Yesterday a video clip of protestors in Michigan crossed my Facebook page and I could hardly fathom what I saw. A woman was sharing her frustration with a reporter about the horror of her gray roots showing and the inability to take care of them with a hair appointment. A man was venting his angst that the government is keeping him from getting his lawn fertilizer. I wish I could feel compassion for these people because I know that life is hard for all of us right now. Instead I feel nothing but a desire to put their sorry little asses in a Covid 19 hospital room and tell them to wake the hell up to reality. How can it be that with almost 30,000 recorded deaths and no end in sight to this pandemic that anyone can possibly imagine that these things matter?
Later in the day I turned on CNN to get an update on things. A strong male voice, relaxed and calm but incredibly serious, was addressing his state and the American people. Governor Cuomo of New York was giving a briefing. As I listened, I was surprised at the way his words and tone of voice combined to bring much needed calm and perspective to my troubled mind. Nothing he said changed the fact that this is a horrible situation he and we, as a nation, find ourselves in. He didn’t waste time or energy assigning blame anywhere. Instead, he made the facts crystal clear. He acknowledged that the suffering all around him is horrific. He acknowledged the human losses were increasingly unimaginable and so painful for people. He didn’t brag about being the one able to get this bull by the horns and behind us. Instead he just made it very clear that there is no alternative but to do what it takes to get the bull taken down by the horns and put in a pen behind us. He gave no false assurances of any kind. I have determined he will be the voice in my head when I am thinking about this.
Today arrived and I was made aware that my home state of Nebraska, like here in Texas, is righteously committed to the avoidance of a statewide mandate to shelter in place. The Nebraska governor says that it is not appropriate for the strong arm of government to require its citizens to comply. It is up to individuals doing the right thing and taking responsibility. So far, so good it seemed until this week when a packing plant in Grand Island, Nebraska, was forced to close because of an outbreak.
As I heard the news, I was also told that the reason this outbreak occurred is because the Hispanic subculture within the state, also the primary workers at most packing plant facilities, ignored the suggestions from the governor, exercised their individual rights to gather as they saw fit and continued to celebrate their rich tradition of hosting Quinceañera celebrations. In an instant, the blame for this fell smack dab on the minorities. I’m still trying to process the ease with which the plant and/or the government were bypassed in taking responsibility for the situation. The reality of worker proximity to one another and plant’s responsibility to do due diligence in educating its workforce wasn’t even considered in the discussion I was having.
Packing plants are horrible places to work in. They are smelly, wet and cold. The work is ugly and physically demanding. It is amazing ANY human being would WANT to work in one. These plants rely on Hispanic and foreign workers because we white people are doing other more interesting work. The hard cold fact is that without these plants in production, there will be no meat for your BBQ, no chicken for your soup, and no turkey for your Thanksgiving dinner. Because of this virus we will, as a society, finally be forced to understand just how valuable these hardworking packing plant workers actually are. More importantly, we just might begin to realize exactly where our food actually comes from.