Following five months of lock down due to the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, we have come to the end of silence. That initial peace, the joyful upside to our early stay-at-home directives, has been shattered by the sounds of returning activity, as well as increased frustration and tension.
When first sheltering in place, the streets were eerily quiet, with barely a car in sight. Many streets closed in San Francisco to facilitate social distancing for walkers, skateboarders, and bicyclists. All but the most essential public transit was shut down as people sheltered at home. A young neighbor passed the time by posting sidewalk jokes to pass the time.
The silence was broken only by the song birds, cheerfully greeting the morning sunrise. The trees and shrubs and groundcover came into flower early and, without the cars, bumblebees and honeybees made their way back into gardens in greater abundance. One recent morning, a young red-tailed hawk rested on the utility pole outside our back window, searching for prey. Neighbors from blocks away, walking on their own, in pairs, and with their dogs, have become friends, exchanging friendly nods and greetings.
But the end of silence came all too quickly. First, it was the delivery trucks. FedEx, Amazon Prime, UPS, and other private delivery services began to arrive with greater frequency, engines running, lights flashing, horns beeping as they backed down our narrow, one-block street. Gardening services resumed activity, pruning and trimming overgrown yards with noisy leaf blowers and other power equipment. Next came commercial tree trimming, home remodeling and construction, and the addition of big trucks. The number of cars, trucks, and unmuffled motorcycles on the road grows each day as more people venture out. Despite continued retail closures and working from home, traffic in the Bay Area is now 75% of what it was pre-pandemic.
For many, the months of solitude have led to even greater frustration with the current state of affairs. Racial injustice, high unemployment, and extreme economic disparity are a few of the causes that have led to protests in the streets of major cities across the country. Countless lives have been lost to a pandemic that grew out of control, due to inept leadership at the highest level and the failure to heed the warnings of medical professionals and scientists. And as people have taken to the streets, unrest is further fueled by provocateurs and the unwelcome and uninvited interference by paramilitary-style federal agents in unmarked cars.
The level of misogyny in today’s government has reached new lows. Last week Congressman Ted Yoho of Florida, following a dispute with New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (known as AOC), called her “disgusting.” As if that were not enough, he then was overheard by press referring to her with a vulgar epithet. Honorable people can agree to disagree, but crude name-calling is never appropriate. Congressman Yoho’s non-apology was clearly a false equivalency: “I cannot apologize for my passion, or for loving my God, my family, and my country.”
In response, AOC made a strong and long overdue defense of women before Congress. “Having daughters is not what makes someone a decent man,” she said. “Treating people with dignity and respect is what makes a decent man. And when a decent man messes up, as we all are bound to do, he does apologize. Not to save face. Not to win a vote. He apologizes, genuinely, to repair and acknowledge the harm done, so that we can all move on.”
Between now and Election Day, will we see more violence and name-calling? Will we see more false equivalencies? I certainly hope not. Let us return to our better selves, to the respect for others that should unite, not divide us. But let us also come to the end of silence and stand up for our beliefs. Your voice is your vote. Please vote on November 3.