An earful from America

April 14, 2020
An earful from America

Tariq A. Al-Maeena

I CONSIDER myself fortunate to be living in Saudi Arabia at the time of this global pandemic called the Coronavirus or Covid-19. I feel safe with the steps my government has taken to protect all the Kingdom’s residents; steps taken very early on that undoubtedly have helped stave off a mass epidemic.

However, such is not the case elsewhere. In the United States of America of all countries, one would have expected a far more professional response than a young country such as ours. But it does not appear so. At least in the eyes of someone who after several long years as a resident of the Kingdom had moved back to her native country.

She writes: “You know I still haven't adjusted to being back here. Maybe — I say hopefully —it is just being here in Florida, but I feel such a fish out of the water, a stranger in my own land.

“So much is not as I remembered it. I find the people lacking in any healthy curiosity concerning other countries or events. There is nothing else but herd mentality. It's all about me. How does, whatever it is, impact me and my well-being? Making money and getting super-rich is fine no matter how one does it. Our moral compass is broken.

“I get really depressed about it and then something nice happens. I was in the supermarket on Friday afternoon. I thought it would be a good time. I was wrong. However, as I came down to the end of one aisle there were two young men (young men now are those in their 40s) and they retreated and pulled aside so I could go through without being near them. I thought, how nice, and then remembered that I was an older woman to them and they were simply being considerate of the “social distance” required.

“My neighbor in the apartment next to me came by with some of a casserole he had made for himself and his family. He just wanted to check and be sure I was okay. I returned the kindness today with a coffee cake I made this morning. So, some of what you write about still does exist.

“And then there is the madness; empty shelves of paper products. Toilet paper and bottles of water must be rationed and guarded by shop personnel. (I'm not quite sure yet how toilet paper keeps this virus at bay.) And even more puzzling is the steep rise in the sale of guns and ammunition. What?? I guess one can also shoot this virus dead. Joking aside, this is a frightening thing. It means people are concerned about their property and their ability to get necessary items for their loved ones. So far, everyone has been behaving in an acceptable manner.

“The Governor of Florida, unfortunately, is close to the Emperor in the White House and so delayed for too long the order to ‘stay-in-place' unless going out is absolutely necessary. Add to this the virus hit us here just as the universities and colleges had gone on Spring break. Most of those students head down here to the beaches of Florida. Even closing them and the bars, hotels, restaurants, etc. didn't keep them from celebrating. They moved their parties to the lake areas. Local police had to chase them on. Most now, hopefully, should have headed home probably taking the virus with them.

“America was totally unprepared for this pandemic. We were left without protection by a government that is supposed to care for its citizens. This one failed to do so until too late and then did too little. Companies have been allowed to manufacture and sell the much-needed equipment, for our medical people to use to help those suffering, to the highest bidder. It's a total disgrace. Instead, we see kids who are making masks for medical personnel and first responders to use because they haven't enough. The incompetence overall is unbelievable. You couldn't write this stuff in a novel as no one would believe a word of it. Yet, here we are actually living it.

“I am working from home as all classes in schools, colleges, and universities have gone online. I gather that we will experience the worst of this Corona Virus in the next couple of weeks. I worry for my oldest son who has had a couple of kidney transplants and so has a very weak immune system and the other son who is still going in to work.

“You and yours take care and stay healthy and supportive of each other during these trying times. Best regards,” (name withheld for reasons of self-preservation).

April 14, 2020
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