Melanie Cooper in conversation with
Matthew is my brother but we live in very different worlds. I’m in New Zealand, he’s in the States. Our ideology and political views have diverged over the years and are almost diametrically opposed. He’s suspicious of Covid and the global response. He didn’t protest but he sympathises with the people who did.
Note 1: March-May
We’re talking and messaging more than we have in years. My brother has been following the advice to stay home, which means he’s in a bubble of one and getting bored and a little frustrated with the quarantine orders. It doesn’t help that the advice where he is seems so inconsistent: in Santa Monica they’re meant to stay home but for his friend in nearby Orange County, life is continuing as normal. Getting out for a walk each day was helping so he was gutted when beach walks were ruled out. Coronavirus has exacerbated work difficulties for him too. He’s an entertainment lawyer but limited work opportunities in recent years have seen him take on part-time work at a library. On a group call all the part-timers were informed they were being ‘let go’ with a week’s pay. Now he’s taken on work at a supermarket for money and to get out of the house. He’s worried quarantine rules are chipping away at civil liberties and that the pandemic has been overhyped.
Note 2: May-July
In the States the response to COVID has been heavily politicised. Following basic health rules around social distancing and wearing masks has been framed by some as an infringement of people’s rights. There is so much disinformation being shared and a large portion of the population is unsure of the seriousness of the situation. Matt’s working for a grocery chain called Kroger, so he’s deemed essential services. He wears a mask sometimes. Lots of people don’t.
“People aren’t staying home. Nobody’s staying home. If they did the entire economy would be ruined and all that would be left is the big chains. People have gone back to normal and they’re not going to listen if the politicians tell them to go back into their houses. People are sceptical, they think [Federal/State government officials] jumped the gun and overreacted. Americans don’t want incursions on their rights, anything that is seen as restricting their rights is viewed suspiciously.”
COVID is just one of the issues America is grappling with right now and our conversations have turned to the Black Lives Matter movement. There’s bias and disinformation in the coverage of those protests too. It’s a tough time to live in the US.