The novel coronavirus, commonly known on every social media platform and news channel as COVID-19, has swept up the entire world and sprinkled it with sickness, death, and fear.
It has kept families apart, destroyed close-knit communities, and killed millions of people all over the world. Countries are closing their borders, travel has been prohibited, billions are losing their jobs, economies are failing, schools are closing their doors, and the world is declaring that it is officially okay to panic.
However, if there’s one thing that the world should learn from this, it’s that sickness and death and fear don’t discriminate. COVID-19 isn’t picking its victims by race, or by color, or by religion, or by financial status, or by gender identity, or any other social factors.
People from the poorest of the poor to the richest of the rich are dropping dead in every part of the world by the second. No one is safe from this disease.
I live in a city just outside the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).
Based on the news I’d been seeing every day, most of the deaths in my city are coming from an elderly long-term care home where the virus has killed over 70 people and infected over 200 — which counts for more than three-fourths of the care home. You know what that means?
People here aren’t really scared anymore. The initial fear that came with what everyone was seeing on the news about this new, never-before discovered, unhealable virus that kills infected people in weeks has definitely worn off, if the swarms of bodies in public spaces are anything to go by.
They worry, of course, for the people that are at high-risk like the staff and residents at the care home. But now, they think that because that’s where majority of the cases in the city are coming from, everyone is now free. They’re getting antsy and restless locked up at home for days on end.
Of course, the government is still implementing social distancing measures and advising people to stay home, save lives. But there’s only so much a democratic government can do when the general public is choosing to ignore them. The sad thing is, neither party is in the wrong.
Yes, the government is doing its best to look out for the safety of the people and ‘flatten the curve’ of COVID-19 cases in the country. But these people — people that leave their homes, that refuse to stay home, that rally outside of hospitals and government buildings and demand the reopening of non-essential businesses — they’re desperate.
Maybe they’re being painted as the bad guys on the news or on articles that we read online. But they’re also small business owners, construction workers, custodians, fast-food workers, salespeople, parents, grandparents, children who want to go back to work because they need to put food on the table and keep a roof over their family’s heads and are willing to put their own safety on the line for the survival of their kin. They’re people trying to stay alive.
This pandemic is bringing out both the best and worst in people. In the span of one hour, while my family and I were eating dinner, there was news of teenagers partying in newly-opened parks and assaulting police officers, and a kid in elementary school with a knack for technology who, with the help of his mother, is currently modeling and 3D- printing hundreds of thousands of personal protective equipment for front-line workers in the province of Ontario.
Theories and conspiracies about the cause of the virus and how governments all over the world are dealing with the pandemic are popping up on social media and debates in the comment sections make me either want to hug someone, or smack them out cold. The existence of the human race is currently being threatened, yes, but not everything the human race is doing can be justified.
Beating up a 76-year-old garbage collector in an empty alleyway because he’s Asian is not okay. Calling COVID-19 the ‘Chinese virus’ on international television and blaming everyone of Asian descent for the rising body count is not okay. Lighting the car of a 37-year-old Vietnamese woman on fire while screaming ‘dog-eater’ at the top of your lungs is not okay. Being a sick, racist bastard with an inhumane values system while the human race is at risk is not okay.
Am I biased because I’m Asian? Absolutely. That doesn’t mean that I’m wrong.
That doesn’t mean that how I feel about the blatant anti-Asian racism going on should be invalidated or ignored.
That doesn’t mean that hurting others out of spite is right. I understand that we are scared — we’re terrified of the unknown, of what the world is going to look like in a few months, of what this pandemic is doing to economies and communities and businesses and governments all over the world.
But that means that now more than ever, we should understand and be aware that everyone else around us probably feels the same way too. We shouldn’t be turning on each other. We shouldn’t be hurting or maiming each other. This is a time for us to be working together and joining forces against this horrible disease that’s devouring our nations.
We shouldn’t be breaking our neighbor’s car windows; we should be asking them if they need someone to help them buy groceries. We shouldn’t be pointing guns at each other, we should be offering to mow each other’s lawns or exchanging phone numbers so that we can check in on one another in the comfort of our own home.
We shouldn’t be kicking out individuals and families who can’t afford to pay this month’s rent, we should be offering food and shelter to people who don’t have that privilege.
As much as I’m trying my best to stay informed and aware of the situations occurring all over the world, sometimes it’s exhausting to watch the news. It takes a toll on someone’s emotional and mental state when they’ve been sitting at home doing mundane tasks that are boring them to the brink of insanity and the first thing they see when they turn on the news is how the number of cases of COVID-19 and the body count is rising steadily by the hour, or how a bunch of teenagers were apprehended by law enforcement for holding an Asian bus driver at gun point and threatening to crash a bus full of innocent people into a bridge.
To even out all the bad, I always try to take time out of my day to find the good in my life. Amidst all the chaos and devastation, it’s hard. Sometimes, when I’m too down or emotionally drained, I come up blank on my list of things to be grateful for because I forget that right now, I am way better off than three-fourths of the human population simply because I have all my basic needs fulfilled.
These are trying times, and that much is clear everyday just by looking out the window and seeing a sidewalk that is usually filled with joggers or dog-walkers absolutely empty. But these hardships, these struggles that we are all facing right now, these should be cause for being united, standing together, supporting and being there for one another, and appreciating the things in life that we take for granted.
And even the simplest action, like staying at home or staying away from public spaces, can be the first step to joining forces with the rest of humanity.