Saturday is usually the day I write a somewhat lighthearted blog post giving my dog’s perspective on the COVID crisis. However, given what’s happening in the country right now I don’t feel much like levity.
While the rioting that’s occurring is not directly the result of the COVID pandemic, I believe that social distancing and unemployment in a quarter of the population created incredible frustrations for people. These factors were the gasoline in the environment ignited by the disgusting, televised murder of a black man in one of the most progressive cities in the country.
My wife commented that the current situation is as if 1917 combined with 1968. I am no expert on social disorder, but I know that every pandemic scenario or modeling done by the government has some degree of violence associated with it. Having lived through 1968 as a young adolescent and having observed the horrible impact of the riots after the senseless killing of Martin Luther King, I know the outcome from those events.
So today I’m going to give my unsolicited advice to four different groups who are intimately involved in the current situation.
- Scientists and Medical Professionals. You need to be much more circumspect in your words and actions. Statements about COVID that are sensationalized, inaccurate or misleading frustrate people who are trying to do the right thing related to pandemic responses. Think before you speak because a moment of notoriety for you could do enormous damage to people’s lives.
- Making grandiose pronouncements in un-reviewed papers that suggest that this pandemic is impossible to deal with does not help anyone.
- Even the hallowed New England Journal of Medicine published papers that suggested you could get this disease from merely touching a surface. This has driven people insane trying to sanitize everything, from shopping carts to food containers. We are dealing with a respiratory virus and should focus on the things most important to that type of infection. The CDC has finally removed the surface disinfectant guidelines, which were not helpful.
- Making computer projections of enormous numbers of deaths that seem to change every week also creates frustration and confusion.
- Giving people unrealistic expectations about vaccines and then selling stock in your vaccine company to make $90 million may make you wealthy but in the long run doesn’t help society.
- Politicians. Just shut up. Stop attacking each other and trying to turn everything that happens into a partisan issue.
- Stop commenting on people’s appearance, and stop suggesting that every action the people take is motivated by a desire to hurt others.
- Find some common ground and respect each other as human beings.
- Try to lead and organize activities that actually help people.
- Stop blaming someone for everything that happens. Politicians on both sides have made serious mistakes, from problems with testing to placing infected individuals in nursing homes.
- Most importantly, respect the people that you represent and don’t try and use them as a tool for your own advancement. This goes for both sides. I get fundraising messages from both parties that have equally disgusting characterizations of the other.
- Media. Is it a surprise that CNN and Fox News were both targets of people’s frustration? Not at all. It’s time to stop sensationalizing everything for ratings.
- You may get short-term financial benefits from your current mode of action, but in the long run you’re destroying not just your country but your credibility.
- There is no benefit to polarizing everything related to the pandemic.
- Stop making it seem like everyone has the same risk from COVID and will get infected and die.
- Focus on the at-risk populations and actions that must be taken to protect them.
- Stop giving only the worst case for every outcome of this disease.
- Present news not opinion.
- The African American community. I can’t imagine what it must be like to have the mix of fear and anger that comes from watching a black man being senselessly murdered on nationwide TV. I can give you no advice on how to handle this heinous act emotionally.
- I can tell you that people don’t randomly kill others, and if it is shown that this officer knew George Floyd, his charges should be advanced from 3rd degree to 1st degree murder.
- I watched Chicago burn in 1968, and could smell the smoke and see the glow from the fires in the night sky. Over the past 40 years, first in Chicago, then in Washington, DC, after I was stationed there in the Army, and finally in Detroit, I could see the damage that occurred in these communities from the riots. The people hurt the most were in the existing black communities in these cities.
- Please don’t allow your frustration to destroy your own community. The thriving middle-class populations in Chicago, Detroit, and Washington, DC never returned. The businesses that were destroyed never came back, leaving communities without a place to buy groceries or a pharmacy to get medicines. When revitalization finally came to these areas, like the U Street zone in Washington, DC, it was through gentrification that displaced the remaining residents.
- Demand action from the people responsible for protecting you and your family.
I have said before that the most difficult time in this pandemic is now. We have to respect people and remember that this pandemic won’t last forever. Staying at home is not a viable or desirable option! When going out worry about wearing masks, particularly around susceptible individuals, and not about wiping off surfaces. Ignore the crazy statistics and focus on things you as an individual can control. Don’t vilify people worried about their jobs if they are not putting others at risk. Most of all respect everyone’s rights and needs.