If you’re an Alabama worker, particularly one that interacts with the general public on a daily basis, how do you value yourself? Are you expendable? Just a replaceable cog in the wheel that’s keeping the state economy rolling along? Does your health and well-being matter? Is your very existence important?
I ask these things sincerely, and because I genuinely don’t know what your answers will be. I mean, I suspect that you think your lives are meaningful, or at the very least worth consideration.
But then, when it truly counts, you so often devalue your lives that I’m just not sure what to think.
Let me give you an example. Last month, you had an opportunity to vote for representative leadership at a variety of national, state and local levels. And overwhelmingly, most of you chose to vote for Republican candidates. Most of you working-class people voted for Republicans.
And, see, that confuses the hell out of me, and Wednesday provided a perfect example of why. Because on Wednesday, Gov. Kay Ivey stood before cameras and the media and re-issued her “safer-at-home” order, which didn’t do anything different than what the previous order did — “require” that people wear masks.
(There actually is no requirement, because there is no penalty and no one ensuring that the mandate is enforced. Basically, Ivey formally requested that you wear one in much the same way she might formally invite you to dinner.)
Ivey failed to impose any additional mitigation efforts, despite case numbers, hospitalizations and deaths all soaring to never-before-seen levels. I don’t know what else doctors and nurses can say to impress upon Ivey and other leaders that the situation is catastrophic and getting worse. They’ve already tried saying that they’re exhausted, running out of room and moving rapidly towards situations in which they have to start picking who gets treatment because they just can’t treat them all.
Even the White House’s COVID Task Force, in its recommendations to Alabama, strongly suggested the state implement some form of restrictions to slow the rapid spread of the coronavirus in the state.
Nah, said Ivey.
“We’ve learned to live with the virus,” she actually said out loud and as the governor of a state with nearly 4,000 COVID deaths in less than a year.
At the same time that we’re doing nothing to slow the spread, at the national level, Republicans have blocked efforts to extend another stimulus package to the American people. In a matter of weeks, expanded unemployment benefits and other protections will cease, and there has been no additional money sent directly to people.
(Honestly, you’d have to be a fool not to include direct payments to regular Americans in any stimulus bill. Because those payments are essentially indirect payments to thousands of small businesses all over America, and they ensure that a post-vaccine recovery can occur in full and without another crash.)
At the same time, those same Republicans are fighting tooth and nail to take away the rights of American workers to sue grossly irresponsible businesses that create unsafe work environments.
So, to recap, here’s the reality if you’re, say, a store clerk in Alabama: You’re forced to work, because there is no alternative source of income or stimulus payments, and the moratorium on evictions and foreclosures is expiring soon. The state of Alabama is imposing zero restrictions on capacity, meaning that customers can pack into your store, and they likely will during the busiest shopping period of the year. The store isn’t actually forced to require masks, so the anti-mask yahoos can flow in and out freely, and continuously put you and your family at risk. And there’s not even the threat of a lawsuit to force business owners to ensure a safe work environment.
And I should also point out that much of the anti-mask BS floating around out there can be directly tied to Republicans, including the president, downplaying the seriousness of the virus for months and also pushing dangerous conspiracy theories to score cheap political points.
It’s infuriating to me. To the point that I’d very much like to scream at people. But all of this — and I do mean all of it — was well-known and well-established long before the first vote was cast in the 2020 election cycle. And still, you, the Alabama worker, voted for it.
So, I ask you: What would it take for you to care about you?