THE INFECTION IS SPREADING.
We see it not just every day but every hour, it seems almost every minute: a quarantine here, a new case there, a sports league stopping play. It’s a disease made for the Internet age, moving at unheard of speeds, each new piece of information coming and going as quickly as an Instagram swipe.
We are puzzled and paralyzed; pained yet numb. We don’t know how to react (shake? fist bump? elbow tap?) because the virus is here, somewhere, anywhere, everywhere. A sneeze could be a death sentence. We are upside down, hanging by chewed-up nails, on an infinite edge with no end in sight.
The infection is spreading. But I’m not talking about COVID-19 — I’m talking about the other virus.
I don’t mean to downplay the severity of the Coronavirus or discount the feelings of many who are justifiably concerned. This is a serious matter and needs to be treated as such.
But there is a difference — a big difference — between concern and fear.
Concern is appropriate and necessary. Concern results in caution, in taking meaningful actions to prevent infection.
Fear, however, results in chaos — in actions that make the situation worse. Fear leads to blame, anxiety, and xenophobia.
Fear is the real pandemic. Not a virus, but all of us.
Confusion and ineptitude from government leaders doesn’t help. Looking for scapegoats doesn’t help. Pretending that things are better than they are not only doesn’t help, it gets people killed.
We don’t have a Coronavirus vaccine yet. But we do have one for fear, and that’s honesty. Truth — not politics — will keep the other virus at bay, and allow us to address the real infection with concern, pragmatism, and empathy.
We didn’t create the atmosphere of fear. But we can damn well stop it.