In the 17 years that I have lived here, I had never received so many messages from friends back in Europe asking me if something in the news was true. Not when foie gras was banned in Chicago. Not when our current president became candidate. Nor when Enrique Iglesias made it to Billboard number 1.
But yesterday, when the inflammatory and irresponsible declarations by Dan Patrick, Lieutenant Governor of Texas, made it to Covid-19 ravaged Spain, I received a flurry of messages asking me whether it was a meme, a hoax, a lie.
I had to research it.
Because even for our current moral standards in politics (hint: low), what he said was quite unbelievable. Here are his exact words:
“And you know, Tucker, no one reached out to me and said as a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that all America loves for your children and grandchildren? And if that’s the exchange, I’m all in.”
I can only find one word to describe his position: deleznable. I don’t have a perfect translation in English, although despicable and atrocious come close. Maybe I am a bit over sensitive because my hormones haven’t gone back to normal after giving birth. Maybe this hits too close to home, since my home country is being hit hard by Covid-19. Maybe I am just a normal person, who knows.
But I have the feeling that no one has reached to him because good people are not willing to sacrifice their elders for the economy. I surely wouldn’t, and I rather choose for myself or my kids to have a harder time than thinking for one minute that my parents, both in their eighties, are disposable, that they are unnecessary, that in a way they don’t matter as much. They are not productive anymore, is that it, Lt. Governor Patrick? And we all know that, in the “most successful country in the world by far”, as our beloved president described it yesterday, what matters most, always, is productivity, aka, money.
I try hard to stay away from politics, I promise, as this is a family blog. But this political piece of news affects family at its core, as the foundation of any family are our ancestors, our elders. And while I read this moron’s words, I wonder: Was the fact that in Asia the elders are highly valued a factor in how quickly they were able to curb this pandemic that is ravaging Spain and Italy, and quickly catching up with the US? Sociologist may study this in years to come, but as of now, we all can look into our own families.
In Spain, grandparents are an important part of the family structure, not only emotionally, but also practically: about a million of them take care of their grandchildren on a daily basis while the generation in between them goes to work. Here, in the US, I see plenty of older couples enjoying a full life until they are 80, 90… To even suggest that these lives are expendable is outrageous. If we come to that, I would rather give a ventilator to a responsible 90 year old who has done everything possible to stay and keep others safe during this crisis, than to an idiotic Spring Breaker who decided to go on vacation in the middle of a pandemic thinking that their age would spare them of getting sick, youth be damned, or to a politician who thinks that some of his constituents are not worth saving.
On the personal, anecdotal level, I know that there are not many things more important for me than hoping that, at the other end of this, my parents will be able to meet in person and hold in their arms the grandson they have only seen over video conference. That they will be able to play, tinker, laugh, argue and hug with all of my children. That they will be able to keep enjoying each other for the precious weeks that they spend together every year. That my two month old baby will know the touch of wrinkled hands, the look of wrinkled eyes, the sound of a wrinkled voice. That my mom will get to bathe him and take him for walks, and that my dad will be able to show him how to use a drill and sneak to him foods forbidden by his age, that first piece of bread, turrón, or whipped cream, that I will pretend I don’t know he gave him, like he did with his other grandchildren.
That is all I have to focus on, a hammock in a little garden in the middle of nowhere, with my people, all my people around. What Lieutenant Governor Patrick is suggesting is that my dream, which is the dream of so many in Europe, and will be the dream of so many here in a couple of weeks if we don’t reverse course, doesn’t matter, is not valuable enough. I don’t know how he raised his children and grandchildren, but I know that my parents raised me well enough for me to know that their value is immense, and worth every minute of confinement that I have to spend in a tiny house with four active boys.
I am not willing to even entertain the idea that my parents could die so my kids or myself have an easier financial time. So, Mr Patrick, you can keep your money. I will keep my parents. I want to think that most people agree with me, and not with Patrick. At least I am lucky to live in a state where our governor does, and has reassuringly said:
Finally, there has been some talk over the last 24 hours by some about who this nation might be willing to sacrifice to COVID-19, for the sake of our economic interests. Well, in case there’s any doubt in your minds. I’m not willing to sacrifice anyone. There is no life in this state that is more or less precious than any other. No person more or less worthy of saving. I want grandparents around to help raise their grandchildren. I want people to spend years after this is over, celebrating birthdays and wedding anniversaries and healthy retirements. I want Illinois to continue to be enriched by its young and old residents alike. Our economic strength comes from our diversity in this state, and the hard won experiences of our citizens. Without that we are nothing. With it, there is nothing that we cannot overcome.
Before this crisis hit, there were plenty of reports that people were leaving Illinois for other states with lower taxes, less violence and corruption, better weather and more comprehensive services. At least a few of those who left went to Texas. If I were them, I would think about returning as quickly as possible, since at least in Illinois, with all its faults and sins, we have a governor who cares for his citizens. For every single one of them.
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