I’ve been to two Covid funerals. The first funeral was in May for a beautiful woman who during cancer treatment picked up the virus. She died quickly and her funeral was odd. There was a row of cars who listened to the service on Zoom. Afterward, one by one, we went up to the casket to say goodbye. It was surreal and devastating. A month later, the second Covid funeral took place in a Pasadena cemetery. About 15 of us socially distanced while the preacher gave the eulogy, and friends and co-workers added teary tributes. The first funeral was for a mother of 4 who was in her 40’s; the second a childless police officer in her early 60’s. Both were excruciating.
A Columbia grad who lives in my neighborhood got the virus and recovered. She was 26 years old. She passed it on to her mother who survived it, but her father was the lucky one. Not asymptomatic. Not symptomatic. Healthy through it all.
A recent survey said 35% of Americans have direct experience with the virus, whether it is someone they know personally or through someone else, like the secretary at my aunt’s office who died of Covid on Wednesday. She was 40.
Because the virus has reduced the population and it has no sign of easing up, (the first wave is still with us and the second wave has yet to even begin), we’re in a perilous triad of health, fear, and luck. It’s why when I hear million-dollar athletes whining about their life in the bubble, when I hear J.R. Smith bitch about the size of his blankets, or Rajon Rondo rip his Motel 6 like room, I’m more than annoyed. They are being inconvenienced. It is temporary.
Here’s the thing about privileged people. They normalize elitism. They receive the best services and top of the line amenities and comforts very few have the ability to procure for themselves. When something is denied they whine but they are the 1% (and seemingly don’t realize it). They have first-world problems they are trying to negotiate while the rest of us live with third world problems like covid funerals and maskless shoppers and deviant racists.
As if Covid isn’t bad enough. There are food lines. In my Los Angeles neighborhood, at the closed mall, on one side they give Covid tests and on the other side they give out bags of food to desperate families. In Chicago, one of the food giveaways ran out of food and hungry families had to hope when they came back the next day they wouldn’t be so unlucky. People are financially desperate and are finding it difficult to pay bills because they have been furloughed, or worse, their job no longer exists. Summer used to mean carefree. Taking the car and packing up the kids and going on vacation, or planning a trip to some sunny island and drinking rum punches. All of that has to be put on the shelf because financial stability is a thing of the past.
It reminds me of a Gil Scott-Heron song: A rat done bit my sister Nell but Whitey on the moon. Her arms and legs began to swell but Whitey on the moon.
The NBA elite are on the moon, distanced from the problems the rest of us deal with on the regular. Our bodies are swelling as they complain about food and blankets. But what is their exact problem? They are leaving a mansion and going to a hotel room? I’ve been to Motel 6. It’s not purgatory. It’s not the Four Seasons but it could be worse. They could be us. They could be in a hospital on a ventilator with no family allowed in. Or outside sleeping on the street. I get that they miss their family and that playing was forced upon them if they didn’t want to lose everything they had gained.
But have some heart, please. Don’t wear jerseys with social justice messages on them and then complain about your linens at a hotel you are not paying for. It’s hypocrisy to use social media to air racial grievances and then use the same platform to complain that their wealth isn’t being serviced. No one feels sorry for them. The world is troubled and they are playing basketball.
I’m glad the NBA season is back. I look forward to all the storylines, particularly if the Clippers can once and for all bury their curse. I’m interested in watching games without fans and hearing the trash talk tv cameras won’t be able to censure. I love the BLM shoutout but it’s a big miss not to have names of the victims who have died because of police brutality on jerseys. This is going to be a new normal and the NBA has always been progressive.
But just stop with the whining. You are black and privileged, we know that. Can you have some empathy for the rest of us? We don’t live your lives and you don’t live ours. Sensitivity goes a long way though, particularly since the world as it is presently constructed is in a painful mess. If it’s not Covid then its statues being torn down. If it’s not food lines then it’s fights over masks. If it’s not racists rhetoric then its police calls because you are in front of your own house waiting for your son to come outside.
I remember another Gil Scott-Heron about the revolution being televised. Empathy and emotional discipline are needed. Now more than ever.