Saturday, April 18, 2020

In the Basket of Vulnerability

Fellow vulnerables, rise up! You have nothing to lose except your sheltered status. 

Okay, if "deplorables" can achieve noun status (thank you, Hillary Clinton), so too can "vulnerables," meaning those souls currently packed into a basket of vulnerability for the duration of the coronavirus crisis.

On the bright side, fellow vulnerables, our country may have reached at least a tentative consensus that our lives still have some worth. (At times, that hasn't seemed to be a given.) We are atop the CDC's list of vulnerable people who need extra  protection from the severe illness that COVID-19 can inflict. 

People 65 and over, all of them; that's us. Vulnerables all. You could own a health-food store and run ultra-marathons. No matter. You are a vulnerable. Lockdown for you.

True, there are other people of varying ages who have medical conditions making them high-risk also. Those immunocompromised, or having chronic lung disease, serious heart conditions, diabetes, or kidney or liver disease. "Serious" obesity (defined as a body mass index 40 or higher) also makes you a vulnerable.

In these trying times, is it good to be a vulnerable? Well, yes and no. It is nice to be deemed worthy of protection, I suppose. Indeed, the plan to beat back the pandemic logically could have centered aggressively on the over-65 population given that as economist David Stockman deduced from NewYork data, three-fourths of pandemic victims are Medicare beneficiaries. 

Nevertheless, if that means being confined inside four walls week after week with little opportunity for fresh air, sunshine, exercise, and social interaction, I'm going to venture that that kind of existence is not necessarily healthy for vulnerables or anyone else.

Consider the Trump-plus-Governors plan for gradual recovery from the economic crash caused by the pandemic freak-out and shutdown.

In Phase One, people can start going back to work, and to restaurants and gyms when precautions like "social distancing" are practiced. However, "all vulnerable individuals should continue to shelter in place." Not only that but when workers come home, the government says they should "isolate from vulnerable residents." 

What a happy life, huh, fellow vulnerables? Go to your room and take your evening pills. Watch the Andy Griffin Show or I Love Lucy. Go to bed early and we'll see you at breakfast. Oh wait, we'll leave your breakfast at your bedroom door before we leave for work. What about a vulnerable who has gotten in decent shape by working out at the gym regularly? Can't go there, even if keeping a distance from others? Guess not. 

Must all be pushed into victimhood even if many still have plenty of vim and vigor?

Even in Phase Two, when the pace of life greatly accelerates, the government asserts that "all vulnerable individuals should continue to shelter in place," and when others come home they should "isolate from vulnerable residents." All means all. That's the way government rolls. One size fits all.

 Finally in Phase Three (however far down the road that may be), vulnerables can resume some "public interaction" but must minimize "exposure to social settings where distancing may not be practiced...." So a hug would be out of the question. Maybe earn you a fine or solitary confinement.

This supposed vulnerable has stayed home a lot and ordered groceries online for the first time ever. However, I do escape into the great outdoors every day, in the company of my trusty walkin' dog Ellie. 

Today, I even shook a hand (a distancing no-no) as a friendly guy jumped out of his pickup truck to congratulate me on a defense of senior exercise I wrote for a community online forum. In that piece, I took offense at an anonymous letter shoved into my mailbox that mocked me for walking my dog "with great difficulty" and not cleaning up after her. The truth is I always scoop the poop and deposit it in a dog-waste station our HOA provides. But what really irked me was this guy (or gal) belittling how I walk -- with a walking stick and a back brace for a little extra support. 

My takeaway from the unsigned letter was expression of an attitude of contempt for elderly people. I'd be glad to compare vitals (bp, cholesterol, etc) any time this person might want to emerge from behind the cloak of anonymity and have a neighborly conversation. After two open-heart surgeries, a total knee replacement, and a continuing battle with spinal stenosis, I think I am walking pretty damn well. And I am not as vulnerable as some might assume.

                       © Robert Gray Holland 2020

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