If you’re concerned about having COVID-19 (the ̶L̶o̶k̶i̶ Lambda/Delta-Plus/Delta variant), you can do a home test! I ordered one because I’ve been having odd symptoms. The website makes it super easy. As for doing the test and returning it, I’ll let you know once I get it.
Stay safe out there, friends. The pandemic never ended.
If you’re looking for justice for your body, you might be confused or not care about how sociology relates, but stick with me. It’s the foundation of all things body justice.
Your Body and Sociology
As you probably know (but I never assume), sociology is the study of how external forces influence our behavior. It runs parallel (and often perpendicular) to psychology, which examines internal behavioral influences. That aside, sociology analyzes large social structures like religion and politics as well as small groups like our peers and relationships. Both large structures and small groups influence how we see things and how we behave. Especially in America, we like to think we’re individuals with uninfluenced free will. This, however, is not the case. Just think of the last time you quoted a movie, show, or song.
The U.S. and Sociology and Health
Now, if structures like religion, politics, education, business, and so on influence our thinking and behavior, that includes our bodies. Public health is a thing. It’s the reason the CDC, AMA, and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services exist. There’s no shortage of organizations and governments working with human bodies. These groups guide health with recommendations and limitations. They shape laws, public opinion, media stories, which means they also shape thinking and behavior. They are our overlords, like it or not.
Example: Oh, It’s Still a Pandemic
Case in point: COVID-19. We relied on social health structures to inform, protect, and help us. We’re depending upon the social structures of public health to work together to distribute the vaccine. Some of us are vaccinated, some aren’t, some hope to be, some don’t.
Need a visual of how this flows throughout our society? Here you are!
This whole flow is called the macrosociology-microsociology link, which is a fancy way of saying large structures and small groups and individuals influence one another (despite the arrows on the graphic, this flow does go both directions). Neat, huh? It’s proof that we influence society, and society influences us. And yes, if you want to make butterfly effect references, feel free. That’s right on target.
What’s this mean for body justice? It means bodies have social power. Large social structures cannot operate without power, and they know our bodies have power, so they try to control that power. However, because our bodies are ours, that means WE have the power. And tomorrow, I’ll get into your body’s power, how you can use it, and how you can stop others from using it without your permission.
(The opinions expressed here are solely mine and do not reflect upon anyone I know. In other words, Hy-Vee, please don’t fire anyone I know who works at Hy-Vee. They had nothing to do with this. Also, this is a rough draft.)
For those who don’t know, Hy-Vee is a grocery store chain that opened in small town Iowa 90 years ago and has now expanded to eight states. If you’re from Iowa and older than 30, you likely grew up shopping at either Hy-Vee or Dahl’s (RIP) or both when the deals were good. Hy-Vee is part of Iowa’s identity (we know the jingle), and Iowans are fiercely loyal. This loyalty, however, can become blind, and it’s time to evaluate Hy-Vee’s role in social responsibility and equity.
Let’s start with the hopeful because who doesn’t need hope right now?
Personally, I shopped at Hy-Vee for most of my life. If I wasn’t shopping at Dahl’s, I was probably at Hy-Vee. I know a ton of people who either worked or still work for Hy-Vee. It’s important to be fair here. Hy-Vee does contribute to the community, to the Iowa economy, and to our culture. They provide important, essential services, and I’m barely scratching the surface.
You know what’s coming, right? If you’d like to remain ignorant about Hy-Vee, stop reading now.
Sure, Hy-Vee shows up, and like most corporations, they do so with flaws. Some corporations have unintentional flaws. Sometimes, those biases, ignorances, and prejudices embedded in American culture reveal themselves as Hy-Vee along with the rest of us learn to do better.
The observations I’m about to discuss aren’t criticisms of those all-too-human flaws. Instead, they are observations about intentional decisions and actions Hy-Vee has made, which harm others and the community. It is these conscious efforts that harm their attempts at social injustice.
Regarding racial inequity and injustice, Hy-Vee got itself into a lot of trouble with several members of the Black community this summer. Iowa Capital Dispatch detailed the experiences of one former employee and how her decisions to speak up, attend Black Lives Matter protests, and express her concerns about Hy-Vee’s COVID-19 response resulted in management confronting the employee. In the end, she quit her job there. The on-going protests this summer targeted the employee’s former store in what has now become a point of contention between the community, Black Lives Matter leaders, the Des Moines Police, and Hy-Vee.
