Once upon a time, there was a poor man with many children who lived in a very small house. His wife, as can be imagined, was not happy about the lack of space, especially with everyone working and schooling from home.
So the man, who was accustomed to seeking counsel when confronted by an insoluble problem, went to his guru and asked for help getting a larger house. And the guru, who was accustomed to answering insoluble problems with impenetrable riddles, said, do you have a goat?
Of course I have a goat, said the man. And the guru said, go home and bring your goat into the house.
And the man was perplexed but he trusted his guru so he went home and brought his goat, Annabelle, into the house. To say his wife wasn’t pleased would be an understatement.
So back he went to the guru, begging for relief. His wife was unhappy, his children were unhappy — even Annabelle was unhappy! And the guru said, do you have a cow?
Of course I have a cow, said the man. And the guru said, go home and bring your cow into the house.
With the goat? With the goat.
So home he went and brought Mathilde, the cow, into the house with Annabelle, the goat — and his wife and his six children, all of whom were threatening to move in with his mother-in-law.
This was a solution that had occurred to the man more than once – they lived in a very small house, after all, and his mother-in-law had a large yard and a barn. But he knew that if his wife and children left his house, he’d never have another moment’s peace and truth be told he’d miss them.
So back he went to his guru. My wife is threatening to leave me! My children are in an uproar! The house is turning into a barnyard! And the guru said, do you have a pig? Of course I have a pig! And I am not bringing her into the house!
The guru was silent. And the man knew he had no choice but to accept the wisdom of his master who had a flawless reputation.
So home he went and brought Daisy, the pig, into the house with Annabelle, the goat and Mathilde, the cow. And his wife. And their six children.
Seeing her house filled with livestock, his wife gave him a look that could only mean one thing - that he was standing at the end of a very short plank above a lake of very hungry crocodiles.
Back he went to his guru and lay at his feet, beaten and defeated and weeping. His guru had a tight schedule and so after a few moments he asked the man what he wanted. I want to be happy! He sobbed. Oh, said the guru. Well that is easy. I thought you wanted a larger house. But if all you want is to be happy…
And he sent the man home with strict instructions. And after taking Annabelle, the goat, and Mathilde, the cow, and Daisy, the pig back into the yard as his guru had instructed, and then mopping the floor as his wife instructed, the man found that not only was he suddenly happy but that his house had somehow gotten much larger.
The moral of this little tale?
After six days of no lights, no fridge, no fans, no WiFi... After six days of holing up in my car in the library parking lot so that I could write and have access to internet... After six days of waiting in line for ice and washing dishes in cold water and playing interminable games of gin rummy by flashlight...
The lights are back on and I’m suddenly pretty happy.
And filled with gratitude for the roof over my head and the electricity flowing through the wires and the resilience and discipline of this community. All’s right with the world...
Except for one thing.
Covid is still sitting in our figurative living room.
And I may be okay. Today.
But it’s enough already.
We can’t continue to co-habit with this pest. And we can’t ignore it and just soldier on. Look what happens when we do. When we open restaurants and throw parties and open schools? The numbers skyrocket.
Haven’t we learned our lesson? We have to stop inviting these ruthless critters into our schools and homes and businesses. The cost is just too great. However painful it may be to lock down for the six-eight weeks our gurus say it will take to bring the infection rates back to a manageable level in the areas where they are rising and invest in the testing and tracking necessary to keep those rates flat, the pain of continuing to have this uninvited guest at our table is far greater.
And yes, it will cost a great deal of money to sustain our population while they shelter at home. Not as much money as we spent on tax breaks for billionaires but yes, a significant amount of money. But isn’t that what the money is for? To take care of our people?
What are we saving it for? A future that may not exist if we don’t act now?
And for those of you who want to slot this problem into one ideology or another, the critter doesn’t respect party lines - Republicans and Democrats and Independents are dying at equal rates.
So forget politics. The vast majority of people don’t care about politics and perhaps don’t understand just how much it impacts their lives. Just look at the voting rates – in many contests, the majority of the population doesn’t bother to vote. And under our rules, that’s their right. And we can certainly talk more about the responsibilities of citizenship later. For now, this is one country and the American people need help before more children get sick and more people die. No matter what it costs.
Because either way it’s going to cost. Just listen to the gurus. They’ve been saying the same thing for months. Pay now… or pay more later…