BC’s Tales of the Pacific | We’re in this Covid mess together

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WE have been in this Covid crisis for about six months now and it doesn’t look like the end is in sight. 

I speak for a lot of people when I say I never thought it would last this long.  Most epidemics tend to flare in the colder months when we are indoors and die down when it warms up.  Surely by mid-summer Covid would have run its course.

Here it is, late July and new cases are on the rise.  Medical experts warn that it will continue at least until the end of the year, at which time we will back into the winter months in the northern hemisphere.  If researchers are nearing a vaccine, they are keeping quiet and understandably so.  We know enough about human nature to know that we do not want to create an expectation that may lead to further disappointment.  Not to mention there are also those that would take advantage of a vaccine for personal or political gain.

Ah, political gain.  Why is it that humans must politicize everything?  Covid is neither a liberal or conservative virus, yet listening to campaign ads one would conclude that this situation has been unleashed on us by any number of politicians.  I cannot be the only one who finds these kinds of attacks very distasteful.  It leads me to think less of the person making the accusation than the person they are accusing.

We are in this Covid crisis together, and nothing is accomplished by turning on one another.  It is expected that tensions will mount, tempers will flare, inconveniences will lead to strained patience.  But we must look at Covid as a common enemy.  We must resist the urge to act on our frustrations by turning on our neighbors.

Covid response will differ from place to place, that is to be expected.  Measures taken in small farming communities will be different from those in large urban areas.  How much quarantine is enough?  Should we wear masks even when outside, or only in public buildings?  If I see someone in the grocery store without a mask, is he the enemy? The problem?  Or, in a moment of pure human forgetfulness, maybe he just forgot his mask today.

I cannot help thinking that the wave of social protest sweeping the world these days is tied directly to the frustrations of the Covid quarantine.  From Mindanao to Hong Kong to London, everyone is angry about something.  Some of these issues are real, but some of them seem more about the pressure cooker we are living in these days.  If Covid were not a factor, how many of these movements would die down, letting cooler heads prevail?   

Years ago, psychologists conducted an experiment where they put a group a strangers in a physician’s waiting room.  After a time, they slowly increased the temperature in the room, degree by degree.  Do you know what happened?  First, they started complaining.  What is taking so long?  Why hasn’t anyone come to speak to us yet?  Impatience.  Then, they started turning on one another.  My ailment is more serious than yours so I should go ahead of you.  Selfishness.  Those doctors don’t care about us.  Anger.  Just before a riot broke out in the room and people started throwing furniture like a Jerry Springer episode, the researchers burst in and told them it was all an experiment in human nature.     

Do you feel like we are in that room now?  Do you see the temperature level going up degree by agonizing degree?  Are we starting to lash out against the doctors and each other?  Or do we have the wisdom and human decency to see that the patient in the next chair is not the problem.  And unlike the people caught in that waiting room, we are not the subjects of a twisted psychological experiment.  We are dealing with a pandemic.  Hang in there, we are in this together.

BC Cook, PhD lived on Saipan and has taught history for 20 years. He currently resides on the mainland U.S.

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