This is my authentic, American story of how Covid-19 affects me personally in terms of Family, Economics, and my relationship to a Government Dedicated to Civil Liberty. While it recounts trying situations, it is not a negative spirited article, so much as my attempt to contribute in a significant way to our contemporary social dialogue:
I am a late blooming family man due to my early adult years of sowing wild oats, excessive idealism and even spiritual searching, but I now have a toddler daughter (a first-time father at age 47), wife and home ownership here in Deltona, Florida. I had always taken the advice in the Bible to heart when it says: “Now to the unmarried and widows I say this: It is good for them to remain unmarried, as I am” (Corinthians 7: 8). I used to idolize St. Paul as a furious spiritual warrior of selflessness and heroic sacrifice, hoping that God might also call me to the same through an infusion of spiritual Zeal. But after failing to see the fruition of such a calling (and my refusal to do anything spiritual out of my own, ego initiative), I eventually accepted that I should walk the more common path of the family man. Doing my best to “hit the mark,” as it were, negotiating this evil world as honestly and as sincerely as possible. And, what do you know!? The present Pandemic is putting into highlight the struggle of this calling. For if I had remained single, I would not be experiencing the unique pressures I am now facing.
Still, I am a person who genuinely seeks to live, if even I fail multiple times, according to the standards of a presumed good Creator. Because I am so spiritually serious, therefore, I suppose my honest confession of my life circumstances here might serve as a sort of testimony. So let’s begin with the most central issue of all families—economics:
My Present Economics
In December of 2019 I had to resign from my job because my wife could not deal with the baby on her own, particularly during night time routine, and my job had been third shift. She had a difficult child birth and even spent time in the ICU. I also resigned despite their offering me a raise that would have brought my salary to 52k per year, all for the love of my baby girl!
I have come a long way from the young man who might be accused of having viewed women as sex objects. Although, to be fair on myself, this has never truly been my genuine soul, if even I had half-heartedly toyed with the machismo persona in my “wild oats” years. My eBook titled “Stiped to the Left: The Dating Fails of a Modern Cro-Magnon” makes fun of these foolish years, all in the name of the wholesome agenda of laughing at our silly egos.
My job was also expendable because my wife makes the bigger income and this was of course better for the family. Her mother had come from overseas to help out for six months after my wife’s maternity leave, which enabled me to keep working initially, but her mother had to return per the terms of her tourist visa. This resulted in my having to seek out a daytime job compatible with my essential role as Daddy Daycare, as my wife’s job is very demanding of her time and attention despite her working from home. On the positive side, she is able to pay all the bills and her job was mercifully untouched by the Pandemic, so far.
It is important to understand that in my bread-and-butter trade (not necessarily my ambition in life) it is very difficult to find a local position within the daytime, business hours of daycare, in non-pandemic much less pandemic times, so in early January I had to take a part-time position with a company whose full-time positions begin too early in the AM. But given that they promised me at least 20 hours per week on a “PM” schedule, I calculated that I was able to pay for my babysitter and remain (barely) gainfully employed at the pay rate offered, considering my freedom from other household bills.
Not to mention that I am not a person who is comfortable not working, even if my job is barely gainful.
This worked out for a few weeks until the Covid-19 Pandemic struck! My employer lost two main customer bases, schools and restaurants during the Covid-19 shutdown, and my hours were beginning to dwindle too low to sustain even my babysitter costs. Seeing that the company did not have enough hours to sustain all its workers, I told my immediate supervisor to give my too few hours to other workers in need, with the assumption that this means that I am on temporary layoff since they definitely hadn’t enough hours for their crew. But here’s the hitch. It was MY assumption that the company saw the matter in this light.
A few weeks later when checking in, I discovered that they saw my request as a voluntary furlough while I had already applied for unemployment under a layoff status, and I ultimately accepted this verdict under the additional assumption that the term “voluntary” in the context of a pandemic related, economic shut-down that limited working hours to the point of un-gainfulness, at no fault of my own, should still qualify me for no-fault unemployment support. I nevertheless wondered why my employer did not take advantage of the Payroll Protection Program rather than forcing their employees either to work at a loss or be potentially disqualified from all help, but I did not get any answer from them. I can only presume they did not partake in the program. Because while I would have been easiest to compensate at only half-time, I was not in fact offered this lifeline.
This sticky situation nevertheless raised my fear flag about possibly being seen by the State as committing unemployment fraud, so I attempted to contact the Florida Reemployment Assistance division numerous times to clarify. Presumably, given that they have been and still are inundated with merely getting claimants processed, however, I have not heard back from them to date. Meanwhile, I have been receiving my unemployment compensation and I have been certifying for my weeks in case I do in the end qualify.
