At the very beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States I noticed some talking heads repeating over and over the phrase “9/11 like atmosphere”. It made me cringe and my stomach turn over.
9/11 was 19 years ago, so some of you may not remember or may have been young children during that time. There is the common story of how America all pulled together blah blah blah and then there is the real story. Some of us had a little different experience of 9/11.
9/11 scared Americans. Really scared us, deeply, for the first time ever in our history. We like to pretend, especially online, that we are all kind, compassionate, caring people. The truth is not as rosy, I’m sorry to say. There is a significant section of the American people who – when they get scared – they strike out. They look for someone to blame and they act out aggressively.
My husband is a Native American. His skin is brown, and his eyes and hair are black. The day after 9/11 he was literally cornered at his work place and questioned about his religion and his place of birth. And this is in Tulsa, Oklahoma – where there are many people of Native American ancestry. This harassment continued for him throughout the next several years. It was very scary. Especially since stories circulated about brown people being physically assaulted on the street.
We are Americans. We were scared. We were scared OF OTHER AMERICANS.
Those Americans now have a leader – someone who is calling this virus the “Chinese virus” and the “Wuhan virus”. Someone who is all about whipping up hatred and violence and pointing at “the other” for us so we know who to hate.
The most vulnerable population to this virus are the elderly and people with compromised immune systems. Many of us are also on Social Security or Disability. There are people who consider us parasites on the American people (as though we did not also work and pay into SSI or SSD when we could) who will literally CHEER if great swaths of elderly or infirm people die. Those people who gripe when the bus pauses to lower the ramp for us or complain if they have to make some minor accomodation for someone who is somehow differently abled. My favorite, the ones who mutter “he doesn’t look that sick” when my husband uses his disabled pass on the bus or my new favorite, the ones who straight out openly BLAME dialysis patients for their condition. (“They deserve it, they didn’t take care of their health, we ought to let them die”) Don’t make that face at me – deep in your heart you know damn well it is true. I warned you this was the No Bullshit area. I’m not making this up – I’m describing what we have experienced on a good day in America.
You cannot argue with these people. Because their nastiness is not based on fact – not at all. It is a self defense mechanism. It is “I am not like them. I won’t be homeless because I work hard.” and “I am not like them. I will never be old, sick or disabled because I am too smart and I take care of myself. So it won’t happen to me”. This is a self defense reaction to fear. Fear that most of us are one paycheck from homelessness, and one accident or illness from disability.
And speaking of one paycheck from homelessness – Las Vegas went into lockdown today. All non-essential businesses are ordered to close. There goes that paycheck. And what do some people do when they are faced with a fear they have no control over? They lash out. They lash out at the ones they blame. They will lash out at the elderly, the immunocompromised, and I hear they are already beating up “Asian looking” people in parts of this country.
This post is two things. It is a plea to NOT act in this way. To be calm. To be compassionate. To be kind. To be the people we claim that we are.
But it is also a warning. That there are people who will react in this way. Just like the people right now who are ignoring the self quarintine protocols and go laughing to the movies, or as one person on a facebook post yesterday said openly that the people who will die from Covid-19 “do not matter” because they’re just old and sick anyway. These are also self defense mechanisms against fear. You can’t reason with it.
I ask you to be calm, and compassionate and understanding of those who lash out, be it verbally, on the Internet, or in the media, or physically. Since we’re all supposed to be staying home, we should be pretty safe physically. Unless that person is in your home. But please keep in mind they are afraid. They need reassurance, not you lashing back at them which will only escalate the problem.
Really, the best thing we can do is step away and send them love from our heart. Just quietly think “love” at them, for love is the only antidote to fear. Don’t engage them. Again, remember you cannot reason with them, because this is not reasoning – it is emotion driven by fear and encouraged by the media and their leaders.
Let’s transform. Let’s raise ourselves UP into love and out of the media lashed fear and negativity.
Blessedbe. Be Well.