Recent cancellations and closures across the United States have, understandably, resulted in an unprecedented American panic. I may be speaking only for myself, but I never would have believed the day would come when McDonald’s wasn’t open for business, but here we are, facing a second day without Big Macs. Although these precautionary measures are undeniably terrifying, they are still temporary. The international crisis will eventually subside, and to some degree, return to normalcy. However, the actions we take now will determine more than just the length and severity of the virus’s long-term impact. During this unfamiliar time when many are without jobs and income, or fearing for their lives it is of the utmost importance that we retain all that we can of our humanity.
Nationwide, entire communities are finding themselves in highly unsafe circumstances: cities with high infection rates, students excavated from dorm buildings, and families in situations of domestic disarray. Only cowardice and ignorance could possibly mandate that a victim of this illness is to blame for their current condition, or in any way less deserving of basic human rights. Although social responsibility requires that those displaying symptoms should avoid spreading the illness to vulnerable populations via self-quarantine, it does not rule that one should ever remain in a dangerous environment.
The impulse for self-preservation has caused many to forget basic acknowledgement for others. Trips to the grocery store have evolved into a race for survival: my family against yours. Our community mindset pays no regard to members in greater need. For example, products at the store which are marked “WIC” are available at discounted prices for disadvantaged women, infants and children, who do not have the ability to select a different brand in case of a food shortage. To maintain an oversized collection of essential supplies is to admit that one’s own personal comfort outweighs the survival of others. By preparing ourselves for an apocalypse, we ensure its inevitability.
During this period of social distancing, many of us will find ourselves in sustained close quarters amongst three to four of the same individuals. As the self-imposed quarantine continues, tension is doomed to arise. Families and roommates will find themselves at odds, especially as resources deplete and other relations become more distant. During this time, it is more important than ever to pay attention to the emotional needs of the ones around us and seek out compassion even in undesirable circumstances, because in the end, it will not be the thing we fear that destroys us, but fear itself. May this distance teach us how to love more fully when it’s barricades fall.