About a month after my stopping working, and after my employer informing me of my voluntary furlough status, they called me back to work and despite my alerting them about my continued need for at least 20 hours in order not to lose money in coming to work, I only averaged about 12 hours during the week, so I had to ultimately resign. In the week in question, I reported returning to work to unemployment and I reported resigning due to not being able to pay even for daycare on the reduced hours (due to Covid-19 I’m sure) and I found that I continued to receive benefits!
While if I am in the end qualified for unemployment I might have been able to work partially and receive compensation up to the state amount, which would have been able to cover my babysitter and leave me ahead some, the whole question about whether I qualified at all rendered this option too risky. Since, if I later discovered I did not qualify and had to return the money, I would have been working at a loss and shall have proven to be in a greater hole with this option.
Therefore I presently find that I have no choice but to save as much of the unemployment money as possible in case I am later deemed unqualified. This situation leaves me in a very uncomfortable, financial limbo of sorts. I am doing my job searches while taking on a full-time Daddy Daycare role, resisting patronizing daycares on behalf of my toddler in case I have to return the monies. While it feels terrible for me not to be working, I remind myself that caring for my baby girl is in fact the most valuable kind of work, if I can only accept the wisdom. My greatest fear is that I might be seen as committing fraud, but I trust that my numerous timely attempts to contact the State and to clarify my situation shows good intent. I am also in the process of continuing my searches for gainful employment as I continue to receive unemployment compensation.
My babysitter, moreover, was forced to leave the area due to the Covid-19 fallout and her service prices which were less than daycare is no longer available to me. So even though I now see my former employer advertising for my role (albeit full-time, I presume), I cannot return to them even if I wanted to, due again to original scheduling constraints and higher daycare costs now. Not to mention I suspect that they foster an inhumane atmosphere for their employees by setting schedules in such a way as either to force their employees to work at a loss or disqualify them from unemployment help in forcing them to resign. All while apparently refusing to show their employees any kind of loyalty through risking the Payroll Protection Program, a lifeline that Congress has had the foresight to throw to small businesses.
Here is a novel thought: while technically, an employer can manipulate a situation to avoid unemployment liability, I think that the government needs to adjudicate the situation based on the SPIRIT of the law, not the LETTER, in which case I definitely qualify for unemployment aid given the national Pandemic condition which is no fault of my own. In my resignation email I did advise my employer that they should offer the most senior and willing employees a gainful, full-time employment option with the hours they do have, while encouraging the rest to file for unemployment, if they indeed choose not to do the Payroll Protection Program. My fate in this matter with regard to state government will speak to America.
On a side note, let me take this opportunity to promote, in case this article receives widespread exposure, a self-employment initiative I have recently started called The Write Right Remote Tutor. May I presume that my written testimony here is an excellent example of my expertise as a writer?
As people are squeezed by the economic pressures of this Pandemic, the weaknesses in our society are becoming more visible. My immediate financial situation highlights some of the fault lines in the relationship between employers and employees, for example. And it sets the stage for a very interesting scrutiny of state governments’ relation to their citizens, whenever the State visits my circumstance. The bottom line of my situation is, unemployment law was not written in consideration of the widespread labor effects of a Pandemic, particularly the economic cardiac arrest of shutting down. Therefore if and when my criteria for applying is visited by an adjudicating official, he or she will need to interpret the law in SPIRIT (which will demand greater forbearance in qualifying criteria) than in Letter (which will be too blunt an instrument and therefore inhumane).
But the additional and greater issue of the American citizen’s relationship to government in a “land of the free” is also being put on the spot, so let’s now turn to these considerations.
Government and Civil Liberty
I consider myself an American not only because I’m naturalized as such, but because I deeply identify with its greatest principle of Civil Liberty. Indeed, in my mid-life autobiography titled The Socratic Trucker: An American Memoir I write: ‘I am a true American, made so not by mere accident of birth, but in deepest ideological identification.” I propose to you that what a country stands for in its highest ideology determines that country’s essential and truest identity. America is Liberty, no less. And if it ever falls short of this mark of marks, it is, as Christ purportedly warns his followers, salt that has lost its saltiness and is therefore fit for not but the dung heap!
Is it clear now that I am a truest patriot? Well then, let’s see how this Pandemic affects me as such.
