I guess it’s time to start.
To be honest this is one of the many times I have started this sentence. Over the course of the past few years I have tried my best to figure out the best way to go about this series, about this thing that I have had in the back of my mind for almost six years now. I have gone through a lot of self reflection, a lot of shame. It’s taken me awhile to understand who I am as a person, what my beliefs are, and what that means about my worth. I’ve struggled immensely with self confliction, and yet at the end of every one of my lowest points I found myself here, at the start of this paragraph. Even as I speak now I am aware that this may just end up being another one of my many false starts.
And as I type I am aware of my privilege and the absurdity behind my tears. In the words of a much younger and much wiser individual, Greta Thunburg (sp) “I am one of the lucky ones…” I’ve faced far less hardships than many people in this world see in a single day. I’ve often battled myself wondering why I feel the need to speak on these events, why I feel my voice could provide value to these conversations…and in a sense, it can’t.
My voice is not the voice that we in this world should be listening to, however, with my privilege comes the tools needed to have my voice be heard. I have reached the point where I believe to not use these tools is a choice far more shameful than the ignorance that I am going to have to admit to during the length of this post.
And yet, like each of us, I have experienced hardships unique to my own being. Hardships that pale in comparison to the voices many of us have grown used to subconsciously silencing in our day-to-day lives. It has taken me quite some time to no longer treat these past hardships as an “excuse” to what has become willful ignorance. While these specific events offered distractions from being socially conscious in the past, they no longer do so today, which is why I feel it necessary to add my voice to the conversation.
My childhood took place during what I am sure historians in the future will consider a unique point in American history. When I look back at my childhood education, one of my earliest memories is that of a darkly lit classroom held in silence. My teacher weeping in the corner. One by one, classmates of mine called over the intercom and escorted from the classroom.
In an attempt to distract our eyes from her tears, the teacher had put on a copy of “Fern Gully: The Last Rainforest.” A film which offered an early warning to what would eventually be a top concern for my classmates and I as we grew into adults.
Just as the rainforest began to become torn apart by the fictional villain “Hexxus” and his forest-shredding machine, I hear it’s my voice which has now been muffled over the classroom intercom.
I make my way nervously to the front office with my teacher aide standing behind me, as she explains behind a faux sense of excitement that my mother and father had arrived to take me home early. As she passes me off to my mother I feel reassured, until I am once again unsettled.
As we walk in the front door of my home, I see my first glimpse of the burning towers.
I watch it happen. Live. at 8 years old. Suddenly in just a few moments my world has gone from the precautionary animated tales of 20th Century Fox’s “Fern Gully” to witnessing one of the deadliest terrorist attacks on American soil in U.S. history.
Many of my closest friends have similar stories when it comes to that day in 2001. Soon thereafter existing in a world in which being at war creeped its way into becoming the societal norm. Since that day our country has been in a state of evolution, our policies and core values clashing head on with our citizens health and their individual belief systems. Pushing further and further until we can no longer bear to fight over what we feel has failed us as human beings. Throwing blame on one another, and the conflictions of value and respect we were raised upon.
I know from firsthand experience that many in my generation are ignorant when it comes to our current state as a nation. Politics wasn’t the highlight of my public education. I myself am just now taking the initiative to learn more about what is going on in our country today, and like many my age I’ve experienced a growing political discourse among our country and its citizens.
I’ve sat at the table and asked the questions those in my generation all have been shamed for asking. Years upon years of being told “we just didn’t know what we were ****ing talking about.” Being told that to question our government was unpatriotic. Scolded for our fragility while thrown through the constant verbal assault that comes from being seen as though we were small minded, spoiled snowflakes who were causing all of the applebees to close with our avocado toast and iphones.
I grew up on these conversations, and I quickly found myself becoming the person who “Just did not like getting into politics.” In the country our nation had become after 9/11, it was easy to become one of the many who would find comfort in claiming ignorance and cowering from the conversations about bigger issues. For many, we knew in the back of our brains these conversations could have turned violent in an instant, not from paranoia, or ignorance, but from firsthand experience.
I now no longer choose to cower.
It was on my 27th birthday where I felt the burning desire to look Rick Scott in the eyes and ask how in the world our state was planning on handling our risk of a skyrocketing number of Coronavirus cases in the oncoming weeks. Instead, I settled on a reporter from WTSP, a CBS-affiliated television station licensed to St. Petersburg, Florida, United States and also serving Tampa.
After tweeting out a call to send her questions to ask the senator herself, I saw my chance. I quickly decided that this year for my birthday, instead of nothing, I would do something, and so I began to fire away.
