My unpopular opinion on VE Day 2020, in light of current affairs!
Firstly, a disclaimer; under normal circumstances I am not one to be a party pooper. But these are not normal circumstances, and therefore I feel an obligation to say what I feel. Maybe I have just gotten a bit carried away, but I’m going to say it all anyway.
VE Day was of course, undeniably a fantastic opportunity to celebrate the strength of our country and parade our patriotism, and under “normal circumstances” what better way to do so than come together, why it would be rude not to! Community spirit is something so unique and for certain must be cherished, and I do feel an immense privilege that where I live we really do have this. In these strange times our neighbours and friends have been generous and supportive at all angles and we are so grateful for this. It has been a time where we have become closer through distance. The street becomes raucous as we clap for the NHS on a Thursday, and group chats are always pinging away as we share ideas and brighten each other’s days. There is a wonderful atmosphere, and I do truly love it.
All our lives have been affected by this pandemic, and in no way do I intend to suggest that any persons struggle is greater than another’s. I merely wish to point out an imbalance that I am noticing from my standpoint. As some of you know my dad is a doctor and is therefore on the frontline of this battle we are facing, along with all other vital and invaluable key workers. The way I see it is despite all the economic difficulties, in terms of protecting yourself and your loved ones, if you are able to stand back from the frontline then you are in an incredibly privileged position and you must remember this and not abuse it.
Those who are on the frontline like my dad, they know the risk of this and it is quite frankly terrifying. Each day knowing that beyond maintaining the most impeccable hygiene and social distancing you can, there is nothing more you can do to defend yourself. You change your clothes and wash before you see your family each evening, but you know you might be carrying it anyway. You are relying upon the meagre PPE the government has provided you with, but masks have had to be reused and gloves are running short. You are constantly worrying whether you’ve done enough to really be safe from this indiscriminating virus, even though your hands are cracked from washing them. Your family have underlying health issues, yet they are the only people you have around you to turn to for support. As the family of a key worker you are proud, and you are scared. You are proud of them for helping, for everyone who is carrying on and bringing the country through this battle. But then you are scared- you cannot keep them away from the invisible killer, as a doctor they are the first port of call. You worry that they may get it, you worry that they may carry it, that they might give it to you. The only way to try and ensure this doesn’t happen is to stay away from them, but of course that’s not really possible, goodness knows we need each other’s support now more than ever. Therefore you follow social distancing rules religiously, after all it really is the least you can do in the situation. You only put yourself and your family in risky positions if it is absolutely essential, despite all temptation.
On a Thursday we clap from our doorways for these key workers, we remember those who have lost their fight and we encourage each other to keep going. My neighbourhood appears in full support of this, and that is lovely. But when we clap, we must be mindful that we are applauding the NHS in particular for saving lives, and this is not something that is a novelty for health workers, this is something they do all the time. Our NHS is amazing now and always has been, but under normal circumstances is under appreciated, under funded, and overrun-but still saves lives. Whilst clapping now is heartwarming and a way for us all to show appreciation, it barely scratches the surface in rectifying how the healthcare system has generally been regarded. I like the clapping, I do the clapping too, but I also see the ugly flip side.
My main point it that what I saw occur in many places on VE Day 2020, largely contradicted what I saw people do the previous evening, as you clapped for the NHS. You decorated your houses, brilliant. You complied playlists and sang songs, wonderful. You then held a socially distanced street party, in my opinion, questionable. I mean who really is going to head out to celebrate VE Day and take with them a couple of measuring sticks to ensure you’re not breaking the law? Exactly, nobody. So you didn’t, you flocked to the streets in your families, and chatted and sang and patriotically revelled in the joys of remembering victory! It was wonderful, I heard and saw it all and it hit me with its beauty because life is so precious right now. As you all let go of the current anxieties the happiness was contagious. It spread amongst you and for a few hours you were able to forget the hell we are currently living through, it was as if it wasn’t there. Because it’s invisible, literally, you won’t see the virus that has brought the world to its knees, but it too is contagious. Herd mentality took hold I believe, and I do sincerely hope that nobody who attended any street party suffers from this. Social distancing does not mean setting your tables apart outside whilst having a catchup, social distancing means not having any contact with anybody that is not absolutely essential. Was celebrating with your family not enough? Was sitting on the streets amongst each other really essential?
I know it may have felt it, I know we all crave it, I know I certainly miss it and boy do I want it. But I want to be able to do so properly as soon as I can, to return to university and carry on leading my normal life after this standstill. But I won’t be able to do so until we (as a collective) stop being irresponsible.I want to see my friends and families without feeling an ounce of guilt or anxiety when an ambulance happens to whizz by like it did during the street party. I want to see them without worrying of spreading or catching, or offending and upsetting those who have no choice in their exposure to the virus such as our key workers. You all have a choice and an option to behave as you see fit, and i can’t influence that nor undo what happened. I just feel that for the sake of those who have no choice in the matter, please choose kindly. It really is the least you can do.
And now I’ve rained on your parade and I’m sorry, but I hope you won’t think badly of me for saying what I felt. I’m sure if it had been the other way round and I’d conducted a street gathering with all my friends a fair few fingers would’ve been pointed, perhaps even a surprise visit from the police, who knows! We’re not children, but we still look to our elders to set example, especially in times like these, so please do not undermine our trust in you. This letter is purely written from my viewpoint not my family’s, who when they find this will at best be mortified I’m sure.
Suilven, No.26 X