Hy-Vee’s response was not to support the employee or defend her. It was to defend itself. Shortly after this incident, Hy-Vee put massive black banners on all of its stores stating how much money they’d donated to racial equality efforts. While I can only speak for myself, this move came across as defensive. In fact, Hy-Vee’s donations to racial justice organizations came on the day George Floyd was buried. Hy-Vee’s commitment to racial equity was, at best, reactionary. I have seen little from Hy-Vee in the way of support for Black Americans or any other underrepresented since the protest at their store.
To be fair, most of America’s reaction to racial injustice is reactionary, so let’s move on.
Notice I’ve not mentioned Hy-Vee’s commitment to the rights of LGBTQ+ Americans. (I’ve also not mentioned several other underrepresented groups, so I recognize the irony, and I apologize.) That’s because, based upon quick research, there isn’t any. If you Google “Hy-Vee” and “LGBT,” the results are damning. Hy-Vee has a history of allowing bigoted organizations to fundraise at storefronts and donating to homophobic political candidates. I also know Hy-Vee has been unkind to LGBT+ leaders and organizations (don’t ask).
It’s this last point that’s the biggest problem for Hy-Vee.
Per Forbes, Hy-Vee is a $10 billion a year corporation. They don’t make that kind of money without getting involved in politics because, as all businesses know, political policy affects their bottom line. Now, Hy-Vee did not directly donate to any political candidate or party. Instead, the Hy-Vee Employee’s Political Action Committee (PAC) donated. I want to make that clear because people will say, “Oh, Hy-Vee donated to Trump.” Corporations cannot directly donate to a candidate or campaign. It must go through their PAC. Moreover, Hy-Vee’s employees, corporate officers, and board donated individually to campaigns. Those distinctions are important because that allows Hy-Vee to deny that they’ve endorsed any candidate. It allows them to say things like this:
“It’s imperative that a business of our size constantly be talking about economic outcomes on a local, state and national level on a continual basis. That’s just good business. As one of the few 90-year-old companies in the Midwest, we must constantly be looking at outcomes that may impact our business model and opportunities for employment. The year doesn’t matter, but the policy does — and certain policies can have detrimental effects on the retail sector if not closely monitored and reviewed.”
Hy-Vee’s spokesperson stated this in response to what I consider the biggest problem with Hy-Vee: Their not-so-subtle support of the Trump administration. Of the money Hy-Vee Employee’s PAC donated to political candidates, an overwhelming amount has funded Republicans since 2012. In fairness, some money has gone to Democrats, but the split is drastic. Hy-Vee Employee’s PAC donated over $1.5 million since 2012, and only a few thousand has gone to Democrats. The issue isn’t that Hy-Vee Employee’s PAC or individual employees are wrong for doing so. They aren’t. It’s their right to donate. It’s that Hy-Vee isn’t trying very hard to care about social justice. Basically, their efforts are performative. I remind you that the $1 million they donated to racial justice causes occurred only after George Floyd’s murder gripped America’s headlines, and it is less than they’ve donated to political candidates and causes over eight years. And one million dollars is not even one percent of Hy-Vee’s revenue.
That quotation came from the same piece in which the Iowa Capital Dispatch shared the words of CEO Randy Edeker:
“I never endorse and I try not to ever push a certain candidate or a direction. I always try to speak about Hy-Vee. I have some of the concerns about some of the policies that are being discussed by some of the candidates. Some of the tax policies would be very impactful to Hy-Vee. And the changes in taxes were part of the way we were able to bring a lot of good things to the employees this past year. Social unrest unfortunately continues to be a problem around the community and we continue to invest in our local groups who we really think can bring unity to our towns.”
The Capital Dispatch breaks this down nicely, and I want to echo their observations. It is the use of the phrase “social unrest” that concerns me. Edeker isn’t concerned with racism. He’s not thinking about Black Iowans demanding police brutality stop. He wants the protests to stop being a “problem.”
