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  • Rosalind Kaplan, MD

Speechless

It's been a while since I last posted. Not because I've been too busy or because I am neglecting the site, but because the last couple months have rendered me speechless. A rare event for me, but it seemed like sitting it out and waiting to have something to say was a good plan


What comes to me now is just how terribly we humans deal with uncertainty. What a mess we are when we have to deal with the long haul. What short attention spans and what little perseverance and patience we have in the face of a long period of uncertainty.


My speechlessness came from the dismay I felt as people have turned against each other and dug heels in and refused to budge from positions that don't serve the good of humanity.


At the beginning of the pandemic, we were all shocked into a new existence when this novel disease began to pummel our coastal cities. Lockdown was strange and terrifying, but it was novel; we reacted with fear and worry and we retreated into our homes to ride out what we thought would be a brief, if violent, storm if we could, or we bravely plodded along if we couldn't stay home. And at the beginning, it seemed like people were rising to the occasion with a little extra kindness and good will. 'Essential Workers' were lauded as heroes, healthcare workers were celebrated, serenaded, and thanked profusely for their work. I wasn't a big fan of the whole 'hero' thing, as I would have preferred better protective gear and enough hospital beds, but it was a show of appreciation and support, and that's a good thing. Beyond that, neighbors helped each other, the young volunteered to help the elderly and vulnerable, and neighbors were there for one another. There was a lot of art produced in those first months, also --music and paintings and essays and poems about covid its victims were cranked out, in hopes of sustaining us through the storm.


Sadly, Hurricane Covid has morphed into a chronic kind of bad weather. The eye of the storm has dissipated, but the storm still hovers over us. Maybe that's better on the micro level, as there is no longer one Epicenter, overwhelmed by the crisis. But on the macro level, now pretty much the whole country is affected, with no end in sight. We're no longer waiting for a surge to come and go. Now, we are dealing with 1000 daily deaths nationally, flares coming and going in too many places to count. Now, we are playing Whack-A-Mole and the game has turned vicious.


We should all be on one team, whacking the coronavirus until it can't get up again. Instead, people have turned on each other, fighting and even killing each other over mask-wearing and science and what parts of the economy can safely function in person. What happened to kindness and patience and appreciation and support for each other? What happened to adding beauty to the world to see us through?


And if only Covid were the only mole to whack! But no, there are also constant, continuous racist acts going on, including acts of police brutality against people of color. And there are acts of antisemitism and violence against women and children and immigrants on an ongoing basis. How long have we been playing Whack-A-Mole with all of that?? I got excited for a little while, when everyone seemed to be out, banding together, decrying bigotry and bias and white privilege. But it seems like more than half of those people have crawled back into their holes now. While the racists and antisemites and white supremacists appear to be out in force.


Now let's throw in climate change. Because why not? Covid and climate change and racism are not separate issues. They are so tightly interwoven that we can't even begin to unwind the strands. So yes, climate change. The West Coast of the US is on fire, and we're playing whack-a-mole with the fires, getting some control over one, just in time for the next three to spark.


Playing Whack-A-Mole means that every day is a crisis.


I'm not blaming you, any more than I'm blaming myself for these circumstances. Without leadership, without a plan or a clear message, how can we possibly get control of global climate change, or malignant bigotry much less those two together added to a global pandemic? It all seems entirely insurmountable. So much so that my own instinct is to run--to invoke the Canadian citizenship left to me by my father and go hide in a remote forest somewhere in Saskatchewan until this horror show of an existence ends. But here's the thing. There's nowhere to run. Hiding out in Saskatchewan will only get me more isolation, the thing I'm actually running from!


That's why I felt speechless--I'm seeing the ways in which we increase our isolation and add to the desolation. We stopped standing together to whack down the virus by doing everything we can each day, and started standing apart and whacking down each other because we're stressed and tired. It seems like we're doing the same with racism and antisemitism and climate change--the fight is a daily, longterm, slogging chore, and instead of staying the course, persevering and keeping our eye on the prize of an improved world, no matter how far off that might be, we're taking the path of least resistance which is to dig in our heels, and fight about what we don't agree on instead of acting on what we can. So we become more isolated from each other, and the virus and the bigotry and the fires rage around us.


So for now, I'm not going to run away and hide in Saskatchewan. I'm going to speak up and disrupt when I see or hear racism. I'm going to recycle and go with reusable masks and face shields. I'm going to wear my mask even when I think it might be silly (wouldn't it be nice if the anti-maskers would do that? Wear their masks even though they think it's silly, just in case it's not?). I'm going to have my social life outdoors and 6 feet away. I'm going to use my physician platform to push for testing and tracing and tracking, and getting flu shots to minimize the added complication of flu season, and to educate everyone I can on decreasing viral transmission. I'm going to keep writing and hope to produce something beautiful and, if I do, put it out there as sustenance. Oh, and I'm going to listen to the scientists, even if they contradict yesterday's information, because THAT'S HOW PROGRESS WORKS. A little at a time.


We humans really aren't good at the long term. We want it now. We want big and loud and fast. We're not good at slow or small or plodding. But the only way we're going to survive is by doing all the small things, over and over, every day. That's how progress works.












© 2017 Rosalind Kaplan