A eulogy for 100,000 Americans

Politics

Imagine if, starting now, we held a moment of silence for every American who has died from COVID-19. We wouldn’t speak for the rest of the day. For the rest of the week. For the rest of the month. If each one of those deaths was honored with the full traditional 60 seconds of silence, this country would stand in hushed, somber, unrelenting remembrance for just short of 70 days.

Sometime in the next few days we will officially record this country’s 100,000th coronavirus victim. In truth, we probably passed that number awhile ago; the U.S. death counts are almost certainly too conservative. Still, that number is unthinkable. It means that in four months, more Americans have died from the novel coronavirus than died during the two decades of the Vietnam War. In less than 110 days, almost two and a half times as many Americans will have died than perished in car accidents in the whole of 2019, and over six times as many as the worst recent flu season.

But numbers, comparisons — these are just ways of trying to quantify something that cannot be measured: a life. “One hundred thousand” doesn’t tell you about the 51-year-old mother, whose children, when they were young, would race down the stairs to help her with her bags. They don’t tell you about the 59-year-old grandfather whose wife met him at a Harley-Davidson dealership and who, after his death, donated important images of his lungs to help fight the virus. They don’t tell you about the beloved 67-year-old teacher who was mourning her 42-year-old son, who had died from COVID-19 in April, when she caught the disease herself.

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By now, you might even know someone who has died; one in eight Americans do. I am still one of the lucky; none of my close loved ones have become victims of the disease. There is an implicit and terrible addendum to that statement: yet. That possibility, that word, lives in a knot in my stomach like a parasite, a heavy, angry, terrifying thing gnawing away at me even when I’m not consciously thinking about it. But for now, my mourning is general and abstract, the numb sadness of a citizen. I hurt for my suffering country.

Yet America at large has not been permitted to grieve. At the most basic level, this is to keep us safe; funerals are heartbreakingly difficult to hold when gatherings are so dangerous, and there can be no moment of silence before a baseball game if there are no baseball games to begin with. It also seems misguided to hold a memorial when we’re still in the thick of the tragedy. It would be a denial of the truth, that hundreds of people are still dying every single day.

At the same time, this leaves our grief unmoored. There is no ceremony to it, no ritual. We experience the stages of emotion at …read more

Source:: The Week – Politics

      

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