Singing as the Ship Goes Down

BY MEGAN MANSELL

Pause button lockdowns are recurring around the globe at the whim of dictators without mercy. Joy and liberty are just memories wafting in the breeze. We are a clump of states existing as the Untied State of America, a state of chaos in a world gone mad. 

The ever-changing and restrictive measures implemented without citizen input are not confined to the U.S. My friend’s family was recently locked in their 2-bedroom apartment for 46 days in Spain, with two young children. She and her husband had no respite and no outside contact, and they are still waiting for the end of a fortnight that never started but is somehow yet unending. She got a whopping 750€ fine for walking her dog. Her children got mentioned in passing, as children do, but it is the young ones among us that are the catalysts to keep fighting, for it is their virtue that we signal in pursuit of truth and reason. Barefaced, if we like it or need it to be so.
 
I am no homebody. My children thrive on novelty and adventure, as this is our preferred pursuit of happiness. When fear set in and indoor commingling with mixed populations began to be discouraged in early 2020, we sought outdoor recreation until the playgrounds, parks, and beaches were all closed as well. Our local positivity rates were low. Our local hospitals had a combined 4 COVID-19 cases, but all of our mental institutions were without a single bed. The measures taken against our movement and liberty kept getting more restrictive.

So for the first time in any meaningful stretch, we remained home, with virtually nowhere to go. Our children were in isolation from others for 6 weeks; then a tornado touched down in our backyard, wiping out most of our structures and play equipment. The next day, a neighbor’s tree guy accidentally felled a tree on our fence, leaving our only private green space and play zone mostly unusable, wrecked, and an eyesore. This dreadful luck came with better news along our timeline: children were found to have very infrequent severe cases of COVIE-19, and schools would be reopening. 

So we began venturing out, connecting with friends ready to be around others after those awkward conversations about risk assessment, and got on with our lives as best we could, excited that our 5-year-old was going to be able to start his nature-based Pre-K class for a few hours each afternoon.

But news was dire yet again: he would be expected to sit masked, distanced from peers, taught by a masked instructor, with no outside time and no talking during snack time. Excuse me, what? No. I do not consent. 

So we kept doing what we were already doing, and there was no pivot. My misadventures in homeschooling began more formally, and I discovered that being an education director (my former career) is far easier than trying to cover stimulating curriculum for my eldest while juggling the responsibilities of a household with a toddler and baby in tow. But we were still able to make it ours–our life, spent mostly as we wanted. 

While I struggle with trying to replace my son’s school experience and the inevitable conflicts and joys of friendship, we have found like-minded others while stepping out into the fray. But we are not most people. Most people had to go ahead and plaster masks onto their children, who went into pre-segregated, sterilized environments where their bare faces were treated as pathogenic and they were taught by muffled, anonymous, contactless instructors who complied with “CDC guidance” without considering the ramifications on the long-term well-being of the little anonymized bodies they served.

Most parents had to send their kids off to be de-socialized so they could be exposed to rote memorization of information somehow deemed more important than properly educating the public on meaningful measures for airborne contagion mitigation. So that they may still eat, clothe their families, and save for the last remaining dreams they hold fast to, parents unwillingly (or willingly) offered up the dignity and voices of their children as the price of access to in-person schooling.

All things feel like violations to the body when each measure is imposed without choice. Even if King Science™ himself deems it so. 

Many parents are trying their best to keep a happy face and convince their young that everything is going to be ok, because they have nothing left but hoping that is true. If they give up just a little more of their liberty, maybe then they will be allowed to be free. Yet even these working parents have it better than their children.

There are no efficacy standards for child-size masks, and most you see are homemade and have very real microbial and breathing concerns while having up to 97% particle penetration. Children are required to wear them in order to access a free and appropriate public education, while their right to the least-restrictive educational environment has been utterly trampled, as children within the same state, one county over, breathe freely, and yours are denied access unless they comply.

In order to wear a mask or respirator in a workplace, medical clearance and medical consent are part of the process, as are the gamut of ADA exemptions and modifications. But feckless superintendents are denying written medical exemptions signed off by licensed doctors left and right, removing parental consent from the conversation that they as parents should be controlling throughout. 

We have entire nations locking their people in their homes, in incredibly stress-inducing, chaotic, high-pressure times, while being told each additional restriction is for our safety–or to keep others safe from us when we likely have nothing ill to share. 

We never paused to consider the immense pressure we’re putting on people who may be ill-equipped to handle the added stressors we’ve placed on them, as we are seeing a horrifying uptick in suicide and psychiatric needs, most especially in our youth populations. Simply reopening like the flip of a light switch will not make all of the strain of the past year magically vanish from the learned behaviors instilled in us, such as fear of proximity to others or touch (especially in young children, who may have never known another way at this point). The devastating consequences of isolation and fear can cause lifelong struggles for those in which they takes hold.

Additionally, children are missing critical language and social developmental stages by spending the majority of their time with masked caregivers, most of whom are wearing masks that do not protect against the pathogen this is all about, while the children they serve are unable to see and mimic tooth, tongue, and lip placement, in addition to the massively important facial social cues that we learn from birth. 

The acute stress is only exacerbated by movement restrictions and penalties for leaving one’s domicile. How many of you in formerly locked-down regions began feeling imprisoned in your home and are finding yourselves unable to rest within its walls after being placed under house arrest for a crime you never committed (and a pathogen you likely came into contact with anyway)? Do you find yourselves desperate to relocate, if for nothing more than a change of scenery?

Consider your own situation, and how horrible it may have been for you. Then take away the things that made your life whole despite the obstacles, like a loving partner sharing the duties and strain, financial security, food security, and wellness of those close to you. How much harder would it be without those things?

Many are out there living our worst-case scenarios at this very moment–and for something futile, as one transmissible positive in a given population can start the spread they’ve paused all over again, while one’s life savings and all they worked to accomplish are dwindled away. These unfortunates remain trapped with those they love, a shell of who they once were, with all of their joy fluttering away into the abyss.

The longer we allow the strain of lockdowns to go unrepresented in our conversations on the wellness of the world, the longer we will continue down a path diverted from righteousness and social salvation. We continue our fight in order to keep some semblance of normalcy for our children, no matter the personal cost. There are many who do not know how to fight for themselves, and we must muster the strength to push for reason and sanity against all odds. It is the only worthy endeavor. 

There are plentiful options for mitigation against COVID-19 at this point, whether through quarantine (of the sick) and testing, bubble isolates, high-grade PPE, immune adaptogens and nutrient density gains, medical prophylactic measures, or vaccinations (as long as every person is allowed to make that decision for themselves and their children).

COVID-19 is a fully-mitigated pathogen, yet we refuse as a nation to give up these restrictions and instead push harsher penalties for our long-suffering populace. In honor of Dr. Frank-N-Furter, we have removed or at least fully mitigated the cause, but not the symptom.

For all of you mamas and papas out there who made it through the past year despite all its challenges and grievances, I commend you. These are the battles to pick. This is the hill to die on.

Megan Mansell is a former district education director over special populations integration, serving students who are profoundly disabled, immunocompromised, undocumented, autistic, and behaviorally challenged; she also has a background in hazardous environs PPE applications. She is experienced in writing and monitoring protocol implementation for immunocompromised public sector access under full ADA/OSHA/IDEA compliance. She can be reached at [email protected]

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