I’m okay staying home if it means reducing the spread of this illness to other people. I’m okay about working from home. I’m okay with my children having to be home from school if it means that we as a family are contributing to the common good. I’m also okay with wearing a mask to the grocery store if it provides protection. What I’m not okay with is the fear-inducing rhetoric that is cultivated and mass-produced by our media and the social shaming and emotional manipulation left in its wake.
I get it; we need and deserve the facts. I’m not opposed to facts. I think understanding the full scope of this virus will help us to defeat it in the long run. I don’t object to understanding how the virus spreads and how each of us can take measures to slow its spread. In an already precarious time when emotions are fragile, anxiety is high, and folks are more uncertain about the future than ever, I think our news outlets have a moral responsibility to provide facts in a non-gratuitous and straightforward way.
Over recent weeks, the following headlines have left an impression on me: “Time to Panic!, “It’s Not Just the Old, Young People Will Die Too.”, and my favorite, “Stay Home: If your Child Contracts Coronavirus They Will Ride to the Hospital in an Ambulance with Complete Strangers.” (I wish I was making that one up!). Aside from the knee-jerk reaction to shit your pants and delve into full-blown panic mode, complete with a hearty dose of prescription anti-anxiety meds and a good glass of red wine, these “catchy” headlines seep into our psyches and force us to turn on one another in our greatest time of need. It’s hard to not look at the guy jogging past your house as the local asshole. It’s hard to see the person in the grocery store without a face mask and not want to unleash into a monologue about respiratory hygiene.
What if instead of trying to make sense of everyone else’s experiences and decisions, we just took a step back. What if the asshole jogging past your house just lost a loved one or a job and just needed to get out and run? What it the person in the grocery store is a single mom who had to get medicine and food for her family and didn’t have the resources to find a mask let along make one? What about people living with their abusers who are stuck in the house? What about those who don’t have access to running water and don’t have the privilege to wash their hands? What about homeless folks and those living in cramped quarters who don’t have the privilege to practice social distancing?
I consider myself lucky. I have a home with doors that can be closed for privacy and distance. I have a yard with a trampoline where my children can be outside and play. I have a refrigerator with fresh food and I have clean clothes in my closet. I have potable, running water. In a time of a global crisis such as this, yes I am damn lucky. Perhaps some of the folks we’ve subjected to social shaming are not.
I’ve greatly limited my time on social media and have reduced my reading and watching the news. I keep myself informed but I try not to get caught up in the mass hysteria I see percolating in our culture. Although we can’t reach out to our fellow humans with physical touch and connection, we do need each other. We need to strengthen and come together, not further divide and shame. I worry about the emotional toll this will take on all of us. I worry that if we believe and invest in the messages, we can drive ourselves further apart.
I practice yoga. The ancient yogis believe that every situation or circumstance is neutral. We are the ones who label it good or bad and then within that labeling, attach emotions to that experience. Maybe just maybe, we can challenge ourselves to see this as neutral, suspend our judgment and in its place offer compassion.
This is part of a series attempting to share the many different stories of individuals as they experience the coronavirus pandemic. This blog post was contributed anonymously. Please be respectful of the views and beliefs of others if they are different than your own. If you or someone you know have a story you would like to share (anonymously or not), please feel free to send me a message or comment here.