The world is a scary place right now. So much of what we take for granted has been disrupted. Financially, more people are suffering than not. People are unemployed at a rate that is unheard of since the Great Depression, and that time in history scarred an entire generation. I remember speaking with my parents and grandparents about money and seeing how no matter how financially stable they were, they feared running out of money or spending too much. It was the memories of their fear of not having enough to eat, to spend for necessities, or to care for their families during the Great Depression. If they were working, they knew of ten people that were not working, and seeing them made them fearful. Today, as in the past people are worried and they have no idea when this will get better. However, this is not the worst problem. It’s actually just a byproduct.
Millions of people are either sick or afraid of getting sick. We are in the midst of a global pandemic. A worldwide disease, for which we have no treatment, no vaccine, and no inherent defense. In NY and most other cities, if you aren’t careful, you will get sick. So we go to the store to buy food, a certain necessity, and everyone is wearing masks. It’s actually the law! Most people are wearing gloves. This sight is surreal. Previously it was unimaginable. So many of us know of people that are infected with the virus and became very ill. Some people know of those who died from the virus. Those who died were people just like us, in age, and physical fitness. This leads to fear of our vulnerability and a constant sense of danger.
As if it is not enough to have to worry about finances, and health, we must also worry about the future and the actions taken to solve these problems. We have elected officials, with a huge structure behind them to try to have a plan to solve these problems. They (we) need to find a vaccine, and a treatment. They need to deal with an overrun healthcare system. They need to help mitigate the financial suffering of so many people and so many companies.
Now I am going to try to avoid politics at this point.
I think these problems we face are bipartisan issues, since the coronavirus strikes blindly at everyone. We expect definitive action by our leaders. We expect intelligent decisions by our leaders, because the decisions in this case must be led by science and medicine, firstly and then by sound economic principles. Not getting into any specifics, I am fearful that this is not happening. Not on the federal level and not on the local level. We are the wealthiest country in the world, and yet our country is being devastated at a higher rate per capita than any other in the world. That scares me. On a bad day that steals hope from me. That instills tremendous fear in me.
Usually when things are dark in my life I can find areas of strength to help me get through it. I always feel that I can find a solution for a problem. I always see the positive just over the horizon, even if it’s not evident at the time. But this is different. This is not a problem that affects only me, or my family, or my friends. This problem is EVERYWHERE and affects EVERYONE. It’s about survival on every level, personally and culturally. Not knowing how we will all come out of this is scaring the shit out of me. It’s these two layers of fear that make this time of our lives the greatest test of all.
So how are we doing so far?
As usual when things are toughest there are those who step up and with their actions, both protect us, and give us hope. During 9-11 it was the first responders who showed us how to selflessly act during a crisis. The police officers and fire fighters ran into damaged burning buildings to save others, never worrying about themselves. Their ultimate sacrifice was viewed as sacred and allowed us to have hope for the future. A future that was unknown at the time. Our leaders brought us all together, and with that solidarity we each found strength and hope. Today’s crisis is on such a larger scale, but as crises are, there are parallels. We certainly have our heroes. Our healthcare workers are saving us at rates unlike anything seen in generations. In our country alone with over 1,000,000 sick, (and probably 10X that number if we had more robust testing) we have seen in just over one month over 50,000 deaths. So many healthcare workers have given their lives for this cause. They put themselves and their families at risk every single day. We avoid going to the supermarket because we fear the coronavirus, and yet these healthcare workers, with just a mask and a gown go where they are sure the virus lurks. They are our heroes during this time. With their actions they give us hope for our society and ourselves that all will be okay. Our first responders are heroes as well. The police and fire fighters go to work every day to keep us safe. Their infection rates have skyrocketed way past the average. My own son sleeps out of the house every night so that he doesn’t put his family at risk.
So individuals have risen up to meet the challenge, and I have not heard one person talk politics while they were saving our lives. I’m sure our heroes during this crisis are both Democrats and Republicans. Some are Trump supporters and some not and when interviewed you would not know which is which. But still our country is divided. People stress differences rather than similarities, even though on any day we have more in common than not. I think this will be a defining moment for us all. As individuals we have risen to the occasion. We are fighting tooth and nail to get through this. What we have in common defines us, not our petty differences.
I am certainly still fearful how and when this will end, but I have hope. I can get through this fear with the hope that we will rise as a culture past all our differences just as we are rising above this current threat. I have hope that just as all the Republicans and Democrats cheer every night for the heroes among us at 7 pm, we will lose our petty antagonism and cling to the beauty that we all have in common…. our humanity.