COPYRIGHT 2020 DEBRA LITTLEJOHN SHINDER
Of all my COVID commentaries, this one has been the hardest (thus far) to write. I started it more than a month ago and it’s been sitting in my Drafts folder, abandoned while I wrote about other, easier topics. I’ve come back to it from time to time to add a thought or expand on an idea, but bringing it all together was difficult.
I try to stay objective but this one is personal. It’s the part of this whole fiasco that has impacted me most — and I believe, though many may not yet realize it, it’s the one thing that will have the most lasting detrimental effect on all of us. More than the loss of jobs and money, more than the loss of precious time to do the things we love doing, even more than the loss of friends and family relationships due to the disagreements over it all (though closely related to that), the thing we’ve lost that will be hardest to get back and that we’ll miss the most is trust.
When I was in high school, I discovered and fell in love with Kris Kristofferson’s music and especially his gift for lyrics. I also loved the songs that he sang with his then-wife, Rita Coolidge, who had one of the most beautiful voices I’ve ever heard. Around 1980, when he was going through a divorce from Rita, he wrote a song called “Nobody Loves Anybody Anymore.” It was one of the saddest songs I’d ever known, full of matter-of-fact finality and hopelessness.
If there were to be an anthem for our current COVID situation, I think it should be “Nobody Trusts Anybody Anymore,” sung to the same tune. I hear it in my head every day now.
Trust issues: Most of us have had them at one time or another. It’s an unavoidable hazard of living on this earth with other human beings; sooner or later, one or more of them will betray you. We want to believe that the people with whom we deal are always honest, that their intentions are always pure, that they know what they’re doing and they would never lead us astray. But unless you’re very young or very naive, you know that’s just not the way it works.
“Trusting is hard. Knowing who to trust, even harder.”Maria V. Snyder
Betrayal always hurts. But when you’re betrayed by almost everything and almost everyone all at the same time, that goes beyond pain and gets into devastation territory. The COVID crisis has stolen away our trust on so many fronts.
- It’s not just that we’ve learned we can’t trust our governments, even (maybe especially) those at the local level; many of us already knew that.
- It’s not just that we lost trust in the “experts” — many of us already knew or suspected that most of them are really just “winging” it and/or offer their opinions for sale to the highest bidder.
- It’s not just that we lost trust in the media; most of us realized long ago that objectivity in journalism – if it ever existed at all – died a painful death on the floor of the 2000 election, smothered in hanging chads.
- It’s not just that we found ourselves losing trust in the medical system and those who are supposed to “first do no harm.” We’ve known for a while that many are incompetent, others are overworked and burned out, and a few are downright malevolent.
The trust that has been lost over the last few months extends far farther than just those people and institutions directly involved in directing the official COVID response and manipulating our own responses to it.
This crisis that seemingly the entire global governmental apparatus found too compelling to let go to waste has damaged or, for some, decimated trust in almost everything in which we once believed.
It certainly destroyed our trust in strangers. The guy we pass on our walk down the street, the lady coming up the aisle in the grocery store – they went from being people we might have smiled at, maybe even stopped and said a few pleasant words, or perhaps not even really noticed at all if we were caught up in our thoughts, to potential threats – possible carriers of a disease we were told was deadly.
We now have to cross the street or quickly swerve down a different aisle to avoid them. We can’t get close – not just because of fear but because of government mandate. Did you ever dream that, in the United States of America, we would be under orders with the force of law to stay six feet away from other people?
Now, with further edicts requiring us all to cover our faces in public, it’s even worse, of course. We look to facial expressions to help us evaluate whether someone is friend or foe, open to our friendly gestures or not. The mask obscures all that, makes them all faceless zombies, hides whether they’re happy, sad, or mad — although these days it’s a pretty good guess that most are the latter two.
The mask also makes it difficult to speak and hard, especially for those of us who have auditory issues and always did a little lip-reading, to hear what’s being said. So we stay silent, do our business and get away as quickly as possible. New friendships that might have been formed aren’t. But hey, we (maybe, probably) escaped in time to keep from acquiring the “deadly virus.” And that’s all that matters anymore, right?
If this whole thing had only made us more wary of strangers, maybe that wouldn’t be so bad. At least serial killers and con men/women would have more trouble luring victims in. But it doesn’t stop there. The fear-mongering has many people now terrified to even interact with their friends and family members.
I see heartbreaking stories all the time from folks who haven’t seen their own kids or their elderly parents in months – people who are used to enjoying and whose emotional well-being depends on their close family ties – because of fears literally pounded into them by the media headlines:
Then there are those who are afraid to go to church, for many their main source of comfort and socialization, even now that our rulers have so generously allowed us to open them back up. Again, those doomsday headlines:
And so officials — oh, so concerned about our health — crack down again, take away our families, take away our religious sanctuaries, put us back into isolation, all the better to break our spirits and as an extra added bonus, weaken our immune systems so we’ll be more susceptible to this and other diseases and when we get sick, they can crow, “we told you so.”
All over the country, amidst reports of “surges and spikes” that are according to many within the system based on skewed numbers that count anything and everything as COVID and then counts that same COVID case as a new one every time that person is tested, governors are rescinding the small freedoms they had granted us last month and shutting things down again, as if in some carefully coordinated dance being choreographed by … whom? Or what?
The government giveth and the government taketh away. Blessed be the name of the government.
But governments have always sought more and more power; it’s the nature of the beast. This is no surprise. The surprise – to me – is that so many ordinary people are buying into it, obediently donning the muzzle, subserviently staying away from those they love, putting the illusion of safety above not only freedom but above family and friendship – above love – and excoriating anyone else who doesn’t want to do the same.
Someone commented on Facebook that most of those “whining about the masks” “seem to be Texans.” He meant that as a snide remark, but I guess maybe it’s true. Because we Texans, at least the true Texans who were raised from birth to embody the independent and self-sufficient — and fearless — philosophical foundation on which our state was built (Remember the Alamo!) will not go quietly into that dark night of state oppression and tyranny.
Even when the governor we once admired and trusted and believed to be on our side betrays us. Even when the people we thought were good friends turn against us. Even when some of our own family members fall into the pit of fear and want nothing to do with us.
It’s hard to know who to trust these days. Many people’s words say one thing and their actions say something different. There are those who want to be on the side of freedom but their fear just won’t let them. That’s frustrating but forgivable. And then there are those who want you to think they’re on the side of freedom but they’re really not. That’s reprehensible.
During this “situation,” my trust has been shattered over and over. One thing I know about trust is that it’s hard to attain and it can be lost in the blink of an eye. One betrayal negates all the faith that was slowly and painstakingly built up. One lie puts all the truths under suspicion. We have either been lied to time after time or those “experts” have proven they know absolutely nothing — or more likely, both.
Should we really wonder why conspiracy theories are flying left and right (and from both the left and the right)? Should we be surprised that a large percentage of people say they would refuse a COVID vaccine if one were available? Does it come as a shock that violence against strangers, as well as domestic violence toward family members, are on the rise?
Without trust, people don’t feel safe. And when people don’t feel safe, they lash out at others, often blindly and randomly. It’s almost as if this is all an orchestrated effort to turn us all against each other — not just white against black, not just Democrats against Republicans, not just states and countries against each other, but also loved ones against loved ones, destroying our last and best source of safety and comfort and inner peace.
But that’s probably just another conspiracy theory.