There’s a plague running rampant in our world. Hundreds of thousands of people have died in just a few short months. Millions more have been/are still infected with this disease that, though mild in around 80% of the people who get it, can cause pneumonia, heart issues, and kidney damage. Mild cases involve symptoms such as breathing difficulties, body aches, and digestive problems, just to name a few. Of those who recover, many are left with health problems that will torment them for the rest of their lives. It’s devastating to the individual, and to those who love her or him. The disease is Covid 19, and it’s highly, terrifyingly, contagious.
Covid 19 is precedent setting for modern times. Governments have put rules into place to try to stop the spread, some of them very simple. Initially, we were all asked to “stay home, stay safe,” as the order from our Michigan governor was worded. “Non-essential” businesses were closed for two months. Unemployment claims set record numbers, but most people who filed were given an additional $600/week as incentive to try to keep everyone at home and from spreading the disease. Filing claims was a nightmare for many, but by now I think most people have been able to file. Again, unprecedented, so naturally chaotic. People everywhere are afraid, and “living in fear is so very dear. Can we really afford it?” (Marillion).
Some folks have allowed their fear to turn to rage. Some folks have decided that their rights as Americans are being trampled. This has led to armed protests. Entitled white people waving high capacity automatic weapons around, shouting about wanting haircuts. Misspelled protest signs exclaiming that our country is becoming communist. Rebel flags, “don’t tread on me” slogans, and hateful vitriol dripping from the lips of self-aggrandizing, terrified children in adult bodies. The basic belief behind it all seems to be that Covid is a hoax, and the government is trying to control us. There’s even a notion that, when the vaccine comes out, it will contain a tracking chip, therefore we better not get it. WHAT. THE. FUCK. PEOPLE.
To these individuals I would like to say these things: Have you ever watched a loved one die? Have you ever felt the searing agony of knowing someone, a person who means everything to you, is suffering and there is nothing that can be done? How about the hopelessness of knowing you have to live the rest of your life without a person who has always, unfailingly, been there for you? Think about that person, or those people, that make you complete. Now think about them lying in a bed, struggling to even breathe, with organs failing and no hope of recovery. Think about them turning blue and becoming afflicted with irreparable brain damage from lack of oxygen. “Oh, that can never happen to me,” you say. No? Just because it has never happened doesn’t mean it will never happen. “It’s no worse than the flu!” you exclaim. Yes, yes it is. It’s MUCH worse than the flu. There are vaccines for flu strains, there is no vaccine for Covid 19. According to the director of the World Health Organization, many people have developed immunity to common flu strains, but nobody is immune to Covid 19. Even those who’ve already had it have, in rare cases, become reinfected. But the biggest and by far most important fact: “Globally, about 3.4% of reported COVID-19 cases have died. By comparison, seasonal flu generally kills far fewer than 1% of those infected.” (Tedros Adhanom, Director General of the World Health Organization, March 3, 2020.) This disease is preventable, yet there you are strolling through the market without a mask on, mocking those of us who choose to follow guidelines put into place by people with extensive scientific knowledge. There you go, your big family with both parents and two or three little kids, moseying around stores without masks, when you know everyone’s been asked to bring as few people as possible along. On social media you scream and whine about how the government just wants to control you, you mock and belittle people who believe the science, who want to protect themselves and their loved ones, many of them with compromised immune systems and/or pre-existing conditions that make them much more susceptible to this disease. I see you, and I hate you. I’m not someone who hates easily, in fact hating makes me physically ill. But I cannot help it.
I know that you could not care less that I hate you. Therein lies the biggest problem. You could not care less. Caring about others, in my mind, is at the root of humanity. I may hate you, but I care about you. I genuinely want to know where you’ve been in your life, why you feel the way you do. I recognize that I probably won’t understand, I can’t understand, unless I’ve been there myself. But I can care, I can show empathy. I could stop hating you, if we could have a civilized conversation, and I’m happy to try to do so. Sometimes empathy is incredibly difficult, but it matters so damned much. It brings people together in love and compassion instead of dividing us in hate and rage.
A quick note about how it’s affected my life. I have, at least temporarily, missed out on my dream job of working in a doggy day care. I have no income, as I’m having to fight with unemployment because I left my last horrible job in anticipation of getting this one. I’ve been alone with my dog most of the time, and my anxiety has been tremendous. But I’m following the rules. I’m irrationally terrified of suffocation, but I wear a mask in public places. I understand that there are a few people that can’t wear one for health reasons, but surely not the number of people that I see without them. I wear one because I give a shit about my health, and about yours. I do it because science shows that it helps contain the disease. To not wear one is flagrantly disrespectful and potentially harmful. But, again, I know you could not care less about other people. I add this part primarily because I want you to know that I’m not just sitting back at home, living on that fat unemployment check, and judging you. Judging you, yes, just as you are me.
“I want you to wake up/and do something strange/I want you to listen/I want you to feel someone else’s pain…” –Marillion
I understand that the overall situation is very complicated. Lots of people, like me, didn’t get unemployment and, like me, are struggling like hell. The economy is tanked and we’re very possibly heading into another Depression. People are rightfully scared. However, I don’t think that gives anyone the right to brandish firearms in public. It’s never a good idea to blame others for your hardships and/or poor decision making, but especially not during an international crisis. Shaming and finger pointing are the tools of toddlers, not adults. And for the love of all that’s good and pure, stop calling people sheep. We are, every single one of us, members of one flock or another. Try to be part of one that gives a shit about other people.
There’s a terrifying plague running rampant in our world. It’s called apathy, and it’s at the base of so much misery. Nobody knows how or when this will end, and uncertainty about our basic needs is horrifying. But listen to the science, look around at how people are healthily coping, and start giving a shit.