Prepare For Impact: The Only Way Out Is Through

I have been listening to a morning news podcast as I usually do, and today it was really scary. Every possible thing you could imagine was being threatened by the coronavirus. There was, of course, people’s health — not enough test kits, no vaccine, no coordinated response to it, hoarding of masks, and so on.

Then the people on the podcast started getting into the economic impact: The stock market is temporarily closed because oil futures plummeted 1500 points. People are being told to stay home from work. People can’t stay home from work if they want to get paid. They have to get paid if they want to eat. When or if the market continues its crash, what will the world economy look like. Nobody knows, but no one seems to think it’s good, except people related to the White House (and I assume they don’t either, really).

Putting those two things together, there are all the un-insured and under-insured in this country, who won’t be able to pay for treatment and who will do what they have always done: not get treatment. Plus, there’s what happens to society of we can’t get together in public. Politically, the reporters reminded us that all three Presidential candidates may have health affected by the virus. Congress is considering not meeting for awhile. Ted Cruz and another person who attended a conservative convention (CPAC) are now self-quarantining.

As a therapist, I see this type of problem all the time, by way of a metaphor. I have a client who has been mandated by his company to get treatment. He’s an alcoholic. I suggest to him three options: 1) Go to detox and deal with it fully. Start recovery with a clear mind. 2) Get antibuse, a medication that will prevent you from drinking by making you ultra-sick if you drink. This offers a steep learning curve for alcohol treatment. 3) Go to AA meetings and get support from other people. He has these three options. His company has given him an ultimatum. Stop drinking or be fired. I have offered him two ultimatums: 1) stop drinking or lose your job and the ultimate one: 2) stop drinking or die.

My client has had weeks to decide, and it looks like he has made attempts at all three. Has he stopped drinking? No. Why not? There’s always some technical reason. Besides, he’s … “trying” and it looks like he might get treatment. Has he gotten treatment? No. He has not. When pushed, he likes drinking and he can’t imagine the “boring” life without it. He’s depressed as well, so — to cope — he drinks, which makes his depression worse.

It is at this point that he has to make a decision, and it’s going to hurt. He has to decide for reality — a reality he doesn’t like. The problem is that it doesn’t matter if he likes it, though. It is still reality. This is the point that people in AA would say, “The only way out is through”. What they mean by that is that you have to face the problem, that your one coping mechanism doesn’t work, and the denial behind that one coping mechanism doesn’t work either.

We are a country that, in large part, is using coping mechanisms that don’t work.

  1. Many of us believe that having money solves all problems. As long as you’re rich, nature can’t get to you. This virus doesn’t know or care about your wallet.
  2. Many of us believe that power, in and of itself, can keep bad things from happening to us. Ted Cruz is a prime example that it is not true.
  3. Some of us believe that health insurance is not important. The sick among us know differently.
  4. Many of us believe that belief matters more than facts, that philosophy is more important than science. The problem is that the virus doesn’t care what you believe. It simply doesn’t. The virus doesn’t care what you post on Twitter or Facebook, what political party you belong to, or how much pretending you can manage. Wishing it were so, doesn’t, in fact, make it so. Facts are reality, whether we like them or not. We’ll have to get over ourselves.
  5. Many people believe that we are not connected to each other, and what affects someone else doesn’t affect us. When Bill or Mary can’t show up to their work, it will become clearer that that isn’t true. Even people in China, whom you’ll never know or meet, impact your life when they can’t go to work, or to the farm, or out of the house.

So, here’s the reality of our coronavirus: Some people are going to die — not everyone but some people are going to die. Quite possibly, a lot of people are going to die. It will hurt. The economy will hurt, possibly a lot. We will be different at the end of this than we were at the beginning of this, but we will survive. Even in the very worst case scenarios, 97% of us will survive.

Can you do anything about it? Like everything, there are some things you have control over, and some things you don’t.

You can control your own hygiene, and how contagious you are, with the knowledge we have. See the “Nurses Talk About Coronavirus” post from last week. Do what the nurses say. They live with it. I can, and do, trust them. If new knowledge comes up, we’ll update the page. Talk to your primary care doctor. Talk to someone at a walk-in clinic, but talk to someone you actually know and trust in real life.