Furthermore, he mentions how the current tax situation was favorable to Hy-Vee. As Republicans are in power at nearly every level and in nearly every state in which Hy-Vee operates, Edeker’s attempts to be subtle with his message failed.
The most disturbing part of all this is Hy-Vee’s minimal action regarding COVID-19. Health justice is social justice, and Hy-Vee seems not only unconcerned but gleeful about this pandemic. Initially, Hy-Vee did not require employees to wear masks. It took them six weeks to implement the policy. We can forgive them for that. The CDC wasn’t clear on if masks were helpful. But even then, Hy-Vee did not provide employees masks.
Hy-Vee did make a number of changes, and I do applaud them for that. However, they’ve never required customers to wear masks in store. And then this from the Capital Dispatch (Oh, just go read it):
“In an email, Hy-Vee spokesperson Tina Potthoff stated, ‘Due to COVID-19, many supermarkets have set records this year with so many consumers opting to eat at home versus eat out. Hy-Vee had more than $11 billion in sales in FY 2020 compared to slightly more than $10.6 billion in sales in FY 2019.'”
While Potthoff is merely stating a fact, there’s something disturbing about opting to state this fact this way. There’s no getting around the reality that their spokesperson credited a lethal pandemic for their increased profits. And it’s not a small profit. I’m sure a bunch of small businesses are also seeing increases in profits due to the pandemic. It’s that we’re talking in billions.
Did their spokesperson not think how this might come across?
Obviously not, because there was more:
“Hy-Vee’s Aisles Online business quadrupled due to fears of the deadly virus, Potthoff said.”
My brain cannot comprehend the callousness of stating profit in this way. A portion of Hy-Vee’s “business quadrupled” because of fear of death and suffering. I suppose nothing could be more American than that.
Truth is: I have so many issues with Hy-Vee’s Band-Aid approach to social justice that–earlier this year–my husband and I stopped shopping there. I have only two prescriptions running through their pharmacy that I’m working to get switched, but we will have walked away from Hy-Vee entirely soon. I haven’t even gotten into questions about their environmental blunders, their just-above-the-poverty-line pay, and their encouragement of diet culture.
It’s not that any grocery store in the area is perfect regarding social justice. The complaint is more that Hy-Vee’s efforts are overridden by their commitment to politics and practices that create and contribute to social injustice. Frankly, they have the money, the skilled-workforce, and the knowledge to do better. They just don’t.
This morning, I was tested for COVID-19. How I got to this point is Donald Trump’s fault.
For a few years, Hubster & I discussed getting passports. We wanted them pre-Trump because we want to travel internationally. We wanted them post-Trump in case we needed to flee the country. We finally got serious about it in October and scheduled our appointment on October 20th, which–as of this writing–was three days ago.
I’ve long been terrified about getting passports because I’ve always heard the process was a pain. So, being extra-cautious, we checked repeatedly to make sure we did everything right. We know we’ll need pictures, so we agreed to have them done at the post office. And, for at least a week prior, an enveloped marked “passport docs” sat on my desk; it contained required copies and applications. Per travel.state.gov, “citizenship evidence” includes a list with these two items first: “your original evidence of U.S. citizenship” and “a photocopy of the front (and back, if there is printed information) of your original evidence of U.S. citizenship.” It does not say the original documents are required. It literally lists both options. Remember this.
We arrived on time to our appointment. Everyone was masked up, but the post office was busy, as in a steady stream of people in line to ship, mail, and so on. Someone was ahead of us, but we didn’t wait terribly long. It was maybe fifteen minutes. We were both nervous this would go poorly, but with all the prep we’d done, I felt like it would be a breeze. That should’ve been my warning sign.
I can’t remember the order of events, but two employees helped us; one was a trainee. They got our pictures done quickly, but I was unnerved that the more experienced employee had her mask down off her face while we took our pictures. But it was over quickly, and we sat down to do our paperwork, a plexiglass divider on the desk between us and the employees.
They reviewed our paperwork. They went through Hubster’s quickly, but once they got to the copy of his birth certificate, they informed us we needed the original. We (probably more I) grumbled a bit that the directions did not indicate an original was required. They insisted. From there, I was antsy to get it over with. We knew we’d have to run back home, get the originals, and get back to this busy post office.
