THE RED DEATH OF 2020

ARTISTS WEBSITE: https://www.artstation.com/artwork/1QKR8

SOCIAL MEDIA VS. SCIENTIFIC FACT

I wandered into my local grocery store yesterday to pick up chipotle salsa and vegetables for my rice. I had assumed it would be a quick 10 minute trip in and out. NOPE. My local Fiesta had lines backed down every aisle. Even the express lanes snaked through the produce department. My stress runs way to high on a good day to face that type of crowd. I mean, it’s one o’clock on a Friday so this is already an unnatural phenomenon. I specifically came now to avoid the dinner rush. What in the world is going on?

So, I do what I always do when my anxiety threatens to rip my mind apart and I start grounding. I close my eyes and breathe deeply into myself, feeling the air fill my throat, lungs, diaphragm. I feel the tile floor beneath my feet and tell myself I’m safe until I’m ready to look around the room and take in my surroundings. When I open my eyes I’m shocked. I’m normally incredibly envious of other humans ability to move in and out of crowds without a care in the world. However, today’s groups looks like I feel. There are all these people wearing masks like the randoms scurrying in the background of a CCTV broadcast live from Beijing. Except it’s not Beijing. It’s still east Garland.

“And why are we buying up all the toilet paper?”

“Oh, it’s your first time washing your hands?” That’s cool.”

Eventually I check my gallows humor and collect my thoughts. Once I’m passed the initial shock of it I ask the lady in front of me “¿Que es esto?” (What’s going on?/ What is this?) She cracks a joke about it being the ‘apocalipsis’ and busts out laughing. Apparently, the mortified look on my face kicked in that ingrained grandmotherly streek within her because she immediately consoled me. “El mundo esta bien, es pinche Facebook.” Of course it is.

By the time I make it home I’m in complete awe and disbelief. I start digging through social media and find the source of all the commotion. Misinformation. Apparently, the story is the same across the continental United States. Grocery stores are being wiped out as people prepare to be quarantined from the rest of society. My initial reaction is to crack jokes based upon the worst fears in our psyche.

After posting some socially insensitive jokes about buying bullets before we all get shipped off to FEMA camps I was instantly humbled. Shocking as it was I found out our government actually had set-up zones to quarantine people who have contracted the coronavirus. Why? Protocol.

As all people with crippling social anxiety undoubtedly did I researched COVID-19 when it first reared its head. It’s another random strain of a zoonotic cold that came from, I think, bats originally. The fatality rate sits somewhere around 2.4% and that’s mostly elderly people and others with compromised immune systems. Of course, the rate of which it spreads and the fact it kills at all warrants the quarantine but it’s government doing what we pay them to not a reason to panic. The CDC has to respond in the only way it can and until we find out how to cure it. Unfortunately, that means whisking our citizens away into camps to protect everyone else.

Now, if you let the citizens tell it we are all going to die. It’s time to buy out all the food and toilet paper you can because Homeland Security said so. Okay, you government types need time to sort out what’s going on and how to deal with it. I get it. However, we live in the digital age where every person can share their thoughts with the crowd and really kick the hornets nest. As a result there are people squaring up and boxing inside Wal-Mart over Charmin. Oh, you fine people of Tar-jay are not off the hook. I’m certain you huffed past at least three Brenda’s while gathering up all the Quilted Northern and Smart Water you could fit in your carts.

Maybe it’s the image of George Romero’s Day of the Dead eating away at all of our minds. Maybe it’s fear of the unknown. Maybe we’re all clinging to what we have and will claw each others eyes out to protect it. That makes every movie about the Zombie Apocalypse 100% correct in the assumption that it’s not the zombies we have to worry about, it’s the people.

LOVE YOUR NEIGHBORS

I feel bad for people in our current climate. Anxiety has eaten me alive for the greater part of my adult life. I have fought people who freak me out and invade my personal space. I’ve self medicated to treat the symptoms and whatever else trying to mask that ominous feeling of imminent danger. The reality is simple. Fear is probably one of the most irrational emotions we can give into. We oftentimes use anger to mask that fear so we can seemingly remain in control of a situation. However, we really betray our own insecurities by lashing out. So when I jump on social media and see people scratching each other down over toilet paper I instantly recognize the root problem, fear.

Look, the world didn’t end when the Black Death swept across Asia and into Europe. COVID-19 won’t end it either. While the bubonic plagues second appearance managed to wipe out 20% of London’s population in the 1300’s you’ll find the city is alive and well today. We survive. We adapt. Our will to live is literally ingrained into our DNA and we will make it through this as well.

Knowing that life will go on, do you really want to be that guy? You know who I’m talking about but I’ll exaggerate a bit to make the point. Do you want to be that guy that punches a nun in the face so his kid can have Doritos during the quarantine? How proud of those snarky remarks will you be after this pandemic passes? Because it’s going to pass. Somewhere some redneck Texan is reading this and saying, “That’s right! I ain’t dyin’ over no disease named after a lite beer.” Laugh a little. It’s okay, and the sentiment is accurate.

The most important thing we can do in the present moment is consider each others fears. Your neighbor is stressing the same unknown outcome you are. Their children and spouses are just as important to them as yours are to you. What could we possibly hope to gain by going for their jugular? They have just as much of a right to fresh water and canned goods as you do. They’ve read the same government reports and laughed at the same memes as you have. Why not share your knowledge with them or show them a joke that made you laugh? How much easier would all this be to deal with if we did like the abuella in Fiesta and just laugh it off before offering a kind word to a stranger?

There’s that inner dreamer pouring out of me again, wishing love would spread faster than the coronavirus. In the immortal words of Paolo Nutini “It was in love I was created and in love is how I hope I die.” So love your neighbors like you love yourself. Just love each other through the nonsense.

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