Up in the Air: Public Trust in the Age of COVID-19

I fly often for work and fun fact, I don’t really love flying. I’m tall. I’m impatient but suffocatingly polite 99% of the time. I have something akin to ADD. I can’t afford business or first class.

But I like to go places and I love my work, so I go.

I sit in the plane with people just like you, just like me, and we agree as a collective we will let the pilot handle the next “x” amount of hours of our lives. Our goal is to get there safely, above all else. Yes? So, we wear headphones and avoid smelly food. We say “please” and “excuse me” and “thank you.” Some clap when the plane lands. I am not a clapper, but I appreciate the sentiment.

We don’t ask to only sit next to Republicans. Or Democrats. Or heterosexuals. We don’t choose our seats by race or religion. We are separated by class, which is worth discussion, but regardless, if the plane crashes, we all crash together. We leave and arrive in one piece or we crash into the sea together. Period.

I am that person who part way through the flight loves to look out at the sky and marvel because it is beautiful and requires a ton of faith to enjoy because damn, you are up in the sky in a metal bird and have zero control. But it’s stunning. And then there is the part when we are flying low above a city and you can see the tracks of development, highways, monuments, cars, planning — thousands of lives in your view at once. I love that too.

I’ve yet to hear anyone say, “Oh hey, we are halfway there, maybe I can try to land the plane. I feel like I know stuff. It’s my constitutional right to pilot this plane.”

Because that would be crazy.

This is not the time to bring in an amateur to land the plane. I totally get that this is a financial disaster of unprecedented numbers. I get it. But we are also choosing between unprecedented loss in terms of humans or dollars. Which sucks. I know. But this is exactly what it is.

You can’t bring an AR-15 to a Science Fight. It would be as effective as using a magic wand to drive a Ferrari. It simply doesn’t work like that and “trying it out” means that my loved ones are in greater danger, and that I cannot do.

Most people are being responsible and community focused, but damn if there aren’t enough doorknobs to make life difficult.

But this time they will crash the plane. And we are on board together.

So, that scares me more than the virus.

All I can do is continue to socially isolate, trust the science, and take good care of our people, even if it takes 24 months. I can be uncomfortable for the herd. It’s going to be painful no matter what. So choose your pain: human life or the economy. That is the only choice we are faced with right now.

I want to get to our destination together. I hope you do too.

Please, take your seat.

Jennifer Gray Thompson is the Executive Director of Rebuild North Bay Foundation, a post-disaster long term recovery and resilience nonprofit based in Sonoma.