I’ve been arguing on the internet again, guys.
This morning, a lady on a Facebook group had some very strong feelings about ongoing closures at Yosemite National Park. This lady – let’s call her Lorraine – was angry because she wanted to go to Yosemite, but the park has so far been vague on when they will open or even when their new day-use permit system will go online. She was angry because she couldn’t get the campsite she wanted, and she wasn’t assured that she would even get into the park, which she pays for with her tax dollars.
Lorraine went on to blame Governor Gavin Newsom for Yosemite’s closure (and every other problem California has), even though I explained to her that Yosemite National Park is a federal agency that can do what it wants, but that it often opts to cooperate with the surrounding communities because that’s what grown-ups do. That wasn’t good enough for Lorraine, as she floated a 0.02% death rate that is “straight from the CDC,” to justify that COVID-19 isn’t dangerous, and that the park is really restricting her freedom by not allowing her to recreate how she wishes.
This wasn’t my first go-around with Lorraine. We had argued over the same subject before, and we both made similar points. I backed up my assertions with data; she floated conspiracy theories. Lorraine’s mind has not been changed (shocker, I know), and she continues to insist that Yosemite is mismanaging her tax-funded park very badly; she also threw California, liberals, Newsom, and even a few public health officials under the bus all so that she could let Facebook know how very unfair all of this is to her personally.
My first go-around with Lorraine was bad enough, as at that time there were 60,000 Americans dead due to COVID-19, which virtually every reasonable adult understands is a significant undercounting of the true death count. Today, there are 106,000 confirmed deaths as I type. Moreover, there have been Black Lives Matter protests across all 50 states following the murder of George Floyd and centuries of institutionalized racial oppression. People of color who have spent their entire lives playing the game of life on a higher difficulty level than white people (at best) and, at worst, losing their lives because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, are standing up for their rights, risking their lives, and staring face-to-face at a law enforcement apparatus that continues to add fuel to the fire all in the service of demanding that their rights are respected.
Contrast: hundreds of thousands of protesters railing against systematic racial injustice vs. a middle-aged white woman complaining that she can’t go to Yosemite. Great.
Lorraine is not the first person I’ve encountered on social media or even in real life who has made a stink about how her freedoms are being trampled by COVID-19 restrictions. I’ve seen a lot of people wave around the Constitution, which actually says nothing about people being free to make other people sick if they decide a global pandemic is too inconvenient for them. I’ve seen a lot of people raging against government agencies that are simply trying to do their best to protect people against a brand-new, poorly-understood virus. Moreover, I’ve encountered people online or on trail who behave as if it all belongs to them and feel as if they are entitled to use trails any way that suits them (and fuck those face masks; they’re for pussies!).
Here is white privilege on display: a bunch of white people ignoring facts, warnings, and the sacrifices of others under the pretense that they deserve to have access to trails during a pandemic and a massive revolt against racial injustice. Never mind that many people of color can’t even walk out their front door without the threat of a police officer kneeling on their neck. Never mind that there are still more than 20,000 new cases of COVID-19 reported every day in the U.S. Never mind that the only remedy we have to manage COVID-19 is unprecedented cooperation among businesses, government, and citizens largely due to the absolute, abject failure of the Trump administration to protect the American people. White privilege (and this is not the only example of it, by far) is saying, “I don’t care about any of that; I want my trails now because fuck you/my tax dollars/my mental health/the government is bad/you’re a liberal soytard cuckflake.”
Not everybody in the hiking community shares this entitled views of things; for those of you who don’t fall in that category, this isn’t for you. For the folks who continue to assume that the inconvenience of combating a global pandemic is synonymous with their freedoms being limited; for the folks who continue to insist that their ability to recreate is somehow the most important thing at a time when millions of human beings are systematically oppressed at every level of American government; for those who continue to insist that facts aren’t important and that experts are really charlatans:
Get fucked. Sideways. Every which way to Sunday. Don’t be a cunt.
No, what I really mean to say is that now is the time to discover your compassion and extend it to everyone, regardless of whether they look like you or believe like you. Demand equality. Contribute to the cause of humans living up to the examples set by Jesus, the Buddha, Mohammed, Martin Luther King, and Ghandi. It’s the only way our civilization survives in the long run (well, that and cutting our carbon emissions, but we’ll deal with the White Walkers once Joffrey is out of the White House, I guess). It’s the only way that humans live up to the concept of humanity. And, it’s the only way that we come up with a system that affords everybody with equal rights, equal opportunity, and equal freedoms.