I could write about a couple of topics this morning. I might even do just that, since it’s a rainy Sunday and I can’t think of anything I’d like to do today outside of the house. I spent a good portion of yesterday working on my latest jigsaw puzzle, which will probably be finished faster than the last two I’ve done. For some reason, it’s not as hard as the others have been, even though it’s 1000 pieces.
Anyway… I know people are probably tired of COVID-19 and politics, but I’m going to go there again today, mainly because I read a sad story in the Washington Post this morning. It was a businessman’s lament. The article, entitled ‘It’s like Trump said: The cure has been worse than the disease.’ kind of gave me more of an insight as to why so many people think Trump is “good” for them, despite all of his obvious shortcomings as a human being.
Mike Fratantuono is the manager of Sunset Restaurant in Glen Burnie, Maryland. He says that before COVID-19 struck, the restaurant was going to celebrate 60 years in business. Sixty years in business is a big deal, and that business has sustained four generations. But come September 30, 2020, it will cease to operate, mainly because it couldn’t survive COVID-19.
I know what a lot of people are thinking about the businessman’s lament. They’ve clearly expressed it in self-righteous and snarky tones in the comment section on Facebook. Lots of people have dismissed Mike’s sadness about losing the business, reminding him that people are dying and a restaurant is not worth more than a single human life.
I guess I see this situation differently, though, because my parents were small business owners. My dad ran a custom picture framing shop and an art gallery out of our home. My mom sold knitting and needlework supplies and she taught countless people how to do needle crafts (although she never taught me). They were valued contributors to the community. I grew up with so many people coming into our house to buy yarn or look at the latest print by local artists John Barber or P. Buckley Moss.
My parents worked very hard to run that business for over 25 years. Along with my dad’s Air Force retirement pay and my mom’s organist money, that business sustained them and me, when I was still a minor. In fact, I am a rare individual in that I grew up with total access to BOTH of my parents. They worked out of our home every day, so I was never a latchkey kid. I didn’t always appreciate having so much access to my parents, especially since they weren’t really all that into being parents. But it was a unique way to grow up. They were always there, and unlike a lot of my peers, I didn’t have any stepparents , step-siblings, or half-siblings. My parents were married for 56 years. My mom sold the business to a woman who went to work for my dad in 1989, and now she’s continuing the legacy, albeit without Mom’s needlework and knitting shop.
It’s true that businesses can be rebuilt, but if you’ve never built one and watched it flourish, you might not have any idea of how much it hurts to helplessly watch it fail, especially when it’s due to something completely beyond your control. Maybe some readers think Mike Fratantuono is “callous” for being so upset about losing the family business. But I think people should listen to him, because his words illustrate why so many folks are still voting for Donald Trump, despite the fact that Trump is an obvious sleaze. Trump gives businesspeople hope that their dreams, along with the hard work and money it takes to make them come to fruition, won’t be dashed. Trump’s words soothe their fears about the future. Maybe most of what Trump says is factually wrong or outright lies, but his words give business owners hope.
Now… personally, I am much more concerned about human rights and decency than I am the economy, and that is why I would never vote for Donald Trump. But I’m not blind to the concerns of people who are worried about business and the economy. Unfortunately, people still have to make ends meet, even if there is a pandemic going on. Bills have to be paid, even if a business isn’t allowed to operate because of a pandemic.
When a business like the Sunset Restaurant fails, it’s not just a tragedy for the people who built it. It also affects the many people who work there or supply goods and services to the restaurant. It affects the community, because without that business, there will be fewer taxes paid. And there will be people who need help to survive. Every time a business dies, more people will need help. They become food insecure, unable to purchase medicines, seek medical care, or pay their mortgages. They can’t afford things like the Internet, so their kids can attend school at home… if they still manage to keep their homes.
Trump has done precious little to help people weather the storm of the pandemic. There was a $1200 stimulus check and some temporary aid. Other than that, zilch. I wish Trump supporters would see that they should be getting more help from the government, especially since the pandemic is no one’s fault. Sometimes people do need help, and our government should be providing it, to some extent. It’s not just to help individuals; it’s to help the country survive. Many times, people end up in bad situations through no fault of their own. The pandemic is one such situation that was not caused by anyone in particular, but it affects everyone.
I do think it’s too bad that people who are commenting on Mike’s plight apparently have no regard for what he and his family have lost. I think people on both sides of the political spectrum are seriously lacking in empathy. Of course it’s terrible to lose friends and family members to COVID-19. But it’s also terrible to lose them for other reasons, like untreated diseases for want of the money to pay for doctors and medications, or suicide due to the despair of losing one’s livelihood. Moreover, COVID-19 has had a terrible effect on the quality of life for a lot of people, and those who are indignantly calling out Mike for his businessman’s lament should stop and think about that. Not everyone can weather COVID-19 with friends and family, living in a comfortable home. Some people can barely stand to be at home, even if it’s a comfortable place to be. We all have different ways of coping with the pandemic and some of us are more successful at coping than others are.
It’s not lost on me that Bill and I have been very lucky. His work hasn’t yet been threatened, and we live in a country where there are safety nets for people who need assistance. Medical care is not extremely expensive here, as it is in the United States, and people have maintained a reasonable and respectful attitude about containing COVID-19. In the United States, I’m seeing a lot of polarization, and not too many people in the happy medium. Or, if they do exist, they aren’t speaking up.
We have people who think it’s reasonable for a woman to be tased for not wearing a face mask while she was sitting outside, distanced from other people at her son’s football game. And we have people who insist that COVID-19 is a hoax brought about entirely for political reasons, to topple Trump’s re-election. We have people saying that we should all quit practicing any precautions against the virus because it’s ruining businesses and spoiling everyone’s fun. And we have people who think those who are legitimately depressed because they’ve lost their jobs or watched their businesses crumble should just get over themselves and stop complaining because at least no one died (yet).
I think it’s completely reasonable for businesspeople to lament right now. It’s as reasonable for them to be upset as it is for family and friends of someone to mourn death caused by COVID-19. It affects everyone, doesn’t discriminate, and has changed everything in less than a year. That’s a lot for anyone to handle. We should all have more compassion and empathy for each other, and we should then work together and be understanding as we all try to navigate dealing with the virus… and Trump’s “leadership”.
Anyway… I hope Mike and his co-workers and family members can recover after this great setback. Sixty years in business is an amazing achievement. I have empathy for them, because losing a business is a difficult thing. For some people, it’s every bit as traumatic as losing a loved one is. Hell, I felt a great loss last year when I moved my blog and basically started over… however, I will admit that I think the new blog is better for a lot of reasons. At least now, most of the people who read and comment are here because they’re genuinely interested.