My girlfriend’s Bolivian ID number ends in the digits that will let her leave her mother’s La Paz apartment on Wednesdays, only. Everyone got a number and with it a weekday. No weekend excursions, no closing the bars. She learned of the broadened movement restrictions tonight via newscast and texted me three frowny faces. “I wanna go out,” she wrote. “I wanna see my friends. … I hate this virus.”
She had come late to the horror. She’s a backpacker and had been hopping Colombia beaches, in a scant patchwork of wifi, when the pandemic became real for most of the world. When the state started shutting things down. When, bucking the idea of perpetual economic growth, Western governments started restricting work and movement and entertainment, all the essentials to the liberal story. No more progress. We’re stopping here.
My girlfriend got to some news in Santa Marta a few days after nations started closing off. She made a move for Bucaramanga, where she stayed with a friend and calculated her next move. She booked next-day airfare, barely squeezing in, home, before Bolivia sealed its borders with the rest of the world. She was quickly in quarantine with her sisters and parents.
Contrast this with the United States, whose president says we should fully reopen the economic throttle by Easter, less than four weeks from now. Shut up all the olds and the sicks and kick things back into gear.
My company started a policy letting people stay voluntarily home with pay but adding a significant income boost to come to work. I was invited to work Wednesday. Then Wednesday-Thursday-Friday. Then W-T-F and most of next week. So would everyone else in our small satellite office and warehousing facility in Garland. We’ve got pressure to put out the electrical devices we program, I get it.
I cut out several hours early this afternoon because I felt uncomfortable. It was my choice, but the guys might think I’m blowing this out of proportion. Whether my company means it this way, I feel obliged to work, and that’s where capitalism wants me.
My boss has health problems that would put him in a bad way if I gave him the virus, which I think I don’t have. He’s limiting his contact with the facility.
My girlfriend is sad, and I wish I could do something about it further than promising we can be together “when the virus is over.”
But the response we’re getting from our government is not strong enough. I wish the American systems would do something bigger against the virus. I wish I could stay home and that the economy, such as it is, didn’t demand a health sacrifice. I wish we could share our prosperity and burdens. I wish we could stop understanding our relationship to the world as a power dynamic, delving so deeply that we extract not only its fruits but its punishments. Then maybe the virus would be over sooner.