When the COVID-19 pandemic reached U.S. soil, the phrase, “We’re all in this together” sprung up across the nation.
As we made radical adjustments to our way of life, the statement somehow brought us comfort. It reminded us that we were not alone. It bonded us together in a fight against a common enemy. It helped us cope with a scenario none of us had ever imagined.
We hunkered down, joined forces, and knocked this insidious illness in the jaw. We saw the fruits of our sacrifices as we “flattened the curve.”
But sometime between that initial state of solidarity and now, something changed. The novelty wore off. The economic impact became more devastating daily, and we ached to return to our “normal” lives.
In short, we became sick of COVID-19.
Unfortunately, it was far from being sick of us.
And that’s when we started to see a rift. Some continued to carefully follow national, state, and local guidelines touted to help contain the spread of the virus. Others became more relaxed in following the recommendations, and a growing number began to vocally refuse to comply altogether—especially if it was “required”.
It’s likely these differences in opinions existed from the very beginning of the pandemic – but now they have morphed into raw antagonism.
All one has to do is watch the news or scroll through social media to see how divided the country is over the topics of social distancing and wearing masks. In my Facebook feed alone, I see passionate pleas to save lives by wearing masks, while others proclaim that masks don’t help and they shouldn’t be forced to wear one.
Worse yet, the topic of mask-wearing has morphed from being a medical issue to a political one. People who wear masks (or don’t) are in some cases presumed to be representing their political-leanings.
One of my friends stated it well when she said, “I miss when Facebook was a fun experience…now, it’s mostly negative with people calling names and shouting their opinions loudly.”
Friends, as we fight COVID-19, we can’t afford to fight one another, too.
Mocking and bullying those who believe differently than we do is hurtful and severs relationships. Stating our opinions in a rigid, condescending tone falls short of opening constructive dialogue. Expressing our feelings in an unhinged, angry, fashion begets defensive, heated, responses.
The answer isn’t found in achieving uniformity. It lies in celebrating that we all have the freedom to believe differently. It’s embodied in treating others with respect, even if we don’t respect what they believe. It requires practicing humility and self-control. It involves actively listening to understand different perspectives. And most importantly, it lives in the principle of treating others as we would like to be treated.
It doesn’t mean we never speak up, or share our convictions. But when we do, we can do better. We can choose to do so with civility. We can build bridges that unite rather than walls that divide.
As our country continues to face the challenges of COVID-19, political differences, racial injustice, and more, let’s take time to look for our common values and celebrate our diversity. Let’s remember that we are still “in this together.” And together makes us stronger.