The list of victims at the hands of the coronavirus pandemic is long, far too long. It may even be an unquantifiable number.
There are, of course, the sick, dead, and dying. There are people who will miss out on the opportunity for routine screeners – like colonoscopies and mammograms – and undoubtedly pay the price for late diagnosed cancer. There are people who have lost jobs, will lose jobs, suffer turmoil in their marriages and miss payments on all sorts of debt. There is an inconceivable amount of ruin happening around all of us.
So why are people crying victim over having to wear a mask, getting forced into suffering through virtual school, missing out on a trip to the bar, and living through things we would have otherwise called inconveniences.
Not so long ago, I shared a picture on social media. In it, I am wearing one of the few N95 respirators I had in stock from before the pandemic and a pulse oximeter. It was my attempt to show that wearing a mask is hardly a difficult thing to do. To my surprise, the post went viral on Twitter. It quickly racked up over 2 and a half million engagements. It was my first time going viral, and I must admit… it was pretty cool.
Here’s the tweet:
I also shared the photo to my Facebook page.
It didn’t take off on Facebook like it did on Twitter until earlier this week. For whatever reason, a page with many millions of likes shared the post. In a matter of minutes my account was inundated with notifications – likes, comments and shares. Lots voiced their support for the photo, but many engaged in hostile toxicity of the kind I have never seen in my life – on both sides of the debate (as if what happened could be considered a debate).
I deleted the post. Aside from the threat of it being overtaken by bot accounts, I couldn’t stomach the possibility that my page would be a place for such nastiness.
I look at my own life. Yeah, it sucks that I have yet to meet my niece. Darcy and I are waiting the full two-week cycle from the moment Sydney left the hospital. It’s an inconvenience yes, and it really sucks, but when do finally meet her, it will be a moment unlike any other!
It sucks that my next year in graduate school will look nothing like the past year. I am definitely not getting the exact thing I intended to get when I enrolled in the program and put my first tuition payment down, but the experience of surviving a crisis inside a new community is one worth celebrating. In fact, I even think that virtual learning should be part of the norm – especially for people who need it! More on my thoughts here.
It also sucks that every single one of my plans that I had lined up for the summer was destroyed. Instead, Darcy and I are making new memories together.
Yeah, it sucks I have to wear a mask everywhere, but I do it.
That said, all the above certainly does not give me the power to call myself a victim of the coronavirus pandemic.
I am not a victim of suffering some inconveniences. Inconveniences are part of life. I have been fortunate enough to stay free of the critical illness millions have faced.
It’s okay to sweat the small stuff. It’s okay to be disappointed that some of my summer plans are ruined. It’s okay I feel frustrated I may lose part of the graduate school experience I signed up for. It’s okay I am sad about the delay in meeting my niece.
It’s okay to feel any sort of emotion about whatever this pandemic has taken from us.
But I think it is important we do not take the pain and loss away from the people around us who are suffering the dire consequences of our collective inaction to slow the spread. As a world, we will need to grieve this loss together, while making sure we do not diminish the hell folks are going through and will continue to go through until this is all over. My heart goes out to the friends I have seen come down with the coronavirus. My heart especially aches for my friends who have had to spend time in ICU. This pandemic maintains a different meaning for them than it does for me. I stand hopeful and supportive for their continued recovery.
The commenters on my viral Facebook post were absolutely appropriating the pain coronavirus victims have suffered for their own agendas – for or against universal masking.
I have had enough of the toxicity and the political owns levied at the expense of our fellow human. That, more than anything this pandemic has done to me, has left me feeling frustrated. It frustrates me that this invisible enemy we all face is tearing at the seams of our what should be unity. I hope long after this point in time we are able to amplify the voices of the survivors of this pandemic, not the folks who are victims of having to wear a mask or suffer through a few more months of Zoom meetings.