Coronavirus Anxiety: Embracing Lessons of Crisis to Support Public Health Safety Net & Social Solidarity
The antics of Trump — with his lack of credibility and insatiable ego — continually get on the nerves of millions. Ongoing headlines about the Occupant in the White House reveal consistent callousness and incompetence in responding to the nation’s current public health crisis and related, pressing issues. And, as Americans look for reasonable guidance, little clarity or comfort can be found at the moment. As John Pavlovitz wrote 3/21/20 in referring to one of the most recent indicators of the American president’s failure to lead: “Today’s #TrumpMeltdown (and it was a meltdown) occurred when a reporter lobbed Donald Trump a softball about what he’d say to people who are scared, gave him the chance to calm people, steady the nation, be presidential — and he freaked out…because he is over his head, terrified, and incapable of decency.” As the lives of everyday citizens are turned upside down, millions are at risk due to lack of access to routine testing or healthcare. Some interactions could result in virus exposure from people who are careless about their impact on others. And, these perceived life-or-death dilemmas mount from economic uncertainties and a dysfunctional Congress.
These are just some of the most recent, potentially triggering headlines: White supremacy groups are using the Coronavirus crisis to spread more hate and disorder. Former FBI agent stunned by GOP’s willingness to die for 401ks: I dealt with suicidal cults — this is a ‘new level of craziness.’…Republicans are willing to accept millions dying because they have ’embraced’ Trump’s death cult: conservative columnist…Who’s Ready to Die for Trump’s Ego? Putting politics ahead of science is a prescription for disaster when you face a pandemic. Ignoring the expertise of health officials within and outside of his administration, Trump announced on 3/23/2020 that he might, as early as next week, lift federal social distancing guidelines and encourage some people to return to work — even as the number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. continues to grow and the death toll rises.
All of this is enough to cause worry and make anyone anxious, but it also offers an opportunity for regeneration if more people use this period of social distancing for more introspection. Of course, there are pockets of hope emerging to push back against the virus of human hubris that contributes to widespread national despair: ‘We will not die for oligarchs’ quarterly profit margin’: Progressives reject effort to put corporations over public health. We can be thankful for those promoting basic reason and sanity, as Benjamin Dixon@BenjaminPDixon captured well the views of many fed up by the lack of effective political leadership, when he tweeted #NotDying4WallStreet on March 23: “I think this needs to be expressly said: Do NOT follow the instructions of the government. Do NOT return to work even if you don’t feel sick. Do NOT end social distancing even if you can’t stand it anymore. Do NOT die on behalf of capitalism. F-That. F-Them. Kiss our ass.”
During the last couple of weeks, as I noticed a need to not get too caught up in overwhelming anxiety, a main focus for me has been managing information overload. The plethora of posts and instant messages via social media related to the Coronavirus made things confusing enough, since some info was misleading or inaccurate. I also had to deal with an escalation of emails, and handling this was possible due to deleting most after seeing the subject line. By simply being more selective, I have been able to attune mostly to crucial basics while avoiding reacting to a variety of news items. The wisdom of Viktor Frankl, a psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, can be aptly applied in the nation’s current situation: “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
I have been able to reduce extraneous noise and embrace beauty from silence in solitude due to selectively viewing or reading what is shared online. When I’ve been tempted to weigh in on this or that, I usually back off by simply remembering “been there, done that…already talked about that particular issue, and nothing more to say for the time being.” Not doing repetitive or time-consuming discussions has been liberating, freeing time to focus primarily on essentials for survival and necessities for thriving. It reinforced that one does not have to respond, or even have an opinion on everything. In the process, I am appreciating the opportunity to hone sharper observational skills. I hope many people consider using this period of social distancing for greater introspection. By tapping into the power to choose responses, we can better determine the elements for our next steps, individually and collectively, to support social solidarity and a public health safety net.
Many possibilities come to mind so that this crisis does not simply result in passing time without paying attention. Heeding the lessons offered is necessary if we are to achieve collective awareness of the mutual benefits inherent in social solidarity. May we better recognize the need for safety nets due to the central role and importance of public health, because what affects some will indeed impact most of us. Both physical and mental health matters because optimal functioning depends on the balancing of various components for overall human well-being. During this period of social distancing, I feel grateful in ways that an introvert can truly appreciate, allowing a sharper focus more on exercise and meditation to manage my way through Coronavirus crisis and existential anxiety in general. But I am also keenly aware of the need for ongoing collective efforts in support of social solidarity. The reality is our own well-being is tied to the well-being of diverse others.
The path of social consciousness requires internal growth, and personal growth is necessary to manage external freedoms well due to the fact that we co-exist with other people. Both demand acceptance of individual responsibility and collective accountability. In the evolution of our appreciation for interdependence, we are less likely to take for granted how much we depend on the work of others. Those who grow food, clean buildings, stock grocery stores and have expertise in health care among so many other areas of labor that contribute to society in many and overlapping ways. If we heed these realizations, some of the lessons to be learned from this crisis can help lead toward cultural regeneration, as Charlotte Du Cann writes: “Having resisted every warning and admonishment to transform and change our ways, we are now, as a collective, being forced into a cocoon ourselves, to do the work we should have done generations ago.” Indeed, may we seriously and deeply contemplate these incisive words.