A friend of mine took this quote from an article in the Atlantic, Our Pandemic Summer and shared it on FaceBook.
“As the rest of the U.S. comes to terms with the same restless impermanence, it must abandon the question When do we go back to normal? That outlook ignores the immense disparities in what different Americans experience as normal. It wastes the rare opportunity to reimagine what a fairer and less vulnerable society might look like. It glosses over the ongoing nature of the coronavirus threat. There is no going back. The only way out is through—past a turbulent spring, across an unusual summer, and into an unsettled year beyond.”
I was thinking….. I’ve felt this feeling before. This is the same dread, cautious hope, fear that I felt in the early 1980s….. when something sinister was attacking and killing gay men in the Bay Area. In the fall of 1980 I was a freshman at UC Berkeley, and admittedly very naive about what was happening across the water. So naive, that I figured it couldn’t possibly a problem I would ever have to deal with. I managed to graduate and then complete two more years in the School of Social Welfare. But the feeling I experienced as a freshman, only continued to grow. The unease, the doubt, the hope, and the fear all mingled together and could only be extinguished by my belief that as a one-person woman, I was safe.
Then, in 1987 Theresa Crenshaw, sex therapist cautioned during an NBC television interview, “You’re not just sleeping with one person, you’re sleeping with everyone they ever slept with,” and the fear returned.
And you know the rest of the story.
The way the world responded to the AIDS epidemic/pandemic is very much the same way it is responding to the Novel Coronavirus pandemic today. Fear, anger, finger-pointing, discrimination, denial, defiance are all markers of our response to a problem so big we can’t take it all in at once. In fact, add in the requirement that we Shelter In Place and the world as we knew it is no longer. Day by day, all the routines we followed without question have been removed from our lives, whether we like it or not. Most of us adhere to the cautions and try to prepare for the long haul.
Yet some refuse to accept that this disease is bigger than we are. There are two types of people that will not accept defeat. These are the same type of people that fought back in the 1980s. Some fight with science and some fight with religion. Note I did not use the word faith. Faith is common to both scientists and religious folks. It’s all in how that faith is actualized that makes all the difference.
If you have faith that there is a solution to this problem and you are a scientist, you start looking to ways to mitigate, control and eventually obliterate the threat. On the other hand, if you have faith that there is a solution to this problem and you rely solely on religion for solutions, you pray and ask exemption from the plague and ask your fellow believers to do the same.
Now, while I pray and ask for intervention from not just God and Jesus, but from all the angels and saints, and mother earth and all her components, I also ask for the scientists to be helped in finding a solution to this evolving threat. I pray even as I retreat into my house, spray alcohol across the threshold and ask the shadow of death to pass me and mine by.
I know that between God and scientists we will find an answer, sooner than later. But we have to be ready to cooperate while this is happening. We will not be able to go back to how it was before. Just like with AIDS (HIV) we must learn to live with it, mitigate it and not surrender to it. We cannot give in to the sadness and grief of unwanted change. We cannot let those that died while we learned about the virus to be dishonored. We cannot lose optimism and hope for ourselves or rob our children of those gifts of the spirit.
We must ready and steady ourselves to do the work that will bring us back into the light of the promise of a new day. The world has done it many times before, and we can do it again. And just like other times, this will only work if we commit to doing it together, even if it means being apart.