Please, Please, Please, Cancel Your Holiday Plans, Already

Unless your holiday plans are to celebrate with your immediate household, or to see a friend or two outside while taking appropriate precautions. Then you should be fine.

Since last posting about the pandemic in August, I’ve regularly felt compelled to resume the urgent writing that consumed my spring; however, whereas, then, I felt I had something to contribute to and from New York City, as we suffered mass trauma and avoidable catastrophe, of late, it has been unclear to me what I could possibly add to the conversation against the backdrop of our current national meltdown. Although NYC’s spring COVID-19 crisis did not unfold as fast as it felt like it did, from the standpoint of most people living through it, it was a lightning quick, “unforeseeable,” and “unprecedented” event. By the fall, we had all the information we could possibly have needed to avert a repeat of the spring tragedy, and yet we have lurched in slow motion into this nationwide mass-fatality train wreck. Hence my silence.

I’ve, of course, been discouraged as even excellent independent media outlets like Democracy Now! engage in knee-jerk reportage that distorts the facts, but by and large, the tragedy unfolding today is not a function of insufficient information or incomplete knowledge about SARS-CoV-2. It is, in some part, a function of mis- and dis-information about COVID-19, but that’s far beyond the modest scope of what I could hope to impact in my writing here, and in the meantime, scientific progress in understanding this disease has proceeded at a remarkable pace, including in the form of the multiple vaccines which should soon receive Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA.

All that said, after witnessing many people – including many people who should have known (and did know) better – decide to travel anyway for Thanksgiving and to attend exactly the sort of small, indoor gatherings that we all know, at this point, are responsible for a disproportionate fraction of COVID-19 transmission, I’m writing briefly to urge you: Cancel your holiday plans. Don’t travel. Don’t attend or host any indoor get-togethers.

Just chill. Take it easy. Be patient. That is, if you’re someone who enjoys that luxury. This has been a tough year – much tougher for some than for others – and while many people (e.g., those who are unsheltered, incarcerated, precariously employed, etc., etc.) lack the ability to exercise much control over their level of risk, every last person who enjoys the privilege of exercising such control should do so.

With any luck, we’ll be largely on the other side of this by the spring, and properly coming out if it by the summer of 2021. The 2020s can be the transformative decade we need it to be, and my focus has, of late, been squarely on the once-in-a-civilization convergence of planetary challenges we now face. So if you need something to get you through this hard winter, consider throwing yourself into climate activism, and if you need a little more inspiration not to put all of us at additional risk by being careless for Christmas (or Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa, or New Year’s), here’s a piece I wrote, in anger, but opted not to publish on Thanksgiving morning:

Thanks for Nothing, You Fucking Idiots

You had to travel. Every relevant public health body warned that you’d be putting yourself and others at risk if you did. But you had to travel. How could your life be complete if you missed even one Thanksgiving dinner with your family? The ritual. The comfort. The annual celebration of our country’s whitewashing of our genocidal settler-colonial history.

You were amply warned not to travel, but you went ahead and traveled anyway. You waited five hours for an unreliable rapid test because it reduced the risk, right? (Wrong. It was a waste of your time and it didn’t.) You donned your K/N-95 mask, braved the airport, tried not to breathe for the entirety of the flight. You did it all, all for this moment. Thanksgiving morning with mind-numbing hours of football and gluttony stretching ahead of you like a desert or the barren asphalt of the Interstate.

Was it worth it? Let me answer for you: It wasn’t. Your colossal selfishness has cursed the rest of us to a December, and likely January, of deepening national nightmare. Your collective act of vanity and stupidity has consigned us to additional economic free-fall, to harsher renewed lockdown measures. I write this with confidence, as, from a statistical standpoint, these outcomes are more or less guaranteed. A month ago, 1,000 people a day were dying in this country of COVID-19, and that came to feel routine; now, it is 2,000, but wasn’t it higher in the spring? By the end of December, look for it to be three or four. We always strive to be the exception, right? What a tremendous Christmas gift that will be.

You have done this to us, as to yourselves. Now live with it.

Enjoy your fucking turkey.

Postscript: If you made it to the end of this post, now reward yourself with some COVID-punning tweets.

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