But did I mention central Iowa got its first ever snow squall warning right before we left for our appointment? Frankly, I was not eager for us to be on the roads.
They reviewed my application, and the trainee said I was missing a page. I said it was double sided. She seemed fine with that. The more experienced employee informed us the application was not allowed to be double sided. I’m sure there’s a reason. We don’t know what it is, and I was too anxious/irritable to ask.
The employees mark down that we’ve already taken and paid for our pictures. They tell us to come back before 3:30. They write on the paperwork that we’ll be back by 3:30. In our heads, this means we can just pop in and finish the process. Again, this should’ve been another red flag to me.
We get back home safely, as the snow squall hit northern Polk County harder than where we were, and the roads remained decent. I immediately bust my butt upstairs, grab my original birth certificate, put it in the stack with the rest of our documents, then print my application again, but this time, I make sure it doesn’t print two-sided. Hubs locates his original birth certificate (which caused a bit of panic because it wasn’t where it was originally, and I’m pretty sure that was my fault). We return to the post office maybe 30 minutes later if that.
An entirely different person is working the passport desk now. The two employees we worked with are nowhere in sight. We notify the folks that we’re back, and we wait. There are two people ahead of us. While we wait, a family of four comes in. My Karen-sense detector beeps. The mother in this family has her mask below her nose. The dad is restless. I’m not sure he ever sits down at the nearby table where his wife and kids are. I sense they expect to get right in. The Karen-y mom even looks at her phone, states the time of their appointment to her husband, has the email up, and says, “We’re special.” Having been invisible and stepped in front of countless times, I can tell my polite bitch mode will be required.
Sure enough, after the two people in front of us are finished, the passport employee calls in this family. At this point, we’d been waiting for half an hour. I jump up and say, “Ma’am,” then explain our circumstances. Hubster and I explain that we were told to come back before 3:30. The employee repeatedly tells us that Karen’s family had an appointment at 2 p.m. (It’s just about 2.)
She says, “It’ll only take them fifteen minutes.”
I say, “My husband is already missing work.”
She says, “Can you wait fifteen minutes?”
I asked, “Do you have an appointment at 2:30?”
She replies, “Yes, but this will only take fifteen minutes.”
At that point, I knew it was pointless to argue, so we sat back down and waited. I also knew it was not going to take this family fifteen minutes.
At 2:35 p.m., the family finishes. There are more people in line for passports. She calls us in. There’s no acknowledgement that her fifteen minutes was really 35.
She’s kind. She’s helpful. She knows her shit, this employee. This is also why it doesn’t not take her the estimated time she thinks it will take. She’s under the impression we will also take only fifteen minutes. Spoiler alert: It doesn’t.
She looks at our pictures and asks, “Where did you get these taken?”
We’re both like, “Uh, here.”
She doesn’t believe us. We still have our masks around our necks in the original photos, and she says, “We’re not going to be in a pandemic forever, so you shouldn’t have those on” despite that fact that you can still see our entire faces. I provide the extra copies that have the USPS logo on them. She shakes her head and comments about how she’s taught them better. We’re required to retake our pictures.
Fifteen minutes, you say?
She takes his and has no issues. She takes mine, looks at it, and asks me to take it again. She explains the background is not “picking up the gray” in my hair. Keep in mind we have to take our masks off completely to do this. Hubster’s mask is easy. It loops around the ears. Mine ties behind my head and neck. Taking mine off more than once takes longer than I’d like especially in a scenario when I want to be quick about it. Maybe I should’ve worn an easier mask, but I wanted to wear one that felt secure in the high-traffic space of the post office. I take my mask off for the third time in a public space, and she puts an old, red sweater on my shoulders (god knows how long it has been there and who all it has touched), so my grays will show up. She takes the picture again and is finally happy.
The rest is easy. We shell out a lot of money. We’re friendly and sign some things. I apologize for being rude. She tells me she didn’t think I was rude, just that I didn’t understand the process. And that’s when I about lost it internally because we leave there at 3 p.m. And the 2:30 appointment gets in at 3.
