I’ve been thinking.

Mostly I’ve thought about coronavirus and politics. It seems like that’s all we hear about on the news lately.

About coronavirus: Not being an epidemiologist or an infectious disease expert, I couldn’t possibly weigh in on whether the virus is “dangerous.” I hear so many non-expert people like myself spouting their “expert” opinions:

  • Coronavirus isn’t even as bad as the flu for most people. Just don’t touch your face and you’ll be fine.
  • WHO says that coronavirus has death rate of 3.4%, way worse than influenza. But wait! They haven’t tested many people in the US; it’s probably way lower because of all those mild or asymptomatic cases.
  • Children don’t get coronavirus or don’t get sick from it — why should schools close?!
  • This will just be like another flu, another virus we add to the list of the “cold and flu” season. Now we’ll just have “cold, flu, and coronavirus season.” Just don’t touch your face.
  • Old people are getting really sick from this and it’s scary.
  • Coronavirus stays alive on surfaces for 9 days and you can get it by touching surfaces and then touching your face. Don’t touch your face!
  • You touch your cell phone a zillion times a day! Clean it off or you’ll just re-contaminate your freshly washed hands.
  • “I’m not worried about getting it, so I’ll just keep going to work/take my trip/go to my conference.”
  • Don’t touch your darn face!

I’m cutting this list off now, but it could actually go on pretty much indefinitely.

Through everything, one thought keeps coming to my mind: How do we best care for one another? Quit worrying about the impact to me, personally, even though it has and will continue to significantly impact my life. Think instead about how my actions can best protect our community.

Maybe this virus isn’t that big of a deal, maybe voluntary quarantines are excessive, maybe everything is blown out of proportion. But for the good of everyone in society, especially those who don’t have robust immune systems, shouldn’t we all be willing to suffer a little — or even a lot — of inconvenience? I want my grandmother to stay healthy. I don’t want my grandparents-in-law exposed. What if I unknowingly exposed someone else’s at-risk loved ones?

It’s not a stretch to imagine a scenario where I had a relative at the Life Care Center in Kirkland. Both my dad’s parents went through there at one point. I’d want people to take precautions with my loved ones, and that’s exactly what we should all be doing for each other. Fundamentally we’re all a community here, sharing space, air, surfaces (so many surfaces!), resources. Let’s take this moment to stop thinking small — about ourselves –and start thinking big — about our whole community.

In so many ways this virus presents an opportunity. It’s bigger than partisan politics. It’s a real, apolitical threat that doesn’t care who you voted for. And it’s the exact reason we need a functioning, funded federal government, because it’s too big for one city, county, or even state to deal with on its own.

Maybe this virus can break us out of our narrow echo chambers and can instead restart the kind of productive, national conversation we’ve lacked for years.

Maybe our leaders can come together across the aisle, as they did in voting to fund the coronavirus response, and remember how to govern with moderation and compromise.

Maybe facts can regain a foothold, since lying and blustering surely won’t stop people from contracting the virus and dying from it.

Maybe we can all remember that every single human being in this country is a person, regardless of education, skin color, socioeconomic status, citizenship status, gender identity, native language, geographic location — all equally likely to get sick, all equally afraid, all equally needing care.

Strange, to find hope in this dark place. But while I don’t want to spout trite aphorisms, this remains true:

Despair: It's always darkest just before it goes pitch black.

Oh wait, sorry, wrong thought.

Seriously, though, I do find hope here. Adversity can bring out the best in us. I hope it does now. I sincerely hope so.

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