While I am as scared and as concerned for my and my family’s safety from Covid-19 as any reasonable other, I realize one central truth as a man of Liberty. I fully identify with Patrick Henry’s proclamation at the Second Virginia Convention in 1775 when he famously said “Give me Liberty or give me death!” Do you think this is a trivial statement, uttered merely for dramatic effect? I propose to you that just as nations who have won Liberty the hardest way in war and blood had to realize this truth, even so we today must renew our adherence to this sternest of values. Every so many years God or fate retests the human heroic heart to determine whether we are worthy of true life, or whether we are deserving ultimately of ignoble slavery. And today, Coronavirus is our inquisitor.
This shutting down of our economies is an injudicious act based ultimately on cowardice. We would be wiser to limit our most economically pricey safety restrictions to the most vulnerable to the virus. Rather than indiscriminately suppressing the liberty of all people from earning a self-sustaining, independent and therefore free living, we can offer government support and restrictive options to those most at risk of the virus. The elderly, those with underlying conditions. We can then throw massive public resources to hospitals and health agencies to deal with the sick and to prepare therapeutic and preventative vaccination measures, all while securing the fundamental liberty of the people to remain economically independent and therefore free. This would be more judicious. And what’s more, we would be accepting a basic truth about human life—we are mortal! To the degree that we are reluctant to accept our mortality, and indeed even to realize that there are things which are worse than death itself, we have chosen slavery out of cowardice.
We should not allow our government to make this decision for us. For in so doing, we allow them to presume cowardice on our part, holding out our quivering hands, as it were, for their shackles. Some might like to disparage our present American (social health) struggle with the Pandemic due to our cultural resistance linked to our value for individual liberty, but what they see as possible shameful failure of uniformity, I see as remnants of hope. Everyone seem to be unable to realize that the global economic shutdown is effectively resulting in a destruction of the financial independence of We, the People generally, which boils down to a decimation to Liberty itself, worldwide.
For without being able to stand on one’s own two feet to defend one’s liberty, can one ever be said to be free!? The inequality of resources in our world is rendering the bottom 99% of the world’s population not much more than slaves, while the 1% wielders of power resulting from their wealth are encouraging the bottom classes to fly at each other’s’ throats in class competition (and among the more ignorant, racial competition) in order to secure their (1%) position. Were human nature not basically selfish, a global, coordinated effort to shut down the economies of the world all at once and finally defeat this virus could have been made, for on the whole, the world is wealthy enough to absorb this blow—yet only if the wealthiest paid their fair share of the burden. But as it were, such an effort would only result in a dangerous precedent of power polarization and final tyranny (absolute rule) of the wealthiest few who, far from raising themselves to heroic sacrifice, would be in the most expedient position to usurp such power once created. Not, of course, that they have not always been and are not still attempting to do this very thing covertly!
Here therefore is another new thought: Could a 1% group have used the Communist Political Party in China to allow the escape of this virus for the very sake of progress toward such a universal consummation of power? Using the CCP as their global hound, as they have been using corporations as their usurping hounds for decades? But I suspect I’m getting too deep for most of you here, and I can mind read thoughts of conspiracy theory arising in some of my readers. So let us put unprovable speculations aside and get to the rational heart of why the free individual today needs to guard against government and all possible or conceivable constellations of power.
While laying out the evolution of the value for Civil Liberty in Western History in his essay “On Liberty,” John Stuart Mill penned a very powerful and famous sentence when he writes: “But as the king of the vultures would be no less bent upon preying on the flock than any of the minor harpies, it was indispensable to be in a perpetual attitude of defense against his beak and claws.” That is to say, the people of England realized that they needed to adopt an attitude of defense against their very king, as much as against his intermediates, despite any claims to benevolence on his part. This perpetual vigilance of the individual, even against his and her government, is therefore indispensable for a fairer and more just world. Justice only through vigilance and self-empowerment! This attitude must remain our perpetual civil exercise if as a self-interested race we hope to remain free.
In the context of a society that has shut down and is therefore restricting me economically, and considering that I myself have underlying conditions, I have accepted government support and services which are rightly available to me, as you can see above with unemployment. But mere fear of the virus has never played a role in my personal decisions as a man of Liberty. I will go out and work when I have found an opportunity compatible with the needs of my family and as prudent as possible health wise, in order to keep my country as strong economically and therefore as free as possible, despite my underlying conditions. I will of course wear face masks, wash my hands, and practice social distancing whenever possible. And I will set the example of responsibility and safety wherever I can. But I will never stop raising my voice to my fellow Americans that we must be on guard against letting our society fall to the opportunity of tyranny.
For I know very well the evil in this world, that it awaits only opportunity!
Revolution of Vision, Evolution of World…