Depending on when you read this, the global incidence of COVID-19 is nearing 5 million. There are more than 1.5 million confirmed cases of coronavirus in the U.S., with more than 90,000 deaths. Although there has been some progress towards containment, the pandemic is still raging in parts of the country and the world. To illustrate this, take a look at the visual curves of each states provided by The New York Times.
As states begin to reopen, it will be interesting to see what these maps look like in the next two weeks. Personally, I am deeply concerned, especially when I hear projections of 3,000 daily deaths of Americans by June 1. Time magazine compared this to “a 9/11 every day.” (The Risk of Reopening, Haley Sweetland Edwards May 25, 2020)
Underneath all of these facts and figures are our human reactions. Reopening the U.S. is rife with strife. People are expressing fear and anger. Some are bored, in grief, stir-crazy, and so on. There is no national agreement on how to move forward. Conflict is inevitable since people are never unified in their opinions and feelings.
I wrestle with this conflict, wanted to apply reason, data and historical reference to issues surrounding the pandemic. I am convinced about the seriousness of COVID-19, and believe in social distancing and wearing masks. It’s my opinion that not wearing a mask or practicing social distancing is an assault on lives and civil liberties. However, my opinion is just that – it is an opinion. Although I based my opinion on facts, a deeper truth is that I can’t change anyone; I can only change myself. Accepting this, my task is to learn to live in a society that doesn’t share the same opinions and values that I have.
What do I value? Peace and freedom. And if I value these, then how will I remain peaceful and free? It starts with acceptance and tolerance. It grows when I am willing to practice loving kindness towards all people, without exception. Hate never heals hate.
This is a lot harder to do than it sounds. I have to practice it. Sometimes I get off track and feel my blood pressure rise. There is no peace or freedom when I am angry. When this happens, I double down on my practice.
I am no saint. I just prefer to be free of the misery that comes from wanting the world to be a different way than it is. Getting worked up by photos of a packed bar of maskless people sitting together doesn’t change the photo of maskless people sitting together in a bar. It won’t change anything getting irritated by a recent photo of President Trump standing inches from a young Girl Scout wearing a mask while he isn’t wearing one.
What I do is put away the photos and news stories. I go for a walk. I wear a mask, I maintain a minimum of six feet between me and others. I meditate on the well-being of all people. I fervently wish for the best for all of us. And I let it go.
How do you deal with conflict related to COVID-19?