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OPINION: The virus and the inequality of impact

OPINION: The virus and the inequality of impact

By Stephen Knight

Well, the most unusual month that most any of us have ever spent together has drawn to a close. As of this date, no one quite seems to know what May, or June, or even July holds in store for us. Either individually, or as a country, or even as a world. There are glimmers of hope that we are at least seeing the beginning of the end, but who really knows. We are all part of a Great Scientific Experiment.

 We are certainly learning more about each other and how we interact with each other. Thankfully, most of us are listening to the “better angels of our nature,” as Abraham Lincoln put it. This newspaper has reported on one wonderful instance of such after another, and I for one cannot get enough of hearing or seeing of these examples of thanks or kindness or generosity or consideration for others or just plain good humor.

I want to move on to more general observations about the unique period we’re living through and what we have learned, but I just have to make one more appeal to everyone who is still employed and has or will receive $1,200 of cash from the federal government.

Library shelves groan from the weight of the books and magazine articles on the subject of the inequality that exists in our society. Armchair sociologists and economists weigh in from every political perspective, and blame for its existence is conferred on practically everyone.

This column will not add to the volume — except to say this: There is an inequality of impact in this coronavirus pandemic. It has been noted that only about 37% of employees are able to “work from home.” And perhaps another 40% are still employed full-time in their jobs — a guess on my part, but it’ll serve. But that leaves millions of people who have had their means of making a living ripped out from under them.

God bless all the healthcare workers, first responders and all of those risking their health to carry on with the work of keeping this society and economy working. And that $1,200 from the feds should be their reward for all that they have done for us. I am not speaking to them except to note their sacrifice.

But there are still millions of us who are $1,200 richer by virtue of being American taxpayers. I can only speak for myself, but I know darn well I did nothing to earn this money. And, again speaking only for myself, this awful virus and the consequences of its existence has not really damaged my life one bit (my wife Cathy may describe the consequences to her life due to my being home 24/7 differently, but that’s another story).

And I hope that holds true for many of you, because once again, I am going to ask you to think of how best you can make use of this windfall. Two weeks ago, I asked you to follow my path and donate a portion of it to the Meriden-Wallingford Community Foundation Coronavirus Response Fund that has been established to help those who have been financially crippled by the need to shut down vast swathes of our economy to stop this disease.

Once more, here’s how to donate: Donations can be made online at the United Way of Meriden and Wallingford website (unitedwaymw.org/MWCFCoronavirusResponseFund) or at the Meriden-Wallingford Community Foundation website (mw-cf.org). Checks can be mailed to the foundation at 35 Pleasant Street, Suite 1E, Meriden CT 06450. Information is on the United Way’s Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages, or people can call the UWMW at 203-235-4403 in Meriden.

This newspaper has done yeoman work in publicizing this effort, and over $130,000 has been raised. The money will soon be working to heal and help as many as possible, but the devastation is widespread and will be with thousands of our neighbors for months more.

We live in a nation known worldwide for its generous citizens. It is part of an American’s DNA to reach out and help a neighbor when disaster strikes. And it has indeed struck, so damaging to so many lives, as if a tornado had come through their neighborhood.

This is the inequality we all can address right now. All of us have been inconvenienced. All of us have had our lives disoriented to one degree or another. But some — through absolutely nothing of their own doing — have become the economic casualties of this epidemic.

Our history is replete with examples of how individual Americans lifted one another up when circumstances brought many of their neighbors low. Now is one of those times, and help is needed. We are being tested. How are we doing? Each one of us holds the answer to that question.

Stephen Knight is a former Wallingford town councilor.

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