“It’s in the US now?” I said through gritted teeth when I first heard the coronavirus (now called COVID-19) was in California. How could the Chinese officials let this happen? They lied, said it was nothing to worry about, and now the coronavirus is uncontrollable. “No-one is surprised the next outbreak is in China or that part of the world,” a professor quoted. My anger rocketed to a solid 4 out of 10.
Then my friend heard from her coworker that his 4-year-old son had the virus. Over 500 people had died from it and now it was in my own state. With anger at a level 5, I shared the news with my co-workers and made a note to find my face masks that were buried in the closet under forgotten clothes. After more was learned about the virus, it turned out to be a false alarm and his son was okay. I was embarrassed but relieved. My anger flickered to 2 out of 10 and I had to tell everyone I was wrong.
I made a note to be more cautions about what I believed. But news kept pouring in and the death count climbed. As with any disaster, conspiracies were quick to provide “answers.” “There are 8 labs near Wuhan…This might be a lab-engineered bioweapon!” I pictured a modern black plague, which wiped out 60% of Europe’s population. “It came from a wild, exotic animal market.” I pictured frightened animals in cages and my anger jumped to 6.
I had watched my friends play Pandemic the board game, and now it played out in real life. If I only got news from the American media, which framed every story on COVID-19 as a lethal, uncontrollable virus leaving Chinese officials dumbfounded, my anger towards China would have grown. I could already feel it. I was angry with all of it. Our “health inspections” at the airport and that the virus happened at all.
However, at the same time people were freaking out others were rapidly calling out the media’s bias towards panic. “38,000 people died from the flu in America in 2016-2017,” and “Remember Ebola? Yeah. They said it was the end of the world then too.”
My panic calmed. COVID-19 moved to the back of my mind and I stopped checking for the latest update on who died and where it was now. Why should I be concerned? The problem was far from my little world of work and bills so I quickly refocused on my own issues. Coronawho?
However, I subscribe to two magazines from Singapore, one in print and one online. I haven’t received the print mag yet but a couple weeks ago my inbox dinged with Thirst’s newsletter—it was packed with stories about life with the coronavirus. I browsed the headlines, blinked, and deleted it.
The next week the newsletter came again and there were several stories of how someone’s life changed because of the coronavirus. This brought it a little closer to home. I learned the names and personal fears of people who had lost someone to the virus. When the newsletter came again the articles were about not losing hope and I broke. My anger plummeted to 0 and is unlikely to return. These people are afraid, like me, but they are actually in danger.
I couldn’t believe how easily I reacted with blame and anger. After all, I studied the holocaust! I knew humans tend to hate things they don’t understand, or things that are different, or things that are a threat. But I thought I was better than that.
There’s fear and then there’s worry. It’s okay to be worried, I think we all are a little bit. A tiny voice pokes and whispers, “Someone you know might catch it.” But as a Christian I can’t stay in my worry or fear. The people in Wuhan and across China don’t deserve my anger. They deserve my help, encouragement, and prayers.
If I could I would tell people in Wuhan that the world is rooting for them. That right now scientists are scrambling to create a cure—and they’re making progress. And that at this moment 1,013 people died but 4,347 people who caught the virus recovered.
The video above almost made me cry—and it takes a lot for a movie to get to me. Yet anti-Chinese fears are growing, and for awhile I caught some too. I fell into the us versus them trap instead of thinking of it as us versus the problem (learned that from premarital counseling). 😉
Chinese. Wuhan. American. Californian. Quarantined. Infected. These are just labels. Behind each label is a person with their own family, fears, dreams, and goals. I have yet to live in a city under quarantine with strict curfews and health codes monitored by drones, but for someone in Wuhan that’s the new standard.
Instead of anger now my heart goes out to them.