As I was in the middle of quarantine in between Zoom classes, I stumbled across an op-ed titled: “How San Diego Can — and should — get surfers surfing again.”
Upon reading the piece and reflecting on the broader pandemic at hand, I was taken aback by the notion that the city should make an exception to its citywide beach closure only for surfers.
Granted, I myself have never surfed, although I do enjoy going to the beach. But as someone who has had to join the nation in significantly altering my day-to-day routine, the notion that a select group of individuals should be granted immunity from this statewide stay-at-home order comes across as very privileged and short-sighted.
For a bit of personal context, under this stay-at-home order, I have had to transition to taking all of my university courses entirely online, been unable to see any friends for the past month, quit my job in the service industry, and been unable to partake in my favorite pastime of trying out different local coffee shops. This has been upsetting and uncomfortable, but I fully recognize and understand the need for these changes to be made under the context of a global pandemic.
When looking at this situation beyond the personal level, it is clear that many have had to alter their livelihoods to much more drastic degrees than simply skipping out on new coffee experiences or being unable to catch some waves.
Doctors and nurses around the country are working around-the-clock to provide the best care they can with a dwindling supply of resources and an increasing number of patients. Many of these healthcare warriors have resorted to writing their wills, as their colleagues have passed away in the line of duty and they themselves do not know if they will make it to the following week.
Moreover, unemployment rates are reaching record highs, with many families that were already struggling worried about whether they will be able to put food on the table while out of work, let alone be able to stay safe and healthy if they take up one of the few jobs available in high-risk environments such as grocery stores and fast-food restaurants.
To open up the beaches for surfers during this global pandemic when millions are struggling to a much greater extent than simply being unable to ride the waves flies directly in the face of the hard, life-threatening work being done by healthcare providers, food service employees, and sanitation workers to put a stop to this pandemic.
The main problem with opening up beaches to surfers is not a logistical one — although the thought of giving already overstretched city workers the task of monitoring the beaches to keep out non-surfers seems a waste of time and resources. Rather, an ethical problem arises when one believes that their right to their favorite pastime trumps others’ rights to stay safe and healthy during this pandemic.
“Social distancing” is more than maintaining a six-feet radius between yourself and those around you, although that general rule of thumb is a good place to start. The practice reflects a necessary mindset change of valuing the health and wellness of our neighbors above the temporary satisfaction we may feel from partaking in our favorite activities.
Despite the boredom we all feel now, there will be a day when the stay-at-home order no longer exists and we will once more engage in our favorite activities, whether that be surfing or trying out new coffee shops. But that day will continue to remain far-off unless we all take one for the team and stay at home for the time being.
Kindness, patience, and thoughtfulness are all important mantras to maintain during this tough time. That being said, the most important way that we can follow these mantras is to check our privilege when we can and to look out for those who are working hard to ensure that the nation is safe and healthy.
Art by UCSD Guardian artist Kyoko Downey.