Sunday, March 29, 2020

I Won't Walk the Line

I'm not sure exactly what prompted me to go back for that last week with my colleagues. I think it had a lot to do with my being chapter leader. I felt I had to. Looking back, I don't think I was very smart. Anyone could have taken off, no questions asked, and all if would have cost was a day from the bank.

A lot of people did, and in retrospect they'd thought things out better than I had. I now find the news so upsetting that I won't watch it on TV very long. After five minutes it's just more and more of the same thing.

Nonetheless, it's remarkable to read that Donald Trump thinks we should just go back to work by Easter. Even more remarkable is to read Bill de Blasio sputtering out much the same nonsense. I'm not sure what I was thinking two weeks ago, but given everything I see and read, that's nothing short of insane. It was surely not a good idea to go back for those last three days, but the school was pretty quiet, and social distancing was at least a possibility.

The school in which I work, though, is over 200% capacity. That's just fine with Mayor de Blasio, because he works from a spacious office somewhere and doesn't actually have to walk the halls with double the number of people who belong there. That, of course, is the exclusive privilege of the 4500 kids and 500 staff about whom Bill de Blasio does not give a fiddler's fart.

The thing I keep going back to is Broadway. If it's too dangerous for well-heeled theatergoers to sit through an $800 performance of Hamilton, how is it okay for 5,000 people to push their way through Francis Lewis High School? And let's not forget there are over a million other students wandering through the halls of the buildings Bill de Blasio has neglected these last seven years. Let's not forget all the UFT, all the DC37, and all the other working people in our schools.

Bill de Blasio forgot all of them. Bill de Blasio let us amble through another week of elevated risk. I just happen to be a person at elevated risk, as are many of my colleagues, not only in my building, but city wide. I hadn't realized the gravity of the situation, and I essentially took my life in my hands, along with a million other New Yorkers, about whom Bill de Blasio did not and does not give a damn.

So go ahead, Mr. President. Go ahead, Mr. Mayor. I'm not going back. As a parent, I wouldn't send my kid back. In fact, I cannot imagine any parent watching the news even a little bit sending a kid back into this. In a worldwide emergency, someone is supposed to provide leadership. A lot of people are looking to Andrew Cuomo these days, saying draft him for president. As much as I'd like to see someone more able to beat Donald Trump than Joe Biden, I have my doubts about Cuomo too:

“If you now look at it, it didn't make any sense to close the schools, send my kids home with me or older people, or with grandmothers who were vulnerable to this virus,” Cuomo said in the CNN interview. “And young people were then maybe bringing it into the house. We didn't have any data or science to instruct us. But now you can come up with a smarter public health strategy that actually protects older people, lets younger people get back to work, and that can start the economic recovery. But it has to be that smart. It can't be reactive. It can't be emotional.”

As Chancellor Carranza so deftly pointed out, I'm not an epidemiologist. Nor were the 108,000 people who had signed the UFT petition to close schools by the time he rejected our plea. However, while I don't like to brag, I happen to be a high school graduate. Pardon my blatant appeal to authority, but on that basis alone I can tell you that every day you go back to your school, particularly an overcrowded one like mine, you actually increase your potential exposure to the virus, and you therefore increase the chances of exposing grandma.

Cuomo can spout nonsense with the best of them. If Trump, de Blasio, or Cuomo chooses to open America, open NY, open NYC, or open schools, that's on them. They can defy common sense, which many have determined to be the least common of all the senses anyway. If Glenn Beck wants to die for the Dow, it's a free country and I fully support his decision.

But my lookout is closer to home. People are always more important than markets. For me, for the people I love, even for my little dog, forget it. I'm not walking back into any Petri dish any time soon, and I'm telling you all to stay away with me. Nothing is worth risking your health, and the truth is none of these bloviating cowards, Beck, de Blasio, Cuomo or Trump, would really risk theirs either.
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