I haven’t written much lately, I have a lot on my mind, and a not inconsiderable portion of it involves the Coronavirus. I worry about Us. All of Us. I know, I know, big thoughts from a small person.
It doesn’t feel right to talk about what’s happening in the world. It feels more like a private matter, like I’m violating a private taboo. Which is of course, completely ridiculous.
We all face death on our own, that much is true. Some beg. Some cry. Others accept it with grace and solemnity. I can’t say for certain, but I might laugh at mine, or perhaps challenge it to a game of Twister.
We, as a species, are facing an event that we haven’t seen in generations. The people who survived the Black Plague would have some sage advice for us in the coming months. We are not ready.
We choose not to be ready.
This is a vital distinction.
I work in a postition that can be called ‘front line’. I drive a bus for the city. Every day, I drive hundreds of people to and fro. I am frequently exposed to the illnesses of others. I have little to no protection against the common diseases that people spread, in fact, I am more susceptible because I have Type II Diabetes: I get sick easier and stay sick longer.
In the wake of the announcement of this new pandemic, many employers have had their people work from home. This has certainly affected the number of people on my bus. I’d hazard a guess that I pick up about a third as much as I used to.
That still leaves about a hundred people I encounter per day. Any one of them could be infected. I think about that any time someone coughs on my bus. And I get a lot of people who do.
I transport a lot of seniors. My route passes through numerous retirement residences. I hear them talk about why they are going out; several don’t believe in the seriousness of the situation and scoff at those who do. Others say that they don’t have much choice in the matter, They have errands that need to run, food that needs to be picked up, bills that need to be paid, and no one to help them. It breaks my heart to hear them talk so.
I pick up day workers and others who can’t afford to not work. A lot of people live Hand to Mouth, living day by day. I was once one of them. It is hard to see them, determined but also fatalistic. They know what they are doing is dangerous, but they have no choice.
Those are the ones I see that are coughing the most.
So here I am, sitting in a bus in Canada, watching the world respond to this outbreak. Some countries are trying to be responsible and get ahead of the situation, others, less so. I am also watching some world leaders use this pandemic to further their political agenda. And I fear for us as a species.
Not that I fear that this disease will wipe us out, but I fear that we will learn the wrong lessons from our survival. An Us vs. Them tactic, an isolationist approach. Things that only divide. Already, many countries are more blatantly espousing old hatreds and pulling out the drums of war.
We will be reduced if this allowed to continue.
We have made so many steps forward, we cannot allow ourselves to slide backwards.
We can get through this if we work together and stay together.
Please, pratice safe distancing and wash your hands.