Now, yes, that was his own fault. He was a little late to his appointment. However, it’s possible he came from Northern Polk county, where they had upwards of nine inches of snow in about two hours. Worse, she refused to make the 2 p.m. Karen family wait for us, but she made the 2:30 appointment wait for us, and WHY NOT JUST LET US GET IT DONE AT 2 P.M.? It’s not the process I don’t understand, lady; it’s your damn logic.
*screams internally* What should’ve taken fifteen minutes (apparently) took us two hours. I was exhausted, angry, and grumpy at the end of it. But it was done, and now we wait.
Except it’s possible I got myself a souvenir from this lovely post office, typical government bullshit experience. A couple days later, I notice a mildly sore throat and fatigue. Immediately, I was like, “Ah, shit.” But because I have other health issues that could’ve caused this, I tried not to panic. This morning–three days after our post office fun–I woke up stuffy with a sore throat, a headache, fatigue, and coughing. Before getting up for the day, I decide to get tested. I schedule it for a few hours later.
The experience itself is a post I’ll save for another day, but I should have my results anywhere from 24 to 72 hours. In the meantime, I’m staying home and trying to keep myself in my office even though Hubster probably has it already if I do. (Yes, I’ll share the results when I get them.)
And this is the gist of it. We got passports because we wanted to flee Donald Trump’s America, and I might’ve gotten COVID as the souvenir. That’s the kind of world we’re living in. It’s one where you try to escape a growing sentiment of hatred and end up the victim of an uncontrolled pandemic. It’s one where you’ve done your best to stay home for seven months, wear a mask in public, socially distance from family and friends, keep informed about best practices, raise awareness about elections, and vote with two hours of research to still end up feeling sick and having a swab up the nostrils.
Donald Trump’s America means choosing between a cough or a coup, death or defecting. And I’m over it.
If you don’t think Coronavirus is serious enough to stay home, please keep reading.
If we stay home, the spread slows down.
My best friend is an ER nurse at a busy hospital. Her husband is an EMT. They are on the front lines. They have two small children. They have nowhere to take their children, as all family members are either elderly or also have small children. At home, they can’t stay away from their own kids. Someone has to feed them. They have no choice but to risk their own health and their children’s health.
If we stay home, the spread slows down.
My mother is 68 years old. She has a respiratory condition. My parents are not leaving the house, and they are not allowing visitors. My dad is disinfecting everything regularly. They are forgoing their hobbies and sacrificing seeing their children, grandchildren, and parents to keep themselves and others safe. If my mom gets COVID-19, we will not be able to see her, but she is one of the highest risks, and I have no doubt she would die. No one in my family would ever recover. We are that close. This is not being dramatic. This is the truth.
If we stay home, the spread slows down.
My sisters, three of my nieces and nephews, and some of their friends and significant others work in the grocery industry. They are not able to stay home. They would likely recover, but I don’t want them to get sick at all.
If we stay home, the spread slows down.
Over 23,000 people have died worldwide. That’s 4,000 more people than reside in Waukee, Iowa, one of my city’s larger suburbs. It’s more than a third the population of our largest suburb, West Des Moines. That’s 9,000 people short of the entire population of the Des Moines Public Schools.
If we stay home, the spread slows down.
I don’t know what it will take to get people to stay home. I would hate for it to take hundreds of thousands of people to die. What I know is I cannot bear losing my best friend of thirty years. I cannot bear losing a sibling, a parent, a niece, or a nephew because people didn’t want to stay home. Staying home is not convenient. It’s not fun. It might not be safe for some people, and I know this is an impossible ask. But if you have the ability to stay home, please . . . stay home. I know I’m not the only one who could lose the people most precious to me.
Sure, the last decade or so, it’s been popular to say, “I hate people” and “I can’t wait to stay home all the time.” Now that we’re being asked to do so, many of us realize there are downsides to social isolation. Truth is . . . that’s a real thing with drastic, negative impacts. In sociology, we call it “anomie.”
Straightforwardly, anomie means “normlessness.” In other words, social norms are the rules keeping society together (i.e. don’t pick your nose in public, don’t murder, etc.). Without norms, we have no direction, no guidance, no manual for how to behave. I grumble often about how arbitrary our social norms are (*cough*capitalism*cough*), but purpose still exists in our social structures. All sacred texts are norm manuals. The things our parents teach us are norm manuals. Whenever someone says there’s no manual for life, they’re wrong. Our life manuals are created by our societies and cultures.
