In the standard image displayed at the top of a Daily Kos story, on an average browser, there are fewer than 500,000 pixels. The image used for this story contains exactly 1 million pixels, but you’ll have to open it in another page if you want to see them all. And of course, even then you can’t see them all, not really. They’re just a sea of sameness. Just a mass of dark where there could be light. Just points that show nothing where there could be something.
Like the one million people missing from the United States at this moment due to COVID-19.
There is really no way to show you what that loss looks like. No doubt there are, right at this moment, people making a valiant effort to do so. Somewhere shoes or cups or caps or some other items of everyday life are being arranged carefully on a field. Somewhere signs are being made with a scale and resolution that can genuinely provide some sense of what this number looks like when measured in human beings. Those efforts are, of course, symbolic, but that doesn’t mean they are worthless. Done well, such efforts can deliver a profundity and a physicality that the words “one million” simply don’t deliver.
This is a number so large that it falls into that the same well as those we use when describing the universe. These dinosaur fossils are 65 million years old. This galaxy is 10 million light years away. We nod along when told such things, but we don’t grasp them. Not really. Just like we can’t begin to grasp what it means to have one million people absent from the life of the nation. One million voices lost to the conversation. One million … one million.
This doesn’t seem the time to review the awful decisions that brought us here. Everyone is far too aware of the lies, the distortion, and the sheer indifference. The downplaying of the threat. The false promises of a miracle cure. The long, deliberate effort to undermine the advice of those who saw what was coming.
Instead, try another form of memorial. Spend one minute and imagine it was you. If you’re young, imagine what impact your loss would have to your parents, your siblings, your friends, your coworkers. If you’re older, imagine your absence in the lives of your children or what it would mean to your partner. Take one minute and imagine a you-shaped hole, not just in the events of today, but every day to come. Forever.
Then multiply that by one million.