My questions were focused on our upcoming plans to handle an inflow of tourism, from industries such as cruise lines, airlines, and vehicle traffic from people all over the country and our world. I questioned our plans to handle cruise passengers, who the state had not advised on whether or not they would be allowed to continue to operate. I knew firsthand the dangers a virus could impose on a vessel such as a cruise ship, and so too should our government.
My question, at the time and to anyone who had been paying attention to Coronavirus news since the beginning of January would know, was simple:
“Can Senator. Rick Scott explain why our Cruise Terminals will remain open when the CDC has multiple sources stating cruise lines are very dangerous and beneficial towards the spread of the virus?”
Of course, just like any issue in Florida, the answer was not so simple:
When I received this answer, I was baffled. It was as if all at once each and every one of my self doubts about my intelligence and how our politics worked as a nation unfolded in front of my very own eyes. Here was one of my own Senators, denying science in broad daylight and relying on the willful ignorance of his own people to risk lives.
“He believes the virus is still low and doesn’t want to cause panic when major cruise lines are doing all they can to protect their crew and passengers.” 03/08/2020.
Unfortunately for me March 8th was not the only time I would be left dumbfounded by my own state’s inability to care for its citizens. It happened multiple times throughout the month, like when Florida’s own Unemployment Assistance Program failed to help…well, anyone.
It happened again when Governor Ron Desantis was quoted on March 23rd stating that, because certain counties had no confirmed cases, there was no need for a state shutdown. Directly contradicting the administration’s own health officials, who had been clear and communicative about the states lack of testing and what it could mean for the days ahead.
Now, at the start of April, it happens again. Governor Desantis finally quoted as saying he was waiting for leadership from the current administration — a sign from the White House— to close the state. Instead of thinking for himself, he was relying on the guidance of the Administration…
Except, if he had been waiting for word from the administration, why hadn’t he followed their own guidelines? Trump made it clear he was asking states to take the lead on their decision making. Efforts advising social distancing were made clear by health professionals like the Surgeon General of the United States and Dr. Fauci, who has served as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984 .
Still, it seems as though Governor Ron Desantis was only interested in following Trump’s plan of “Waiting fifteen days to see what would happen.” and opening the government by easter, despite our health professionals advising of quite the opposite.
“I want America to understand: This week, it’s going to get bad,” Adams told NBC’s “Today” show, adding that “we really, really need everyone to stay at home.”
“As the nation’s doctor, I’m here to help America understand how we need to respond to this,” Adams said on Monday, when pressed on Trump’s weekend tweet previewing an impending “decision” on the administration’s guidelines” – Surgeon General Jerome Adams 03/23/2020.
I am reminded today that this story has only just begun. Returning to an idea I began to ask my leadership about on March 8th, nearly twenty one days ago, Florida is facing a new dilemma. After finally reaching a deal with authorities, Holland America was allowed to dock two of its ships at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Thursday. Another example of how a failure to react has lead to dire consequences, not only for passengers on board but for those tasked with transporting and relocating these passengers in our state.
From my own home, I have chosen to react. I have been volunteering with my house district Representative Anna Eskamani, who has now made it a full-time job to keep her constituents updated on the resources available to them throughout the state, providing a constantly updated website in both English and Spanish as she takes on the states lack of urgency during the current crisis.
I have had to have the difficult conversations, too, expressing an eagerness to otherwise right-leaning friends and family members to take this seriously. Pushing them to question their authority in the workplace, to take every precaution necessary, and to social distance. Sharing trustworthy resources with them and hoping they will start to believe the science. Urging them to ask their own counties what is being done locally to stop the spread.
I am refusing to allow myself to be fearful of sounding ignorant any longer, as I believe, in all honesty, we all are. In this current situation, it’s time to put party aside. We all have something to learn from this. If we can put party aside, and start demanding accountability from those tasked and paid to lead, we can get things done.
Although I have silenced myself in the past, for fear of sounding ignorant, if there is anything these past few months have taught me…it’s that I am not alone.
I think it’s about time we all admit it,
…or at least, we clearly have much room for improvement.
So for other states,or counties, whose leadership may be telling them they have no confirmed cases or they shouldn’t yet be shut down, I offer them a word of advice… from a place of experience like Florida…
Follow the advice of health professionals, and let them do their jobs.
Here, we are already beginning far too late.
DemCast is an advocacy-based 501(c)4 nonprofit. We have made the decision to build a media site free of outside influence. There are no ads. We do not get paid for clicks. If you appreciate our content, please consider a small monthly donation.