Monday, March 2, 2020

Ruth Krall on Coronavirus: "If We Fail to Adequately Care for Those Who Cannot Care for Themselves, the Door will Open to Threaten Us All"

I'd like to share with readers this morning an email that Ruth Krall sent to me yesterday, which contains some of the best commentary I've yet read on the coronavirus discussion. Ruth has kindly given me permission to share her thoughts. She writes, 

If this coronavirus threat becomes the pandemic that is predicted, most assuredly refugees from the world's various wars, migrants around the globe, and the poorest of the poor will be without resources to protect themselves and their children.   
In a sense this is an issue of self-interest. If we fail to adequately care for those who cannot care for themselves, the door will open to threaten us all — no matter what our particular economic status is, no matter what our color, our gender, our sexual orientation, our social position, our street address, etc.  
As my aging friends and I talk about ways we are pondering to protect ourselves — in the absence of a coherent public health policy world wide — I am aware that ours are the voices of privilege. We can read the warnings and understand them. We have a houses — and as retired individuals we can stay home. We have running water and can, therefore, wash our hands with soap and water.   
Many of the globe's citizens have to carry water great distances and boil it; frequent handwashing is a luxury they cannot afford.  
The homeless among us— on USA streets and around the world — do not have this luxury of safety and this privilege or shelter.   
Those of us who have religious or ethical principles about the sanctity of human life — we need to re-think (collectively and individually) what we can do to assist others to live.

When things fall apart, when right-wing bullies stir ethnic, racial, religious hatred, hatred of women and sexual minorities and of the poor, creating social and governmental fragmentation, it's always the least among us who suffer first and hardest. When a pandemic hits, it's always the least among us who are susceptible to immediate and serious danger. 

As Ruth sagely notes, it's a matter of self-interest (not to mention, a moral imperative) to be concerned about and support those on the margins of society. Viruses know no nationality, gender, socioecomic status, sexual orientation. The pandemic that begins among those living on the margins of society will soon be my pandemic and your pandemic, knocking at our own doors. 

Those of us who think that closing ourselves off from the despised other — building a higher wall on the southern border of the US — will protect us are living in a fool's paradise. If, God forbid, we and others should become seriously ill and require medical treatment and hospitalization, the odds are very high in much of the US that the teams of doctors and nurses providing care for us will be comprised of a significant percentage of immigrants, the very people we claim we need to keep out because our nation is "full."

There is not only a moral stolidity in the satisfaction of many of us today in seeing the poor, the weak, the struggling, the despised other knocked into place. There is also a colossal, self-defeating stupidity in this approach to living in the world today: the people we imagine we can dispense with, do without, other and remove from our sight, are the very people on whom our own salvation and lives may very well depend.

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