Opinion: Let’s Let New Year Unite Us in Fighting COVID-19, Not Divide Us

I awoke on Christmas morning as the sunshine was flooding my bedroom. The rain of the previous night is gone and outside a family of finches is twittering cheerfully in the hibiscus bush outside my window. Walking down Santa Monica Boulevard the sky is a cloudless turquoise and the bright sunlight seems to enhance every color. All of the familiar sights seem to be painted in vivid hues and the warmth of the sun caresses my bare arms. This is a wonderful day to be alive.

Just a few blocks to the south of Santa Monica Boulevard, the beauty of the day cannot be appreciated.

At Cedars-Sinai there are no empty beds in the Intensive Care Unit. There are people gasping for breath as if drowning. Families are anxious, feeling impotent. Health care providers are exhausted, desperately trying to pull on their last reserves to get them through their shift.

Although over 300,000 Americans have died of COVID-19, it remains a pandemic that divides us rather than brings us together. It is a capricious stalker that preys upon us in ways that are both random and predictable. The toll falls heavily upon the infirm, the aged and those who are the most economically challenged.

Unlike the last pandemic I survived, I don’t know anyone who has died. I wasn’t so lucky the last time. AIDS ravaged West Hollywood and I lost track of friends and loved ones who were lost. But at least, then, there was a solidarity within our community, perhaps because West Hollywood was so besieged. We only had each other to cling to.

COVID-19 has divided our country in ways that I could never have imagined and it makes me worry about the future. Seeing images of crowded airports as people pack themselves into planes for the holidays doesn’t make me angry; it makes me sad to think that we are finding it increasingly difficult to make sacrifices in our routines and lifestyle in a time of national crisis. We are a people who cannot suffer inconvenience and COVID has exposed our national character in an unflattering light.

I know we are all justifiably frustrated by the isolation, the disruption in our lives. We miss hanging out in our favorite West Hollywood haunts with our friends, being surrounded by familiar faces at the gym or the random casual intimacies that were the patterns of our lives a year ago.

But we need to remember we all do not share a common experience of the pandemic. It is not just a matter of being sick or healthy, but of being employed or not being employed. Paying your rent or not paying your rent. Worrying about not going to the gym or worrying about how you are going to feed your family. The devastating disruptions of COVID have not been equally shared.

For the majority of us in West Hollywood the impacts have been relatively more minor, resulting in changes in our daily routines, mere inconveniences not actual sacrifices. Despite our normal feelings of frustration at the isolation, we need to draw on our own reserves of patience in order to help those whose lives have being totally disrupted, those for whom COVID is a real crisis.

As a community we need to re-direct our frustrations. We have neighbors who need our help. While demonstrations down Santa Monica Boulevard in support our local businesses may be an outlet for our frustrations, we need to be more constructive. While I appreciate, we’ve been honing our culinary skills at home, we need to order out from our local restaurants as much as possible. Also don’t forget to add a tip. Just because some restaurants are open does not mean that the employees are making much beyond minimum wage. If there were a tip jar at Ralphs or Pavilions, I would be using it.

Resolve to make a serious attempt to clean out your closet. In the months ahead many people will remain unemployed and your fashion sense will be greatly appreciated. As my husband says, if you didn’t fit into it a year ago, why is it still in the closet? We all have nice things that others would appreciate. So if fitting into those pants has gone from being aspirational to delusional, be brave and get all that stuff to Out of the Closet where it will do someone some good.

But most of all we need to give. Most of us have fifty or a hundred dollars that we could give to the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank or Project Angel Food. The need is so great if you can make the sacrifice, then do the right thing. Don’t assume that someone else is going to do it. It is time for all of us who can to step up to the plate. If it makes you feel better, tell yourself it is going to unemployed go-go boys.

Not since December of 1944 have Americans had a more anticipated New Year. Back then our parents or grandparents were praying that the coming year would put an end to WWII and that loved ones fighting overseas would be coming home.

