We treat our protectors like dirt.
This is nothing new, of course. We’ve been doing it for decades with our military. Politicians will bleat about their support for our volunteers in uniform, but they reserve their real love, and budget dollars, for defense contractors. When it comes to the people who write us a blank check that’s payable with their lives, not so much. Whether it’s health care or survivor benefits or job training and placement, “we support our troops” in word more than deed every day.
It should be no surprise, then, that we’re unmoved by a similar blank check from millions of front-line workers who are risking everything to protect us from the current pandemic. That includes the people who always put our welfare ahead of their own: nurses, ER teams, hospital staffs, first responders and our military. Added to the list this time are the grocery clerks, delivery drivers, warehouse workers, and others who form the barrier between infection and the rest of us.
Doctors and nurses who cannot obtain face masks continue to treat Covid 19 patients, putting their own lives at risk. Firefighters and paramedics still run toward the danger, ill-equipped for the added threat of infection. The people who are always on the front line are here, still, taking the risks and waiting for us to make good on our promise of support.
Help is coming, finally, largely in the form of American ingenuity. Local volunteers are finding and collecting face masks and making new ones. Businesses are re-purposing equipment and facilities to deliver gear to keep our protectors safe. With only a minimal impact from the federal level, so far, individuals and businesses are coming to the rescue.
This is, truly, our Dunkirk.
And what about our other protectors? Who takes care of the driver who drops off groceries to the woman who is quarantined for a reason? Who looks out for the warehouse worker who cannot practice “social distancing” while scrambling to deliver our manicure kits and yoga mats? How do we support the grocery cashier who faces 100-200 people each day from an unsafe distance?
Like our military, like our nurses, like our firefighters, all of these workers are writing us a blank check. They are taking on the added risk, including the risk of their own illness or death, in order to keep the rest of us safe at home.
Following our longstanding tradition, we are treating them like dirt. Many of these clerks and delivery people are gig workers or part-time employees. They have no health care, no sick days, and no resources to fall back on if their blank check gets cashed. Yes, the federal bailout package will provide some support for many of these people if they lose their jobs or contract Covid 19, but they are still working without a net until help arrives. They continue to be more at-risk and less compensated than many of us, especially delivery drivers who work mostly for tips.
I suspect that most of us would bypass the opportunity to come in contact with hundreds of possibly infected people each day, five or six days per week, even if we had some protective gear available. Even more of us would take a pass if we were asked to take that risk without protective gear, and still more would reject the deal if we were asked to do the work for tips. Incredibly, millions of our fellow citizens are accepting that deal, writing the blank check, and creating a protective shield between us and the pandemic.
At the least, we can tip them heavily. Beyond that, we can put pressure on their employers, and on our institutions, to be more aggressive in providing supplies. Most of all, we can recognize and truly reward the underpaid individuals who have volunteered to take our place on the front lines.
Who knows? If we learn how to treat our protectors like the heroes they are, maybe we can finally figure out how to do right by our veterans.
Most weeks, we reserve this space for a suggestion that you subscribe to Dad Writes. This week, we're asking that you find a local fundraising site and make a donation to help our fellow citizens who are taking the risks and paying the price on our behalf. Federal support isn't coming for a while and they need our help yesterday. Thanks much.
Who writes this stuff?
Dadwrites oozes from the warped mind of Michael Rosenbaum, an award-winning author who spends most of his time these days as a start-up business mentor, book coach, photographer and, mostly, a grandfather. All views are his alone, largely due to the fact that he can’t find anyone who agrees with him.