Love In The Time of Coronavirus
Unpopular fact: we’re all going to die someday. I know, I know. This fatalistic acceptance is considered a selfish position in the face of pandemic. But to me, what is scarier than this virus, is the collective cognitive dissonance and the global panic that has ensued as a result of our fear of mortality.
So why? Why do we fear death by virus, which is still statistically quite low, more than we fear other deaths?
Why is potentially catching a virus at school worse for children in the U.S. than potentially being the victim of the next mass shooting?
Why is a virus a more fearful attacker than all the men who kill their wives, girlfriends, and family members? Sure, there aren’t little misogyny molecules that spread rapidly, propagate without our control, pass through the air and attach themselves to women, killing them off in the 10s of thousands each year……or are there? (Question: if this virus only killed women, would it be such a panic? Somehow I doubt it.)
Why is a virus scarier than getting into your car? More worthy of attention than our mental health crisis? Worse than the thousands of people dying of starvation? Because we have no control. Because it affects the privileged too? Because those in power, those who control the narrative, are also potentially affected?
I’m not trying to diminish the seriousness of the global spread of illness. I know, people think you’re an asshole when you do that. I’m not attempting to give a verbal shoulder shrug and say, so what, people die. That’s not my intention.
Viruses are completely natural, co-existing with life wherever it occurs. These biological agents that reproduce inside the cells of living hosts have probably existed since the first living cells and new viruses have likely emerged and developed throughout all stages of evolution of life. There have been over 5,000 species of viruses discovered. Discovered. There could be a lot more. There probably are a lot more. We are surrounded by them all the time.
Good news! We are equipped to deal with that reality. We are equipped and we do deal with it. Every day our bodies are dealing with viruses and all sorts of other things.
Viruses are usually eliminated by the immune system. We have white blood cells called lymphocytes that retain a memory of virus infections. Lymphocytes produce antibodies. Antibodies attach to viruses and stop the virus from infecting cells. The body makes lots of antibodies during an initial infection and each one attacks one type of virus. Many antibodies remain and are continually reproduced by our body, continually protecting us. After exposure to a virus, our cells learn what it is, create a response, and then the body memorizes that response for later use. Isn’t this amazing?
Our bodies are amazing. The interconnectedness of life is amazing. Cells are constantly mutating, evolving, replicating. Lots of them are good and healthy and some are not and our bodies have evolved to clear out the unhealthy cells and refresh the good ones. It’s how and why we survive.
Vaccines help protect against viruses by introducing the exact virus (sometimes live, sometimes a copy) into the body so the immune system can learn it and build up immunity. Vaccines expose the body to the thing it needs to fight against. If a person with a compromised immune system receives a live vaccine, they may develop the illness.
This is all very basic information about viruses and immunity. I think it can be calming to remember some basic facts about life sometimes. Maybe I’m a huge nerd. I like thinking about cells.
Unpopular opinion: this is all incredibly natural part of life. When it’s not the Coronavirus, it will be another one. Another virus is coming after Coronavirus. That we can count on.
I’m not trying to diminish the seriousness of it. It is bad. And scary.
But it’s here. And it’s not going anywhere. I’ve seen the bell curves. I understand social distancing, and I’m not advocating against it. Life goes on. It must.
I’m not diminishing the seriousness of pandemics. I’m not denying the importance of vaccines. I’m not saying, ‘who cares, it only affects the old and weak.’ I am saying that viruses are a very natural part of our human and earthly existence. I am saying that vaccines help us by exposing us to that which we fear.
Around 5,000 people have died. It’s tragic for the people who have died and who have lost loved ones. Loss of life is tragic. People starving to death in Yemen is tragic. 58,000 women were murdered last year by their intimate partners. That’s fucking tragic.
647,000 people die each year in the U.S. of heart disease.
Around 50,000 people in the U.S. commit suicide. That’s heartbreakingly tragic.
Over 15,000 people died by gun-related deaths in the U.S. in 2019. That is three times the number of people who have died in the world from Coronavirus.
Around 5,000 people have died from this virus. That’s like, 0.0000006% of the world population. It’s tragic. So are all the other forms of death, preventable and not.
When we talk about heart disease and people are encouraged to make better health choices, many people shrug and say, “gotta die somehow.” No one wants to change their habits.
When we talk about how many women are murdered by their partners, people just kind of…shrink away. There are some bad men out there. Oh well, what do we do?
When we talk about gun violence, we shrug. We argue. We get mad. We get defensive.
We cannot be fearful of the word, ‘virus.’ It’s too common, too natural. There will always be viruses. We cannot rush to the stores and buy up all the processed food and hand sanitizers. That doesn’t make sense. Hand sanitizer is antibacterial. Life cannot stop every time there is a virus. This virus is spreading, and after this one, comes another one. And another. And another. They mutate, evolve, grow, just like we do. Life must go on.
The best way to prepare is not hand sanitizer or bleach or toilet paper or cabinets full of processed foods or ammunition. The best way to prepare is to eat healthy and give your immune system some love. Get some sunshine. Unpopular opinion: sunshine is good for you! We need vitamin D.
Fear and stress are bad for the immune system. So take some deep breaths, chill the fuck out, and know that you and your loved ones are probably, statistically, going to be fine. I know, I know, it’s a selfish and unpopular opinion. But it’s realistic, statistically, and it’s better than fear. It doesn’t mean you have to stop caring or feeling concerned. It’s not apathy.
Your body is amazing. Trust the process. Am I saying you should go out and let someone with Coronavirus sneeze on your face and then go home and cough on your elderly grandmother? No! Of course not. But life must go on.
Should you avoid mass gatherings of people? Yes! If you’re in the United States, you might get shot if you go.
Should you stay at home? Not if you’re a woman! You’re more likely to be murdered by your husband or boyfriend in your home than to die by Coronavirus.
Should you get angry at the U.S. government for failing over and over again to implement a proper healthcare system? Yes! Should you get angry at Asian people? No, because that makes no sense.
Check your cognitive dissonance. Ask, why and how we have been so quick to make drastic cultural changes in the face of a virus (perfectly natural part of life) but not femicide, starvation, or mass shootings. Why do we shrug at these forms of preventable death as if we have no power to change? Look how quickly we changed. Look how rapidly we altered behaviors and routines.
Let’s see this as an opportunity for humanity. Look how fragile we are. No, not our immune systems. Those evolved for our survival. Look how fragile our minds are. Look how delicately and intricately interconnected we are. Look how we need each other to survive. How we need our communities and societies to keep moving forward. Look how quickly things fall apart. Look how panic and fear make us go absolutely nuts. See how cognitive dissonance makes us shrug at making good health choices but rush to self-quarantine. Watch how we get heartbroken over certain deaths more than others. This virus kills white people? Those in power and with privilege? Panic. Poor, marginalized, people of color are dying all over the world from a variety of preventable causes? Oh well. See how we blame and judge. See how facing our mortality makes us angry.
Let’s see this as an opportunity to confront our mortality, embrace our fragility, and expose our fears. We must. Our survival depends on it.
Let’s use this as an example of how quickly we can make cultural behavior shifts, and then change our culture to protect our women at home and our children at school.
Let’s see this as an opportunity to love more. Love our bodies because they are amazing. Love our families because, well, we do. Love our communities because we need them. Love people we don’t know because we need them too. Let’s see our communities as our collective immune systems, and while our individual immune systems kick into overdrive, working hard to create antibodies, let’s allow our communities do the same. Take care of each other. Be someone’s white blood cell, someone’s lymphocyte, once in a while.
Oh yeah, and don’t forget to wash your hands once in a while too.