Community, Compassion, Consideration... and COVID

I like alliteration. In this instance, however, I feel that three of these things (community, compassion, and consideration) are inextricably linked. Or, at least, they should be.


A few days ago, I wrote something on my personal Facebook page in response to someone asking why I wear a face mask, because for them the evidence of its efficacy was lackluster. After sharing my thoughts directly with my friend, I decided to write a longer version explaining why I believe wearing a face mask during this pandemic is about more than its proven efficacy, and here it is:

There is a LOT of "information" swirling around out there about what is "true" (<-- in quotes for a reason) about this disease. There is also a lot of divisiveness, a lot of mistrust, skepticism, and anger. All of this is a result of feeling hurt, marginalized, or oppressed in some way. Understandably so. But there are two Truths (<-- capitalized for a reason) that bear keeping in mind:

  1. Nobody (and I truly mean nobody) knows the exact truth about: the genesis of the disease, the efficacy of interventions, or the prognosis for the future. All everybody (and I mean everybody - the ones you love and the ones you don't love) are doing is making their best guesses as to all of that and much more; and yes, some are not making "best guesses" but willfully deceiving. Unfortunately.

  2. We all have choice as to how we want to act based on Truth #1. From where I sit, however, I am seeing actions that correspond with a belief that #1 isn't, in fact, true. Indeed, there are some who believe that there are folks espousing "truth" and that they must be believed and followed. *sigh*

But there is a 3rd Truth that can balance out #1 and #2, and that is that since we get to choose how we act, we also get to choose our perspective. For my part, I would invite a perspective shift to one of compassion and conscience. What does this mean? It means, for example, that even though I don't have 100% proof of a mask's efficacy at stopping the spread of the disease (like using a condom), I am still going to wear a mask (people still wear condoms). Why? Because it's the conscious, community-oriented, compassionate thing to do. Yes, it is also an inconvenience (I actually get physical anxiety if I have it on for too long), and yes it feels limiting in my "freedom" - but those are small burdens to bear for something that may (even if only 1%) help prevent someone else from experiencing the disease or dying.


By focusing on the: divisiveness, mistrust, anger, frustration, oppression, hurt, trauma, etc. (aka: trying to force a truth where none is available), we are missing the point. The point is: what kind of society and community do we want to have? One that is always fighting or one that is compassionate? One that is reactionary or one that is inquisitive? I don't know that a mask prevents 100% of transmission - nobody does. I do know that it prevents "some" transmission and that is enough for me to make an informed decision based on my hope for a compassionate society, and indeed the betterment of society.


Yes, ask questions; Yes, read both sides of the story; Yes, listen to other perspectives; and Yes, reach into your heart - your soul - and then ask yourself: what matters most to you?


I'm aware that for some, the answer to that question will be that "their way of life as it was before March 2020 is what matters most to them, and they want it back." I get it. That version of your life was probably comfortable, and this situation is anything but comfortable. And if that's your answer, I understand; because my answer to what matters most is: what is the loving thing, the compassionate thing, and the understanding thing to do?


Of course, this does not mean we don't have boundaries, or rules/laws that need to be adhered to. Because, remember this simple Truth as well: the law is the LOWEST level of acceptable behavior. It's not a bar to reach for, it's a bar not to fall below. (<--my dad's wisdom) If a law (in this case a rule) is being implemented for a protective reason for the WHOLE of society (yes, even if it's only partially protective), then it's probably the minimum we should do for our communities and the benefit of the whole (think: seatbelts, drunk driving, smoking indoors, etc... these were all seeming inconveniences when they were enacted, but definitely benefit the whole; even though we still have innocent death at the hand of drunk drivers - nothing is 100%).


The bottom line is that in order to have a free society, we have to have community; and, in order to have community, we have to be inquisitive, informed, and make decisions for the betterment of the whole, not the individual. If you don't like how something is being done, you have an option to change it - not by imposing your will on others, but by getting involved and working with others. Protest, write, share, and use your voice; as well as: ask, read, listen, and be informed of all sides as much as possible.


And frankly, please work to understand the difference between oppression and inconvenience. It may seem subjective, I know, but there is a difference. Mainly because when we focus on oppression, we create real opportunities for change. When we focus on inconvenience, we create more opportunities for divisiveness.



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