For many, including myself, this month marks one year since the COVID-19 pandemic began affecting our lives in earnest. On March 13, 2020, my older son descended the bus steps, elated to have (what we believed at the time to be) a full two weeks off from school. I had spent that morning madly dashing between stores, filling carts with the supplies we’d need to get us through up to a month (gasp!) isolating in our home. That was also the day we pulled my then-2-year-old from daycare and my husband let his coworkers know he would be working from home for a bit so we could balance the unbalanceable feats of remaining employed while caring for multiple children unassisted.
March 2020 was filled with a sense of foreboding, and in hindsight, a naive optimism that it would all be over as quickly as it began. (I remember looking at the orchid on my windowsill, which had just put out a new flower spike, and thinking, by the time these blooms are done we’ll be back to normal. That plant has flowered three times since that initial lockdown.) A calendar year has come and gone and I can’t think of a single person in my life who has not suffered losses to the virus.
Globally, more than 2.5 million have died, with over a half million of those deaths in the United States. The numbers are truly staggering, but they fall far short of capturing the true damage of the disease, and not just because they fail to reflect the actual death toll, which is likely higher.
From every one of us, the virus stole time. While we sat in our homes, many of us abiding by guidance not to gather with family and friends, people, like me, lost time with aging parents we’ll never get back; our kids lost summer visits with cousins and games of basketball with neighbors; our coworkers lost their workplace families, and those without families at home found themselves suddenly profoundly alone in a world that felt fundamentally unsafe.
From many of us, the virus stole even more, deepening the divides between the haves and have nots. Lockdowns and social distancing eviscerated the travel and service industries, forcing millions out of work, or putting them in a position of choosing between assuming personal risk of infection and earning a living. The social safety net reacted to a degree with some stimulus money and eviction moratoriums, but many of us are profoundly worse off now than they were when this began. In contrast, those in “non-essential” sectors found themselves suddenly working from home, and unable to spend their income in restaurants, hair salons, and the like, increased their savings or spent on things – like trampolines and kitchen renovations – to make their homes more comfortable and attractive. Suddenly without viable childcare options, many parents – mostly mothers – left the workforce to tend to their most fundamental of obligations, a choice which, research shows, can negatively affect earning potential for a lifetime. And as affluent school districts rushed to activate online learning systems and put chromebooks in every student’s hands, poorer districts floundered, leaving already vulnerable children even farther behind.
A year of pandemic has left us even farther now from the world of equity envisioned by Henry George than we were before, and it can be tempting to feel pessimistic about regaining that lost ground, let alone creating a future in which all people enjoy a basic quality of life. Yet, despite the very real reasons for despair, I don’t feel it. As infection rates fall and vaccination rates rise, we have the opportunity to emerge from this kinder, more able to see our common humanity, and more willing to create a future where all people can flourish. That’s the world I want to see and it’s the world the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation and the Center for Property Tax Reform are committed to creating