It’s why I still find The Walking Dead (TWD) fascinating.
I don’t mean to suggest the COVID-19 outbreak is akin to the post-apocalyptic world of TWD, but the thing scratching at us is the feeling of navigating a society we don’t recognize, the same struggle as the characters in TWD. No one from Generation X or younger has been asked to stay home, stay away from work, stay away from one another, avoid public gatherings, cancel whole seasons of sports, and postpone whole concert tours. For most of us, this is uncharted territory. Yes, the word “unprecedented” gets overused, but there is truth to it. Humanity has faced pandemics before, but our generations have not. Worse, most social change takes decades. Americans and several other countries did it in less than a week. Of course, this is weighing on us. How could it not?
Weirdly, we’re also the generations best geared for it. Those of us privileged to have the internet at home are so stupidly fortunate. Professor and political scientist Robert Putnam wrote a whole book about how our society is moving away from community and public activity, and he wrote it twenty years ago. Since then, we’ve gotten streaming television and broader social media use. We’re a society angled toward staying home. That’s why so many people are like “Fuck outside. I’m staying home!” Home is where our modern definition of fun resides. (I have no intention of watching Tiger King. But I will anyway.)
Even those of us who enjoy staying home must acknowledge, we still need people. Without them, we become isolated. That isolation is, at best, damaging. It causes us to lose our sense of reality. We don’t have others to say, “Hey, that’s not cool” and “Oh my gosh, thank you for meeting with me!” We can still do that virtually, but we are less likely to do it from home. What’s scary about that is–the first time anomie was studied–it was in conjunction with the patterns of suicide. The negative impacts of social isolation are, yes, deadly. To say we need social connections is an understatement.
What we’re experiencing right now is a massive, sudden, shocking social shift for which we were recreationally prepared, but not emotionally or socially because:
we need other people,
we lose our sense of reality,
we’re grieving a way of life, and
people are suffering and dying, and the best thing we can do is nothing.
That last point is particularly damaging because if you ask people what their purpose is in life, they often say to help others. Pair helplessness with everything else we’re feeling, and it gets bleak.
The cool thing about human beings is we’re creative. We’re finding ways to cope with social isolation. That said, we must still acknowledge how important our society and other people are to us. They remind us of who we are, why we do what we do, what to avoid, and “how to get through this thing called life.“
So, yeah. It’s OK to feel freaked out, sad, directionless, grief-filled, scared, anxious, uncertain, lonely, and down. Hell, it’s OK to feel elated to stay home (at times, I certainly am). But what we must admit is we need one another. We must unlearn the belief that we are independent beings who need nothing and no one. We must relearn the value in social connection.
It’s wonderful to want to support small businesses in your community especially if you’re viewing IG story feeds like mine and feel that pull. That said, it’s also easy to feel pressured to support businesses when you don’t have the means. While this might seem counter to everything I’m posting on IG, it’s OK to not spend money!
If you’re worried about how you will feed yourself and your kids, supporting local businesses is plainly not a priority. Please connect as much as possible to those in your community. A lot of us are trying to share resources to help keep people in need fed and safe. Keep an eye out for those both on IG and (eventually) here. I’ll start collecting resources and sharing them.
If you have the privilege of not worrying where your next meal will come from, you might consider saving the money you aren’t using on gas. No, interest rates are not in your favor, but having an emergency fund helps.
You might also consider investing. My favorite source of financial advice is Bravely Go, owned and operated by Kara Perez. She makes financial literacy accessible. I’d never invested in the stock market before this year because I thought it was for rich white men. Thanks to her, I’m giving it a try. I have only made about $30 this year, and $18.25 is invested through an investment app. The bad news? I’m down to $14. The good news? Bravely Go taught me investing is for the long haul.
The point is even in an uncertain economy, there are ways to advocate for your financial well-being, which is a part of what makes a whole you. Even if you’re anti-capitalism (and trust me, I’m not a fan of it these days), it’s better to understand how that system works, so you can use it against the jerks hoarding money.
And if you do have a few spare bucks, consider buying food for food banks before you grab that latte. If you can do both, even better! Community care and self-care are equally important!