Collateral Damage in the War Against COVID-19
In all wars there are innocents who are killed or wounded – the collateral damage. And sometimes there is death or injury from friendly fire. What is the collateral damage from the war against the COVID-19?
Kids home from school for months on end, not knowing when they will get back to the classroom and to running around the schoolyard with their friends at recess?
The loneliness of those who cannot visit family and friends and have to make contact through the phone or video-apps only?
The loss of businesses and incomes?
Serious medical issues that do not receive attention because patients are afraid to go to the hospital, fearing they will either contract the virus or will be turned away because they think only Corona patients are being treated? Cancellations of non-essential surgeries?
This is the world against a virus. But instead of getting together as we might were planet Earth to be invaded by outer space aliens, we turn against each other: expert versus expert, nonexpert quoting this expert or that, thinking that makes them know what is the right way to treat this situation.
Not only is this a novel virus, this is also a novel social situation. Never before in history has the world had the rest of the world at its fingertips on a keyboard during a time of global pandemic. I wonder what dealing with the Spanish Flu in 1918 would have been like had citizens been able to spread rumours and theories about causes, solutions and conspiracies as easily as the virus spread. What would it have been like back then had people been able to insult each other so publicly for having a different opinion.
In 1918, the Spanish Flu came in 4 waves, killing at least 500 million people. In some parts of the USA, people were fined for disturbing the peace if they were outside without a mask. Schools, churches and businesses were closed in many places and public gatherings prohibited.
Each locale has to make decisions for how to handle the situation based on local culture and living conditions. To compare Sweden (where 50% of the population lives alone and density is low) to other places (where most people live in family units, sometimes multigenerational units, and density is high) does not make sense.
But mainly, we all need to start thinking of COVID-19 as a challenge that is facing all of us equally. Leaders really do not have much time to make important decisions (In Philadelphia in 1918, for example, they responded late and lost a large number of their population.) We nonexperts and those not carrying the responsibility of wrong decisions on our shoulders need to change the nature of the discussion among us — we need to challenge each other, sure, since we will always have opinions and not always have access to all the relevant facts. But the challenge has to be with the goal of helping us all understand what is going on.
And not only that:
Our children watch us. They watch how we handle conflict, how we handle adversity, what makes us happy and proud and distraught, how we talk to each other. What do you want your children and grandchildren to be learning from you during this time? Because the model you present to them now is internalized and it is what they will draw on in the future as they face the challenges life inevitably brings to us all. If you do not give them a good model to follow, that is also collateral damage of the war against COVID-19.
This post also appeared on Times of Israel Blogs.