COPYRIGHT 2020 DEBRA LITTLEJOHN SHINDER
I would do anything for love, but I won’t do that.
Love is a many splendored thing. But now, under the pressure of fear, frustration, and forced togetherness, it’s becoming a many splintered one for some of the families out there.
For the past two months, I’ve watched people – both close friends and strangers – tear each other apart here on Facebook over their differing opinions regarding the virus and the government’s handling of it. In many cases, it’s gotten really nasty, with people being called “selfish,” “morons,” and even “murderers” for the opinions they expressed, sometimes by people who purport to love them.
Given the intense animosity that seems to go along with this subject, I can’t help thinking about the married (or unmarried) couples, and others sharing a dwelling place who are on opposite sides of this debate and have been locked down together for weeks on end with little to do other than fight about it.
What’s it like when a husband or wife — or parent or child, or sister or brother — is concerned about the economic fallout or the loss of liberties or the myriad of other practical consequences of the lockdown, while another member of his/her immediate family is terrified of getting the virus and violently opposed to any reopening or to anyone in the household venturing out into the world for any purpose?
I can only imagine the arguments, angry words, tears, stress, and distrust that could result from that. And there’s a potential for it to get much worse.
If vaccines or “immunity certificates” become a requirement to get on a plane or a ship, to check into a hotel, to even go to a sporting event or enter a grocery store, what happens then? If one of the family doesn’t want to get vaccinated for whatever reason — fear of side effects, religious reasons, distrust of what else may be in it, etc. — and the other thinks that’s stupid and that everybody should capitulate, how will that play out?
In some cases it may be easier to defy government authorities than to stand your ground against your own family member. Those who have worked with abused spouses know that abusers are often good at “gaslighting” — making the victim feel as if s/he is wrong, crazy, stupid for feeling the way s/he feels. Even if actual abuse isn’t involved, a person with a domineering personality may try to pressure the weaker of the the pair into going along with the program.
And even some of those who would do anything for love won’t do that.
But how many intimidated family members will give in because the partner, frustrated perhaps that the other won’t be able to go anywhere with him/her without proof of immunity, threatens divorce? Or worse, how many of those controlling partners will threaten to — or actually will — report the unwilling spouse or other family member to the mental health authorities and even have him/her committed to an institution for not accepting something that is so obviously there to protect him/her and the rest of society?
Impossible? I’d like to think so. But I wonder how many Jews really wanted to get out of Germany early, while it was still possible, but ended up in the ovens because family members persuaded them they were nuts for thinking their country would turn against them?
No, I’m not equating our country’s politicians, as bad as some of them are, with Hitler. I’m just pointing out that even in the most extreme situation where the threat is enormous, many people will let themselves be persuaded to do something they know in their gut isn’t the right choice rather than risk losing the approval of someone they love. And that’s scary.
But even if it never comes down to that (and I pray that it doesn’t), I have a feeling a lot of marriages, parent-child, and sibling relationships are going to be irrevocably broken by the time this is all over. The worries over job losses and dwindling bank accounts and what the future holds, combined with the irritably and despair resulting from being locked down for days, weeks, months – it’s going to be too much for many relationships to withstand. If the members are in adamant disagreement about it, that straw may very well break a lot of camels’ backs. And that’s sad.
I wake up and worry
What’s gonna happen today
You see it your way
And I see it mine
But we both see it slippin’ away.
(Glenn Frey / Don Henley / John Souther)
How many couples see it slippin’ farther and farther away, the longer the lockdowns go on? How many parents are estranged from their children and grandchildren because of differences regarding the virus? How many brothers and sisters are no longer speaking to each other, both convinced that the other’s position is uninformed, dangerous, and uncaring?
I’m lucky that my husband and I agree, these days, on most (though admittedly not all) of the important issues that we currently face. But I have known some couples who can’t even agree on whether the sky is blue and the sun rises in the east, and who have screaming matches over what to have for dinner. I don’t even want to think about what life must be like in those homes today.