treat our Black brothers and sisters? Or we were all incarcerated at the same rate as Black and Brown folks? Or how would you feel if in the 60’s, when the majority of fellow veterans got financial assistance for housing, but you didn’t because of the color of your skin? OR that you weren’t allowed to live in a certain area because the color of your skin, wouldn’t you be upset enough with the system to protest? To kneel for a flag that has harmed you and your family for generations in an attempt spark a conversation about police brutality? And if your parent died because they couldn’t afford a cancer treatment that their insurance didn’t cover it, wouldn’t you rally for healthcare for all? Maybe you don’t agree with some of these statements, but soften that face you have on, and think about the feelings that come with these situations. Very legitimate fear, anger, frustration, betrayal, loss. And maybe you don’t see it these situations the same as I do, but sometimes our place in life doesn’t allow for us to see things. Maybe because you’re white you don’t get it, but perhaps just TRY and believe that what an entire population is telling us is their very real experience (I know its possible because I am white and see it clear as day). So next time you see a rally around racism or health care, I ask that you take a breath and to humanize the people you so fervently disagree with. They are you, they are your feelings, they are your community.

Imagine the fear that comes with job loss, making ends meet to provide for your family. Image: nurseryworld.co.ukFor those of you who are mocking these COVID quarantine protesters, I ask, do you see the deeper fears they have for their families? The real threats they may be experiencing in their lives as a result of the restrictions.

Maybe you have a job still, you have a savings account, you can work remotely, you don’t feel the same threats as a result of the current environment. I ask you to do the same thing, just because you don’t personally get it, can you try and put yourself in their shoes? Imagine the fear that comes with job loss, making ends meet and the feeling that your rights are being stripped? Let’s humanize them, lets make sure we approach these thoughts with more love instead of pure outrage. They are us, they are our feelings, our community.

Maybe, just maybe, if we continue to stretch our compassion and practice this mindfulness exercise, we can start working together. Because battling each other is what they want isn’t it. We can’t improve our nation by fighting one another. We need unity right now, humanity and mostly love. So lets see those very human feelings and vulnerabilities in ourselves and lets see them in our neighbors and fellow citizens. At least it’s a step in the right direction and an ounce of control we have, when things feel very out of control. And don’t forget to wear a mask and wash those hands if you're protesting!

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Information on Easing Restrictions: 

Public health officials said the ability to test enough people and trace contacts of the infected is crucial before easing restrictions, and that infections could surge anew unless people continue to take precautions.

"Opening up now is a huge risk. Just because the curve of infections is flattened does not mean it cannot rise again since the disease has no proven therapies and there is so far no vaccine.

The Trump administration's failure to institute a national testing infrastructure makes the openings even more of a risk, since an accurate fix on the pandemic's penetration in the states is impossible. The testing deficit complicates the task of diagnosing, tracing and isolating infected patients and those exposed."

https://www.kitv.com/story/42033842/divisions-on-battling-coronavirus-deepen-as-trump-and-southern-states-push-opening 

 

 

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