Bernie Sanders Rally, Phoenix, Arizona, March 5, 2020

Last week was yet another difficult week. The coronavirus continued to spread, causing social, economic, and emotional upheaval, if not outright havoc. Air travel was restricted, people were quarantined, schools were closed, conferences and concerts were cancelled, many employees were told to work from home, airlines announced reductions in both domestic and international flights, sporting events took place before empty stands. Northern Italy is under lockdown, a move affecting millions. Israel instituted a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine for visitors from New York, California and Washington.¹ (They must know my family.) Cruise ships and nursing homes became Petri dishes for the disease. The new James Bond film’s release was postponed until Thanksgiving, leaving some of us shaken.

Sufficient testing kits have yet to be provided in this country, preventing an accurate count of the spread of the virus (assuming an accurate count is desired). Despite word from the administration that a cure is imminent and that the previous administration and the rival political party are responsible for the country’s unpreparedness for the illness and, amazingly, for the virus itself — a theme trumpeted repeatedly by Fox News — a vaccine is still approximately a year out. (And, no, the Democrats did not create or disseminate the virus. Really.) Frequent handwashing and social distancing were prescribed as prudent preventative actions, possibly the only protective actions we can take. Even so, the number of confirmed cases globally passed the 105,000 mark. More than 3,000 have died.²

Businesses — especially small, family-owned restaurants and stores — reported a dramatic decline in patronage, with Chinese restaurants suffering most. Meanwhile, hand sanitizers and kitchen staples flew off of supermarket shelves as many public health officials recommended that a four-week supply of goods be maintained at home in the event that large-scale quarantining becomes necessary. Many heeded the call.

Stock markets worldwide fluctuated wildly, with most plummeting. In the United States, one thousand-point losses and gains became commonplace. Trillions of dollars were lost — at least temporarily — from retirement accounts as well as investors’ portfolios. A desperate action by the Federal Reserve Bank to lower interest rates by half a percentage point was just that: an act of desperation. It had no material effect. Dramatic market losses continued.

On a somewhat positive note, one truly noteworthy: carbon emissions were lower last week in China by 100 million metric tons.³ That’s what a shutdown of manufacturing and a dramatic reduction in automobile use will do. A blueprint to address global warming, perhaps?

In the midst of the spread of COVID-19 and the fallout surrounding it, another overt, ugly display of racism found its way onto our national stage. In the opening moments of a Bernie Sanders rally in Phoenix, Arizona last Thursday, a swastika-bearing flag was unfurled by a man who, notably, chose not to take the precaution of covering his face. Such were his convictions and a sense of righteousness that he felt no need for disguise, no need for anonymity. Aside from the flag itself, it was his boldness that caught my eye and turned my stomach. The guy was undoubtedly proud to share his anti-Semitic neo-Nazi beliefs with the entire world at a rally of a Jew running for president. Although the flag was displayed for mere seconds, the act served as a stark reminder that Jews and non-White and other non-Christians in this country are despised by some. And that there is no need for embarrassment in proclaiming such an abhorrent sentiment in an arena packed with thousands before the national media. While we don’t know for certain, we can bet that people throughout the country lauded him, held him up as hero, consider him a true patriot. You can almost hear the chant ‘Jews will not replace us!’ echoing in homes and gathering places across the land. Talk about another painful punch to the gut: the guy walked. And despite my greatest hopes, a pack of ravenous wolves did not await him outside the venue.

The coronavirus is one thing. Hatred is quite another.

In the midst of these dark times, which are bound to get worse before they improve, I suggest that there are tangible actions, aside from frequent hand-washing, we can take to help us survive. Here are just some:

  • Check in with your family and friends. Offer whatever support you can, even if only emotional. Make sure they know you’re there for them, that you have their back. Texting is nice, but voice-to-voice is best.

It was a bad week. At least it was an hour shorter. But maybe, just maybe, this week will be better. Especially if we agree that we’re all in it together. Except, of course, that guy at the Bernie rally.

¹ https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8088673/Israel-quarantine-travelers-New-York-California-Washington-coronavirus-fears.html

² https://www.washingtonpost.com/coronavirus/?hpid=hp_hp-top-table-main_virus-resource-box-keep%3Ahomepage%2Fstory-ans&itid=hp_hp-top-table-main_virus-resource-box-keep%3Ahomepage%2Fstory-ans

³ https://time.com/5786634/coronavirus-carbon-emissions-china/

Alan is a consulting psychologist with a long and storied history of helping organizations of all sizes become more enriching, empowering places to work.

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