At this moment I am more concerned about the actions and behaviors of society than I am about the virus. I know that seems like a strong statement but the residual effect that these behaviors could have on all of us will last much longer than the virus itself. Our attitudes, views, insecurities, biases, prejudices, etc. are exaggerated in times like these. I believe that we give ourselves permission to break some of the social etiquettes that we may normally have. Whether you are one who believes in political correctness or one that believes people are too sensitive about everything, we can all agree that politeness is preferred always.
I have personally seen examples of this while at work. I work at a grocery store and will continue to do my job unless told otherwise or prevented from doing so. When checking out with my donuts and milk to enjoy on my break I witnessed the cashier ask for ID from the lady in line in front of me. Very common occurrence right? After the customer had left the cashier quickly grabs alcohol wipes and wipes her hands down and looks at me, sighs, and shakes her head. I still had no idea what the issue was at that point. She then looks at me and says “Yuck! She had a New York ID!” Really? We have now come to the point that someone’s ID is causing us to judge them?
I would like to unpack this situation a bit because I think it brings to light a few things going on right now. We can’t see the virus. It doesn’t discriminate either. It certainly doesn’t stop us from going into survival mode and digesting anything we hear in the media and allowing our brain to concoct an idea of who or what we should be staying away from at this moment. This lady has heard from media and even from our governor that people have fled New York and are heading here (Florida) to try and escape the virus or at the very least escape the lockdown that was implemented before ours. She has made people from New York the enemy. It’s a fallacy though because this customer never told the cashier that she had recently been in New York. She could be a snowbird who is here for 6 months out of the year, every year. She could be her neighbor. Our ignorance leads us to make some damaging assumptions.
I’m afraid if we stop looking at each other as people and start seeing each other as carriers we are heading into dangerous territory. We have seen this manifest itself throughout history where dangerous correlations have been made between certain types of people and disease/consequences. With this situation, it is even more dangerous because people can make their own assumptions since there seems to be no evidence of who the virus would target. People have the ability to once again exaggerate things that they hear or their own preconceived prejudices can be confirmed in their mind and the hate could escalate. Putting everyone under the magnifying glass can only lead to us focusing on our differences as opposed to our shared experiences. Divisiveness over community.
The same day I pass another coworker and they say out loud, “What is with all these people with their masks and gloves? Don’t they know it doesn’t make any difference? Idiots!” Wow, wow, wow! I don’t even know where to start. Beyond the fact that I believe there is a lot of fear in this person’s mind that is causing them to lash out, I am astonished that they could say such a thing about people who are obviously dealing with a great amount of fear themselves. I just kept walking but what I wanted to say was that people are doing all that they can to navigate these strange times. Wearing a mask may be the thing that enables some people to walk out into an uncertain world. Wearing the gloves may be what gives them the strength to do some of the required everyday tasks that mean coming into contact with other people. Not to mention the fact that they may be wearing these things to protect the people around them as many people understand that the symptoms could go unnoticed and they don’t want to be the one unknowingly spreading the virus to other people.
These are just two examples from a few hours apart so imagine what I have compiled since the beginning. Imagine the countless actions and behaviors that you have witnessed. Imagine the actions, behaviors, prejudices, biases, comments, the negativity that our children have witnessed. Scary thought about what we are passing onto our children. What we are putting out into the world because of our fear and ignorance. The unfortunate thing is that these types of things spread faster than the virus. There is no amount of physical social distancing that can prevent it. The fear, hate, and ignorance just makes its way online and spread much faster. Remember that we will be dealing with the consequences of our actions long after the virus is contained. Be nice to each other and try to keep things in perspective.