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An Economy Americans Will Die For: A Cautionary Tale

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Message Dr. Lenore Daniels

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It's been almost two weeks now since Wisconsin residents have been asked to shelter in place. Social distancing has been in effect as well. The private car transportation, that is, seniors driving seniors to doctor's appointments and the store ended when most businesses shutdown to protect their workers, or in this case, volunteers. Maybe for seniors in wheelchairs, services are available for the elderly and disabled to keep doctor appointments. Otherwise" A few days ago, I had to pick up some things at the grocery store, so out I went!

I have my gloves on, and a thick scarf covers my nose and mouth. The day is chilly, after all; but I refused to worry about how silly I might look. It makes sense to be cautious: I have cancer, and I'm in my mid-sixties. I walk down a road for one continuous block that is really three, but, in five minutes or so, the bus arrives.

As a senior, I usually sit close to the front of the bus, so when I went to climb up the stairs of the front door, I realized it wasn't opening. There's the driver, motioning me to the back door. An open back door. I have to reach for the rail on either side of the door to climb up the higher-than-front door step. I manage and, as I look to the driver, I couldn't miss the yellow caution tape between us. One older woman was already on the bus, seated at one side. I looked to the other but behind this caution tape that has been placed from one side of the bus to the other, making unavailable the senior/elderly and disabled seating.

But how could the disabled, people with wheelchairs, enter the bus under these circumstances?

I greeted the driver after I took my seat. He indicted that fares are no longer necessary. I put my dollar back in my bag.

This is a small town and most riders know the drivers. The week before, I expressed my concern for the health and safety of all the drivers to a couple of drivers. For the most part, the drivers are younger, but there are a few who are past 50-years of age, at least. The younger drivers, male and female, have children at home.

Be careful, I said to two drivers the week before. Both have young children.

And now, the yellow caution tape! Who is being cautioned not to come forward?

It's rarely crowded, at least not during the morning hours when mostly seniors and the disabled and mostlyto the shock, I'm sure, of many white Americanswhites, ride the bus. Occasionally, there are the unemployed, white and black, on their way to the Job Center in search of employment or assistance in procuring benefits. Some riders come on and, exercising their imaginations, telling fantastical stories. How else to compete with drivers and their stories of life in the working class, if not middle class?

To some "regulars," these drivers are everything. In their lives, there is room for the lives of the bus drivers.

If some riders have left the town or state to live elsewhere, its mainly through military service long ago. Many wear caps with the colorful badges of the Navy or the Marines or the Army indicating their engagement in World War II or Korean War. You know, the vets Americans pay lip service to.

Who will know of the extraordinary lives of struggle"

At the end of my trip to the grocery store, just about two miles away from home, I encountered four other older citizens, three of them elderly white men, and, on the way back home, I think two older white men. In fact, one sat right behind me, given we we forced to sit in close proximity. And we are not likely to sit in the very back row.

I don't know why I felt so uncomfortable. I kept thinking about bus riding way back in the day during legalized segregation, predominately in the South. Was this how it was during Jim Crow?

Sit in the back!

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Activist, writer, American Modern Literature, Cultural Theory, PhD.

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