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Love in the time of corona

Spirit of global cooperation and trust is essential for getting through pandemic, writes Bill Trudell

Bill Trudell

Where did this come from? I can’t believe anyone deserved this! (Well, maybe one person.)

The world was just humming along, and there was nothing the matter with taking it for granted, was there? We were coming to grips with global warming; we just needed a bit more time.

The forest fires were out. The hurricanes passed. The tsunamis abated and the shorelines didn’t erode that much. Icebergs are still in existence somewhere. There weren’t opioids in every community, just the poor ones, right? We had started to give up using plastic straws. The trade wars and nationalistic isolation were just cyclical. The stock market was booming. Hacking was on someone else’s computer. And fake news was all fake. We knew how to find the truth; weren’t we entitled to our own opinions, to have our own facts?

Suicides were increasing among young people, but there must have been something wrong; they seemed so normal. There has always been competition for jobs; our technological society would surely create new opportunities. We kept in touch at all times on our phones, even in our cars and while crossing streets. Sure, cancer hasn’t been cured, but look how long people are living! We may not have been able to afford that holiday or that iPhone or that new home, but we could always use our credit cards. We will catch up later. We will slow down later. We will tell them we love them later; anyway, surely they know it.

And suddenly -- stay home. A very dark cloud of infection; perhaps death is a reality everywhere. The planes are grounded, stores, schools and churches are closed, and jobs are disappearing. Beautiful Italy is dying. Everywhere, people are lining up for groceries, single file with measured spaces between them. The stock market is being eviscerated. Concerts, art galleries, sports events, parks and yes, even courts are closed. We are locked down, and civil liberties may be in jeopardy.

We no longer entertain the thought that we are dreaming. We are awake, uncertain, frightened and waiting. Perhaps Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will soon come out that front door and say it’s okay. But then we realize that it is spreading. Princes, movie stars, athletes, relatives and neighbours are infected. Someone we know has died.

Gradually we are starting to think about life, the blessings we have and our loved ones, some even isolated from us. We are starting to realize we really don’t need as much. Even with social distancing, we are not isolated because we are caring for each other and reaching out as never before.

The legal profession is doing its share. Defence counsel are volunteering all over Canada to help those incarcerated, even putting themselves in infection’s way. And not only are lawyers doing so, but judges, court staff, correctional workers, and nurses, doctors, cleaners, grocery store staff, delivery persons, pharmacists, police officers, social workers, bankers, journalists, and our political leaders. Our country is in intensive care on many levels, and what is happening in our communities and right across Canada is astounding and moving.

Moreover, in our world, wars seem to be on hold, and scientists, medical supplies and finances are being shared. Countries are closing their borders but opening and sharing their experiences, concerns and advice. The internet has become a concert hall, and balconies are stages. Where are all these funny YouTube videos coming from, anyway? Those who can are walking and noticing little things, perhaps for the first time. They are greeting strangers with nods and salutations. Our mothers, many long departed, had it right. We are finally washing our hands -- and with soap. They probably reminded us that our health was our wealth. Our governments have become relevant. They are finally doing what they all had promised: looking after their citizens. We no longer snipe at those we elected; we are now taking pride in having elected them.

I believe there are two consistent tangible realities in this bizarre and unreal scenario: hope and love.

Families forced to stay close are finding what is really special about each other. Parents are learning to become supply teachers, partners are learning to argue vociferously, but not really fight. Neighbours are offering to help. “It’s a beautiful day in the neighbourhood” is not just a movie anymore. We are rethinking the issue of forgiveness.

Cleaning staff and food producers and manufacturers and so many, are sacrificing their own health for all of ours. Factories are being retooled to produce medical supplies and life essentials. The poor and homeless are often finding new promises of shelters. We are blushing at hoarding. We are respecting science and medical professionals, marveling at their rapid responses and tracking abilities. We are realizing that surveillance technology may have positive applications.

There is another contagion spreading. While realizing we must be responsible for ourselves, we are also responsible for everyone else on this planet.

I think we will get through this. I was taken by a story in the Financial Times on March 22. In a piece by Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari, I was reminded that humans have a huge advantage over the virus. “A coronavirus in China and a coronavirus in the U.S. cannot swap tips about how to infect humans,” Harari wrote.

On the other hand, countries can share information and emphasize how to deal with it. Harari’s article also reminds us that a spirit of global cooperation and trust is essential. I believe this is happening. Running through the world’s veins of fear is also the lifeblood of hope. Essentially, we all care about humanity.

 I am not going to apologize for the use of this phrase: love is a drug. And no virus can survive it.

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