Your local or state authorities can give you any information they have. As far as I know, you can trust them. That said, if you have reason to not trust your elected officials, don’t. Trust the World Health Organization for the large picture. They don’t care about American politics any more than any other country’s politics. The federal government, at least regarding this issue, and for the foreseeable future, is of no use. They will not be save us, because they can’t. They can’t decide about facts, they cant decide how to get the information, or how much they’ll share with us. Because they can’t do that, they can’t formulate a plan to deal with it. Because they can’t formulate a plan, they can’t deal with it.

For all of the reasons I have listed above about denial, our government — a reflection of much of our culture — isn’t willing to face issues around us. Until it actually does face up to those issues, there will be trouble. If it can’t choose between good options now, it (and we) will have to face bad options later.

So, in the end, what’s important? Money? Power? A certain political belief? individualism without apathy? A good fantasy life? No. What’s important in life, the illness can’t touch: facts, logic, people you can trust, and caring for each other, so that everyone has what they need. The only way out is through the crisis, armed with those things. Will it always work? Probably not. We don’t know what we don’t know. On the other hand, we definitely won’t survive without them.

Resisting with Peace,



Guest Column : Nurses Give Actual Coronavirus News

Author’s note: Every once in a while, I share my blog space to give information that I don’t have on my own. This is a prime example of things I don’t know, but these people do. The primary information was written by Julie LaBarr, a public health nurse, near Rochester, NY. Additional comments were from Paula Richards, a nurse from Boston, and Karen Ross Gardner Gatchell in the Springfield, Massachusetts area. They are each to be commended for their expertise and knowledge. I have simply edited the notes. I trust each of them implicitly. There is no politics here. As I heard on the radio today, there are no Red viruses and no Blue viruses. The topic is too important to make this opinion piece.

The critical thing is that we do not panic over this- panic causes more harm than the virus.

A couple of the most reliable resources are your local state health department and the cdc. Coronavirus is something that hangs around all the time- this version is novel- meaning new and unknown. That is to be respected but no cause for panic.

80% of people that are positive for the COVID19 virus will just get better and maybe even not know they have it. It may just look like a cold. Don’t go to the ER unless you are severely ill. Call your primary care or a health department if you dont have a pcp. Immunosuppressed individuals are at the most risk- especially the elderly. Children don’t seem to be affected.

The illness is probably passed by direct contact with droplets, which are spread by contact, sneezing, or coughing. Hand washing is best practice. And don’t lick stuff, like doorbells or handrails!

Wash your hands! Stay home if you are sick. Same precautions as flu. Use regular soap for washing your hands. 20 seconds. Wash in between your fingers, back of your hands, thumb, wrists, etc. Use you own pen, try to avoid door handles and railings if you can. Again, wash your hands….

The basics of respiratory illness hygiene is imperative! Hand hygiene, cover your cough and stay in when you are sick. Healthcare workers are also at risk- to carry it not necessarily get sick. What’s most important is that healthcare workers have the appropriate protective equipment- meaning the general public need not use up all the 😷 masks! Wearing a mask when you aren’t sick will not help.

NY cases have been doubling each day. Is that because we are testing more? Probably.

You can get it by touching your hands to your face, being sneezed or coughed on, etc. what else?? The frontline (healthcare) is being updated and educated daily on how to keep themselves and all of you safe and healthy. Trust your professionals and keep yourselves well. Self-care: eating right, a little exercise, fresh air are all still important! has the official information.

Testing positive does not mean you are severely ill. Once they determine that it is widespread, testing will slow and data like this will not be pertinent any longer. The WHO (World Health Organization) has a map on their site- it is affecting almost every continent at this point.

We will see some economic impact from what I understand. Governments are preparing to support with emergency management like funding. Insurance companies are preparing to offer coverage of testing etc.

I Get It Now: The Silence of the -Isms

Wow. I just got slammed with an epiphany. It happens when you go into other people’s cultures experience their experience, see what you see or don’t see, hear or don’t hear. For the past few months, I have been a visitor to women’s (political) land and the weirdest thing happened. I got to experience… nothing, crickets, and then apathy about the crickets, and then worse — anger for people speaking up, blaming the victim.

