by Beau Hebert
Dear The Beauster,
Do you think that living through the COVID-19 pandemic will make people more understanding and patient?
Dear Skyway Suzy,
I believe that the COVID-19 experience has given most of us an appreciation for the good things that we may have previously taken for granted — family and friends, the ability to travel freely, the simple joy of being alive! We’ve been forced by circumstance to exercise patience when the food we’d ordered takes longer to arrive because our favorite restaurant is understaffed or to get by without certain products and amenities that are not available because of supply chain issues. Most of us have become sensitive to those in our communities hardest hit by the pandemic and have learned to show grace to others who are maybe not at their best, because who knows how recent events have impacted their lives. Making these adjustments requires, however, some measure of empathy — the ability to share and understand the feelings of others.
But for those lacking in empathy, I’m afraid the COVID-19 experience has magnified their worst traits. If someone was already rude, this situation will have made them doubly rude. If someone was already a jackass, this situation will have made them doubly jackassed. Racial discord has found its delta variant in a wave of hate crimes. Half-baked conspiracy theories come and go faster than one can say “nasal swab,” and scientific misperceptions are more rife than discarded masks on the street. The pandemic has exaggerated the divisions in our society, causing many to dig in with their biases or hunker down into the mud of ignorance. The disparity between rich and poor, caring and selfish, reasonable and QAnon-level bullshit is now starkly more pronounced.
To borrow a metaphor from nature, dearest Skyway Suzy, please consider water flowing down a slope. Over time, the water will cut into the ground to form a canyon. As the canyon carves ever deeper into the earth, the canyon becomes more narrow, concentrating the water and causing it to flow faster and “incise” into the ground with building momentum. The more narrow and deep, the faster the onrush of water as it desiccates the land on both sides, sucking nutrients out to sea. The pandemic is that canyon, incising into our society, deepening divisions, widening rifts, seeming to foretell, if not an actual civil war, a brutal cultural war that will scar us for generations to come.
Quickly, we must build little beaver dams of appreciation and understanding up and down this canyon in an attempt to slow the momentum of its divisive torrent. We must unleash contagions of kindness, unfurl super-spreader events of tolerance, unveil mutations of inspiration, and uncork huge viral loads of empathy, sweet empathy. We must start to backfill this divide with some common ground or soon the virus itself will be the least of our worries.
Beau Hebert is a humor columnist and owner of Lottie’s Lounge in Columbia City.
📸 Featured image by Lou Patnode.
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