We already know that 2021 will be a better year that 2020. We have a new President, a new City Council and a new vaccine. We have a lot to look forward to… so let’s not mess it up. There is more you can do to stand up in this crisis than just wearing a mask.

Ideally in 2021 the simple pleasures of life that we have foregone the last nine months will not only be back, but also will be more appreciated. Perhaps COVID was a reminder that we take way too many things for granted. And I don’t mean toilet paper.

Steve Martin, West Hollywood

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Vigilant
Vigilant
22 days ago

One rarely gets to address problems when there has been a lack of serious consideration, discipline and respect for knowledge from the get go. Individuals and agencies were too anxious to parrot the latest unvetted information. Thinking this would blow over, few considered or researched the facts and evolution of this virus. After the first few stumbles we are now in an exponential evolution and dependent on the weakest link rather that the strongest protocol. The last 10 months were an unusual opportunity for folks to take personal responsibility and exercise introspection while developing one’s personal plan respectful of one’s… Read more »

Joshua88
Joshua88
22 days ago

Well said.

Trump made such a mess out this whole situation. I am not blaming him for the virus, but the divisions.
Cruel, stupid, unnecessary.
I have no idea how we are going to unite.
Unfortunately.

hifi5000
hifi5000
22 days ago

Steve Martin wrote a very poignant op-ed telling us to unite to fight the COIVID-19 pandemic.Unforeuately,this country we live in is divided politically,racially,etc.

We all are listening to fractured media,rather it be liberal or conservative.Both are set in their beliefs and listeners are comfortable just listening to their favorite outlets.People are still traveling for the holidays,disregarding advice from well-informed medical authorities.Many of us still think the pandemic is a hoax.You have to wonder where this kind of thinking come from.

Until this divide is addressed,calls for unity will not be listened to.

Alan Strasburg
Alan Strasburg
23 days ago

Steve, thank you for that eloquent, thoughtful and selfless call to action to us all.

WeHo Poster
WeHo Poster
23 days ago

Steve–private charity cannot, and will not, solve this crisis. The government must pay people to stay home, and nothing short of that will work.

WeHoldTheseTruths
WeHoldTheseTruths
23 days ago

LA has the strictest lockdown in the country and the highest cases. Something isn’t working.

Ian
Ian
23 days ago

Follow the numbers. LA County daily Covid rates identify where the huge increase is coming from and it is NOT the entire City of LA. There are specific pockets that are 5 x the rate as other parts of the city.

Steve Too
Steve Too
23 days ago

And… you’re back.

The question is how much worse it could be without the stay-at-home orders.

Largest county population wise in the nation unfortunately translates into substantially more cases.

greeneyedboy
greeneyedboy
23 days ago

Damn, if only they had read your comments on Wehoville, we wouldn’t be in this mess!

WeHoldTheseTruths
WeHoldTheseTruths
22 days ago
Reply to  greeneyedboy

Certainly got your attention.

WeHo Poster
WeHo Poster
23 days ago

People still have to go to work to get money to live, it’s that simple. What isn’t working is that people are told to stay home and businesses are told to close, but the ruling oligarchy has refused to pay people to stay home. So they work and spread the virus. The only thing that the ruling class has seriously considered in response to this crisis is immunizing employers who get their employees sick with coronavirus.

Joshua88
Joshua88
22 days ago

I am waiting for the County to release the info on the DNA of this strain – new or not?
That would explain the huge increases in numbers.
I find the entire count shocking.

WeHoldTheseTruths
WeHoldTheseTruths
23 days ago

So continue following the shifting edicts of incompetent leaders who don’t follow their own rules?

greeneyedboy
greeneyedboy
23 days ago

Like Trump using 7-figure healthcare while getting injected with aborted stem cells to fight COVID-19?

And yeah I brought up Trump- he is still our president for 24 more days!