That is the Elizabeth Warren campaign. Even reporters and pundits were saying that they had never seen anything like it. Warren is, among all of the candidates, the smartest, most practical, and, in my mind, therefore, the best candidate out there. She has plans for all kinds of things. Further, it has been incredible being part of the phone call set for Warren. The community of supporters is wide. In Star Power, she had John Legend. In the debates, she had great moments and took down Bloomberg’s billionaire campaign. In coverage? Crickets. In votes… very little. In delegates, not enough to count. Joe Scarborough, who I generally agree with, was furious that she was still in the race at all, and furious for being called sexist. Mika Breszinski, his wife, was less so, but agreeing in the background. Dang!

People can reasonably argue that America is ready for a woman President. For instance, Hillary was popular. Klobuchar was in the race for a good long time. People respect Kamala Harris. But, after Hillary lost, everyone thought — to some degree — that the moment for a woman President was gone. That put Harris, Klobuchar, Warren, Williamson and Gabbard at a disadvantage all to start, simply because one person with their gender lost once. That’s the sign of an -ism at play!

When it looked like one of the women might win, the establishment and Capitalists like Bloomberg worried, and threw their money in, forcing out Harris. One could say that Warren’s anti-establishment ways pushed her down. But that didn’t happen to Bernie Sanders, so I would say I don’t think it’s that. Pundits like Scarborough and “establishment” democrats really seem to hate progressives. Bernie got publicity with his hatred. Elizabeth got crickets.

She got un-listed because she wasn’t a threat any more. She simply didn’t exist.

It is that that clicked it for me. Here’s a story to illustrate the point. Years ago, in one of the most consequential experiences of my life, my friend Greg Coles and I went to an upscale restaurant outside of Rochester, NY. Greg drove a beautiful Saab and I drove a beat-up Ford. Greg knew about this restaurant. I didn’t. In short, the place matched Greg’s personality a lot more than it did mine. We sat down at a table and waited to be served…. and waited… and waited. 15 or 20 minutes went by. I asked Greg what was happening as waiters walked on by us. I attempted to get one to serve us and Greg just rolled his eyes. Greg is Black. He shook his head and I said, “No, that can’t be”. Greg said it was — racism. We just left, and never were served, never even acknowledged.

Later, when I moved to Bridgeport, I decided that I wanted to work with Black pastors because they were there. 50% of Bridgeport is Black. At first, there was some sort of nod to the work by my White colleagues, especially the men, who would volunteer their opinion. But after awhile, as it became clear that this wasn’t a flirtation with political correctness, but an actual part of my ministry, those same pastors asked me, “Why would you work with them?

Again, it’s more complex than that, because African-American pastors in Bridgeport are, by and large, charismatic in their faith. Still, as time went by, I felt more isolated from my White, denominational, male colleagues. When I left Bridgeport, my Black colleagues came, en masse, and my closest White clergy friends came. My Black friends never said to me, “Why do you hang out with them?”, so I came to see, in balance, that there is more of a problem with Whites ==> Blacks than Blacks==> Whites, but to read the paper, it’s exactly the opposite.

So, here’s the thing: it’s not the anger or the overt action that makes an -ism so powerful. Those things are horrible. Don’t get me wrong, they are worse than being left alone. The difference between abuse and neglect is obvious. Abuse kills the body, but neglect kills the soul.

It’s the silence, the blank stare that doesn’t even get noticed by most people, the unopened doors, the not-considered applicants, the unacknowledged talents, that make the difference. And because, like neglect, it’s hard to prove, it’s hard to see privilege, unless you go into a community not your own. That is why doing so (seeing others) is so important to develop compassion. For those people who aren’t nasty to others, the silence looks the same as their actions. This is why privilege is hard to fathom.

Back to the election and Warren, there is a final piece that made a difference: fear. Because people fear another four years of the destructive Donald Trump, they wanted to make their vote count. They worried that if they didn’t get the right answer in their vote, there would be consequences. In that case, “electability” became an issue, so voters went back to “traditional” (I.e., safe) voting. Why women are considered a less safe bet is because of, well, sexism.

This is all complex, but it’s also a problem for half the population. Throw in Black folk, and more than half of the population isn’t served by it. It’s not working for more people than it is working for.

We have to do something. We have to …

Resist with peace,