A friend of mine insisted several few days ago that she would not be getting the coronavirus. She was careful and she didn’t know any people who had been to China, plus a few other vague reasons, but the gist of it was that this doesn’t happen to people like her.
She’s wrong, of course. Viruses, like money, don’t care who holds them or what they believe. Even if we wash our hands 20 times per day, we could still end up among the statistics three weeks hence.
More relevant, this whole thing isn’t about my friend, or about me. Neither of us is likely to die from coronavirus, but we aren’t taking precautions for ourselves.
The point of slowing a disease is to protect the most vulnerable, including people we know and millions we will never meet. We demonstrate our own humanity, or decency, by accepting some inconvenience on behalf of others.
Unfortunately, we’ve been here before. When AIDS began its relentless journey across the globe in the 1980s, it was easy for people to say it was no big deal, because they weren’t gay and they didn’t need a transfusion, and, and, and...
Of course, it turned out that everyone had a gay friend or a gay relative or a gay coworker, whether they lived in a large city or a rural town. More than 650,000 Americans have died from that scourge, which means more than 60 million people in the United States knew an AIDS victim personally.
At first, though, it was simple and comforting to say, “It’s not about me.” When our humanity and compassion were put to the test, we flunked.
A few months into the newest pandemic, we’re not doing much better. Online and IRL, the conversation is heavily political, the purveyors of conspiracy theories are making a ton of money from click bait, and the missing guest, again, is compassion for the victims.
Every day, I get another email or text or shared post about the number of people who die from seasonal flu or guns or obesity or smoking. The numbers from the other causes are larger, at least so far, which somehow suggests the current virus is no big deal.
It is a big deal, though, to the people who succumb and to their survivors. If nothing else, the rest of us could consider them for a moment as something more than a talking point. Maybe I am overly sensitive because I have many friends in the at-risk segment of the population, or maybe I’m recognizing that mankind is my business.
Perhaps all the event cancellations will work to limit the virus’s impact in the United States. Perhaps the federal government will catch up from its slow response to the pandemic. Perhaps the virus will be conquered when another 50 million Americans finally agree to wash their damned hands.
Whatever the case, we might want to consider our own vulnerability in newly traveled territory. It’s much easier to be compassionate if we acknowledge that we, too, might be among the victims. Even if we aren’t the victims, though, a bit of human decency goes a long way.
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Who writes this stuff?
Dadwrites oozes from the warped mind of Michael Rosenbaum, an award-winning author who spends most of his time these days as a start-up business mentor, book coach, photographer and, mostly, a grandfather. All views are his alone, largely due to the fact that he can’t find anyone who agrees with him.