A Coronavirus Chronicle #12

Subtitle: I wear the mask, part 1

I wear the mask. For two reasons. I have not evidenced the symptoms most reported as indicative of having been infected by the coronavirus and testing is not readily accessible where I live. So, is it possible that I am an asymptomatic carrier? Yes. Thus, whenever I venture out, I wear the mask as a conscious act of care for others.

The following vignette is illustrative of the first of two, now, typical occurrences when encountering others.

I was scheduled for an outpatient procedure. Heading to the front door of the hospital, I followed an older couple (mid-late 70s), walking slowly, holding hands. I thought to myself: How lovely.

We ended up in the same medical suite. They to my left, at the now requisite six-foot distance, were being registered, as was I. I looked up and noticed that the gentleman was looking, glaring at me. He frowned, and then stepped around the lady, whom I presumed was his wife, placing himself between her and me.

Many times, I have had this experience, which always presents the conundrum of not knowing for certain what is in another’s mind and heart, thus, not knowing for certain what message is being sent and how I am to read it. Nevertheless, having had this experience many times, I have a wealth of history and a depth of memory that provide an interpretive lens, which, living in America, perforce I must employ and through which I look for the sake of sense and safety.

No one (no, not one) is free of prejudice. I am not (and, depending on the subjects, perhaps I have more than my share). Yet, in this incident, which, as the gentleman and I were strangers to each other, I did not take personally, I was reminded afresh that racial bias is an indelible aspect of the human condition.

One day, I may not live to see it, but one day, I remain hopeful that my daughter and all in her generation and after will not need wonder, much less worry about whether they are being viewed negatively by others.

2 thoughts on “A Coronavirus Chronicle #12

  1. Dear Paul,

    “… the debt [you] pay to human guile” – a debt you have never owed.

    In some way I think this pandemic (and other even more menacing factors daily visible in this tumultuous time) has released human guile to do its worst. I wish there were a way I could feel what you felt in that hospital suite. Although I try, I know that what I imagine is not the actual blow that landed on your soul, only my own pale approximation. I can only thank you for sharing it, for bringing it to visibility, for not simply absorbing it and allowing its intended effects of embitterment and division. To bring it to the light of day doesn’t relieve its sting, but does, I believe, show it for what it is, weak, frightened, and ultimately powerless.

    Thank you, Paul. I look forward to the rest of the story… in many ways.

    Much love,

    Karen

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  2. My dearest Karen, channeling my namesake, the good Apostle, and his word to the folk in Thessalonica, I always give thanks to God for you in my prayers… I give God thanks for your understanding, compassion, sensitivity – each and all expressions of your love.

    One of my immediate (and lasting) takeaways from this experience is – and, to some degree, I surprised myself – I was not angry. On reflection, an unconscious, now, conditioned reflex (doubtless, in part for protection of my soul’s health and, in part, I’d like to think, in fairness, for I cannot peer into the mind and heart of another to know with certitude what s/he is thinking and feeling), particularly in the case of an occasion of an negative encounter with a stranger, is that I not take it personally.

    Now, that does not mean that in some deep, not yet entirely calcified inner place, I do not experience pain. I do. But my reason demands that I not allow the sting to take root and fester. Or, as a sagacious friend once observed: “Birds of prey that feast for ill on your mind may land on your head, but you need not allow them to build nests.”

    So, I end here as I closed this blog post. With hope. Hope that Kristin and her generation and those following will not have to continue to have these experiences and, thus, be forced to process the engagement wondering, worrying about its negative connotations – both in the moment and (given the power of memory and, thus, the inherently inerasable nature of occurrences in time and space for good and for ill [though, I think, the latter, sadly, is longer lasting]) long after.

    Love

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