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Chatterbox: In the shadow of the invisible


We face a traumatic moment in time. As we said last week, facing a serious crisis isn’t new to humanity, but this level is new to most of us and unnerving to say the least. We’re annoyed, but we’re also extremely frightened.

Young people are uniquely distressed. Some partied on the beach, maybe out of sheer fatalism; others are at risk of great depression – or worse. This virus is an unknown in the prime of their life and packs a potentially deadly wallop. The need for confinement makes them fearful. A huge interruption in normalcy, it also halted their momentum, for many at a time when exciting, even critical, things are happening. Their plans, hinged on that normalcy and momentum, have been altered forever. Such crises in our youth are never forgotten, and the grown-ups in the room have no real-life experience to draw on.

Age alters our perspective on what matters in life, but events that affect our life and attitudes forever, leave their mark. Our young people are not just frightened; they’re sacrificing sparkling bits of childhood, high school or college years, things that matter to them. They will bemoan them, in some ways, forever because, sometimes, when we miss the boat, it actually is the last one. Life changes quickly, altering ability, opportunities and responsibilities.

When the Olympics of 1980 were boycotted, we agonized for many athletes who sacrificed so many years of their childhood training for that moment, only to be denied the opportunity to compete. It was devastating to them and their life goals. Many didn’t return to the next Olympics; some wouldn’t, but others couldn’t – the clock had tagged them out.

The way in which anyone, young or old, is processing this whole COVID-19 calamity is personally unique, but there are some very common worries. On everyone’s mind, “What will become of us?” World security has been breached by an invisible invader. Many leaders on whom people relied in each nation in the world, who took the helm of the ship by vote or force, swore to protect or reaped the benefits of such position of power, have dropped the ball, fatally erring.

Some bright minds had been shouting about the handwriting on the wall, but too many of us ignored the signals. In America, programs, policies and qualified staff placed in particular positions specifically to avoid exactly this were removed, and these changes left gaping holes in the system. Some program budgets were diverted, covertly benefiting an inner circle of magnates; some power positions were filled from that inner circle. These damaging changes are undeniable now, as experienced help and life-saving resources are critically impaired or gone.

Donald Trump demeans they who pose questions about cut programs – effective safety nets long in place. “I’m a business person. I don’t like having thousands of people around when you don’t need them,” he said. Clearly he hasn’t looked at our military spending lately, and clearly he doesn’t understand: what these imperative agencies do; the need for continual research; maintenance and comprehension of information on old epidemic issues; or the preparedness for and constant surveillance of new ones by trained professionals. These professionals keep a collective, highly trained ear to the ground and an eagle eye on the Petri dish for potential health issues in an ever-changing world condition, and keep rescue/medical services ready for any emergency.

We, the worker bees, however, have our integral job in the beehive to perform daily, crisis or none, and we know to never risk the hive. Our most powerful people should know too. Unfortunately, as the stakes get greater, so does the temptation to reroute tributaries, meant to flow to all, flooding the places that only benefit the few. This didn’t cause COVID-19, but it is largely why we weren’t ready for it.

Pointing fingers is moot. What can any of us do? As part of the global population and to its benefit, we’re limited to what we can do – safely – through work, expertise, spirit of volunteerism and moral support.

As usual, the workers bees are first in the trenches and directly in the line of fire. Let’s hope the worker bees called, as always, to serve, can ward off this invisible enemy. Let’s ensure that, when the crisis is over, we remember how we got into this mess ... and who got us out. Let’s hope we remember our own grit, and demand better from our leadership for it.