The Problem with COVID, The Problem with Us

We are far more concerned about the coronavirus than we should be.

We are far less concerned about the coronavirus than we should be.

Yes, both statements are true and both at the same time.

As a society, we have grown so accustomed to politicizing issues like the coronavirus that almost before we gave ourselves a chance to understand COVID-19, we had already formed strongly opposing opinions.

If you think this is an overstatement, consider how you personally respond when you see someone wearing a mask in a public space.

“That person is clearly overreacting and is probably a liberal.”

Or …

“I’m glad that person is doing their due diligence …”

…with a nod from behind your own mask.

What about when you see a person outside without a mask?

“That must be a Republican. I know who they probably voted for in 2016.”

Or …

“I’m glad that person hasn’t bought into the nonsense of the coronavirus scare.”

When it’s simple matters such as whether or not a person is choosing to wear a mask in a public place or outdoors draws such harsh responses, something is wrong with our society.

This was brought into stark reality when I saw someone’s comment on a friend’s Facebook post. The post itself made a statement that it’s all about power … and among the politicians, perhaps it is. But 99% of us are not politicians, and we spend way too much time considering the partisan politics surrounding a worldwide pandemic (as if Americans are the only ones dealing with the coronavirus).

The comment, made by a person I don’t know, expressed that a local government official could kiss a certain part of their anatomy, along with the statement that they would not be wearing a mask. By the anger of the person’s comment, it sounded as if they thought COVID-19 and the coronavirus pandemic had been personally created by this local government official.

Sadly, many of us are allowing ourselves to take sides and oppose others when we should be reaching out a hand to help. 

It’s easier to feel anger than grief.

It’s easier to express an opinion than to express concern, especially since we’ve grown so accustomed to doing so with our use of social media. 

Social media is good for many things, but one unexpected result of seeing so many problems, browsing through so many issues, reading about so many statistics … is growing numb to all we see on social media.

Instead of grieving, we might utter a mere, “How sad,” and keep browsing. We have largely grown desensitized and instead of allowing ourselves to feel the more complex emotions of grief and empathy, we settled for a quick “like” or “dislike” or an angry comment that only deals with emotions on the surface level.

WHAT IS THE SOLUTION? 

How do we fix this? Therein lies the problem.

There is no quick-fix.

And there is no easy solution.

For someone who finds themselves growing angry and anxious every time they log into social media or browse through news headlines, the solution might be to take some time off social media. Go for a walk in nature; whether or not you wear a face mask as you take in some solar vitamin D is up to you.

For someone who drops strongly opinionated comments on every slightly political or COVID-related post, maybe take a breather. Instead of responding with a first reaction, try to consider the matter more deeply. 

Perhaps even (shocking as this idea might seem) think about this issue from the other side.

And for someone who finds themselves incapable of empathizing with anyone on “the other side” of the political and partisan spectrum, why don’t you have a civil conversation with someone who holds beliefs different from your own? Really have a mindset of listening and learning. 

The idea is not necessarily changing your mind or revamping your political ideology (although it might be). The idea is to understand that there are so many of us in this big, wide world.

So many ideologies and beliefs. So many life experiences. We are each made of what we have experienced and learned and how we have been brought into this world.

And really … really … most of us are just doing the best we can with what we have.

What we all need is a little more understanding, a lot more listening than speaking, a bit of empathy and compassion, even a bit of grieving for the darkness and the loss and the sadness of this world.

WHAT WE ALL NEED IS A BIT OF HOPE.

Why don’t we each consider how we can spread some of that hope today?

J. K. Rowling Is Not a Single Tweet (And Neither Are Any of Us)

Several days ago, J. K. Rowling commented on an article, with largely negative backlash from many former fans of the Harry Potter series. A New York Times article set up the story by providing a one-sided back story and added the negative response of several Harry Potter fans – those agreed in calling her reaction transphobic.

J. K. Rowling wrote an essay in response to the backlash she received, which explores many angles of the issue and provides history. Unfortunately, I believe that the only part of her essay many people saw were the portions retweeted or shared on other sites.

I encourage, no, urge you to read J. K. Rowling’s whole essay, especially if you have read the Harry Potter series and are unsure of what to think of her as a person now due to the vast majority of negative, hateful things appearing online about her.

As a highly sensitive person and an avid bookworm (book dragon), I have taken refuge in the world of Hogwarts time and again. Recently (re)rereading the series as an adult, I am in awe of the research, care, and passion J. K. Rowling put in creating the world of Harry Potter.

I feel grieved at the harsh attention she is currently receiving, including death threats and calls to boycott all things Rowling.

More than this, though, I feel a deep concern as to what this severe reaction reveals of our society. In this era, we tend to believe that we know everything about a person and their views after reading a single tweet or perusing one article about them. We fail to take the time to truly understand people, especially when they happen to fall outside the line of our own views.

I will not grow as an individual if all I ever do is surround myself with people who agree with my views – whether religious, political, or societal. J. K. Rowling is not a single tweet or post or essay, just as none of us are. Each of us, I believe, could fill up a thousand books with our thoughts and stories, our hurts and our fears, with those things that have made us who we are.

By doing this, we are only hurting ourselves.

When we reduce another person to nothing more than a label, such as transphobic, we only reduce ourselves as well. If we believe that someone is nothing more than a single word or phrase or label, that means that we ourselves can also be reduced to a label. This is harmful because each of us is so much more than a single label or name or title.

As a highly sensitive person, I am both blessed and I might say cursed with depth of processing. I think on things deeply, and on people too. Because of this, I know that we are comprised of far more than can be easily described or labeled in a single article or tweet or Facebook post.

And we are, each of us, worthy of love and respect.

We are, each of us, in the words of a song I love, Glorious.

Finally, a word on the New York Times article title: “Harry Potter Fans Reimagine Their World without Its Creator.” Something about this type of reimagining sounds familiar. Reimagining a world without a creator.

An author might have no power over how a story and its characters are seen after publication. A gathering such as the Harry Potter Fandom might result. So many views and beliefs and fellowships might result outside the direct oversight of the author.

This does not change the fact that the author did write the story, create the characters, build the world. And when an imaginative world such as that in which Harry Potter lives – or an enduring world like Narnia or Middle Earth – is created, we might do well to think a little more deeply on the story’s author.

Because worlds do not appear out of thin air, and the more complex and nuanced the story, and the characters in it, the more complex and nuanced the author of that story. I believe J. K. Rowling deserves more than an across-the-board dismissal, a haughty declaration that, “We’ll keep the story but we don’t need the author.”

We’re adept at removing authors from the stories they have written.

But I would hope to believe that, in this world where we now live, we know enough … understand enough, to realize that we are each a combination of so many stories, so many experiences, so many hurts and unrealized dreams … oh, so much.

And when we encounter another person full of so much of the same, I would hope that we’d respond with grace, with acceptance, with kindness and love.