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To Live or To Die

Manogna Rachapudi – @miss.monbon

I had a story that I wanted to share, pretty badly. So badly that I was going to write a essay on that story. So while I was writing that essay, I was going back and forth between the news and my essay and the news and my essay and so on, before eventually I gave up on the essay and just listened to the news. Death toll rises to 50,000 … Severe shortage of test kits … not enough ventilators … and so much more bad news. It’s like good news is the only actual NEWS now. The entire world is collectively surprised everytime something good happens.

So, sure enough I became addicted to watching the news. It was like watching reality TV, with more suits. Haz-mat suits I mean. Keep in mind, I am not at a lack of things to do. I am a classical dancer and singer, both require practice, I am the president of my own fundraising club for charity, I am policy debater, and there was that speech I was procrastinating heavily on. Despite all these things on my plate, I still wanted to subject myself to forty minutes of frustration, multiple times a day. I’m not even watching Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx hand out life-saving suggestions or reading reports on CDC recommendations. No, my parents do the responsible stuff like that, I was watching people not listen to them. 

Now a little bit of background on my family: my dad is immunosuppressed, my mom is a med school graduate now working in an insurance company, me an Asthmatic and self-aware temperamental teenager, and my six-year old sister who is confused. That’s all you need to know about my family to know that we are staying home. So when we saw news of people protesting stay-at-home orders… Let's just say my sister was no longer the only one in the family very confused. So the debater in me jumped to scream refutations to their points, to tell them that they were endangering themselves, their loved ones, and people they did not even know. But it dawned on me that the rights and liberties named self-evident by the Constitution and the very basis of this country were somehow in their favor. I now no longer wanted to refute the opposition's points, but thoroughly understand them. So I wrote something. Not an essay, because I did not create it just as a writer, but also as a debater and a citizen of the United States.

Beginning with the debater in me. I did a type of three person debate in middle school for a year before doing Public Forum and Policy styles of debate as a freshmen in Highschool. A major portion of any debate round is the final speaker of either side. This is the I’m-on-the-edge-of-my-seat-with-heart-palpitations moment for the debaters. Why? Because this is where impact calculation happens. When the debaters boil down their contentions and tell the judge possible impacts of action or inaction. This can come down to economy, money, but mostly down to lives, because across all styles of debate it is accepted that lives outweigh everything. 

Think about it: middle schoolers and high schoolers across the globe have not only understood, but even toyed with a concept that many of the world's politicians have yet to learn. I refer to the infamous interview CNN’s Anderson Cooper conducted with Mayor of Las Vegas Carolyn Goodman–who, mind you, won with 83.5% of the vote in her second term. As much as she’d probably like to deny it, Mayor Goodman explicitly stated in that interview that, “We offered to be a control group.” (Cillizza) 

Later on in the interview she said she has no authority over contact tracing and testing measures and is only concerned with the thousands of calls she gets from people wanting to resume working. So she offered the city of Las Vegas to be a literal lab petri dish to act as a control. She offered 2.3 million people up as sacrifice, to calm down the thousands of calls she claims she’s getting. She placed the jobs of a couple thousand people, over 2.3 million lives. I’ve seen and made my fair share of skewed impacts, but this truly is most skewed of them all.

Politicians’ apparent lack of debate theory aside, somewhere along that twenty five minute interview she made one fair point. People have the right to work. 

We Americans hold our rights very dearly. The rights that have been outlined in the Constitution–the supreme law of the United States–have set the precedent for democracies globally. Free speech, self-expression, and the freedom to choose are all rights that branch off of the three core democratic constitutional rights: life, liberty, and property. This conveniently transitions into my next contention: Rights vs. Responsibilities.

Many of those who disagree with, and refuse to abide by stay-at-home orders or protective recommendations, invoke their freedoms of speech and self-expression amongst others.

‘We’re allowed to wear what we want, so we won’t wear masks.’

‘We’re allowed to move about as we wish, so we won’t stay at home.’

These expressions were heard during the protests. Protests big and small, from cars on streets to comment sections, this is what we heard, and these points are completely valid. They are backed by the very foundation of this nation, and that cannot be denied, but if everyone is concerned with these rights, how do we fulfill our responsibilities? It is our responsibility as civilians to ensure that we are keeping ourselves and the people around us safe and healthy. It is a responsibility to stay at home, it is a responsibility to wear a mask when we are not at home, and it is a responsibility to wash our hands multiple times throughout the day. Just like at home, it is my responsibility to take out the trash and keep my room clean. And look, I get it. I truly do. As a teenager I have heard the phrase, ‘Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should,’ far too many times. Just because I can live in a pigsty and not take out the trash or clean my room, doesn’t mean I should. I get it and so has much of my generation. Strange, however, that the people who told us seem to not understand. 

Just like how we instruct our children to do chores around the house to keep it clean and tidy, we need to follow the ‘chores’ given to us by experts to keep ourselves alive and healthy. We can not hide behind our rights–as valid and true they are–because the virus will not stop at the face American exceptionalism. It goes without saying that this pandemic has enormously strained everyone, some people more so than others. I speak from a privileged position as I have a roof over my head, a source of income, and my sister and I have access to broadband to continue our schooling, but to face an invisible adversary of this scale, we must stand united while standing six-feet apart. Let’s all stay at home, get addicted to the news, and watch as more good news comes our way. 

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