Over the last month or so, there has been a growing list of conspiracy theories circling the internet: Obama funded a Wuhan chemical lab to start a bio-war, Bill Gates is behind the spread of COVID-19 so he can make billions off vaccines, and COVID-19 isn’t real.
This virus has become politicized, and like anything that is politicized, it’s become divisive. Protests are increasing in the U.S. and Canada, and just a few days ago thousands of people in Michigan protested against shelter-in-place. People were wearing hazmat suits and masks despite protesting against a virus they don’t believe in, and the irony is at the very least giggle worthy. And while many people (and news outlets) are currently labeling these people insane or uneducated, I know that’s probably not true. What I do know though, is there is a problematic lack of empathy.
I have empathy for the nurses and hospital staff, and can’t imagine how awful it must be to work an excruciating and exhausting 16-hour shift, only to be greeted by protesters outside.
I have empathy for the protesters*, many of whom are protesting out of fear and anger for the inability to provide for their families. Others are experiencing what it’s like to have the government control your body, and have their privileges challenged for the very first time.
I have empathy for the people who believe conspiracy theories. Many feel disenfranchised, and believe neither the government nor corporations provide even a sprinkle of truth.
I have empathy for those who hate conspiracy theories, and think that by spreading them, it discounts the reality that the sick and their loved ones are facing.
We collectively now live in a place of uncertainty, and we’re all doing what we think is best to make sense of our experiences. History has proven to us that the need to blame someone, something, only increases in moments of global chaos.
My concern is how divisive these conversations have been, and I hope we allow more room for the grey areas in these complicated matters—creating room to explore very valid concerns.
I can believe COVID-19 to be a real threat, while also questioning the intent of men in power, even ones who are deemed humanitarians. I can fear for the safety of those most vulnerable in our communities, while also believing that pharmaceutical companies, and even most governments, don’t care about the wellbeing of its people.
Do I believe there to be some truth in some of the conspiracy theories out there? Maybe. But that doesn’t change the fact that people are losing their jobs, their lives, and our collective mental and physical health are under attack.
My ask is that we aren’t forced to pick one side, that we can live in the grey. I hope we come together and choose empathy. Speak from a kinder place, especially when we disagree.
So in the effort to have a *respectful* conversation, I’d love to know your thoughts.
What do you think about COVID-19 conspiracy theories?
Yesterday, I wrote a post about empathy in the context of the recent protests, and incorrectly I made it sound as though I was asking for empathy towards protesters. That was not my intention whatsoever, and I want to start off by apologizing to anyone who was potentially triggered. My intention was to suggest empathy to our global collective, not towards these people, not especially to those protesting because they want a haircut or ice cream. My sincerest apologies that my caption wasn’t worded in the way I meant it.
Privilege is a huge part of this conversation, and one I failed to properly acknowledge yesterday. White people can take a stand with assault riffles while covering their faces, while people of color need to ensure they *peacefully* protest to protect their own lives.
I’d like to think that one day those protesting will wake up to their whiteness and privilege. That they’ll see how ironic their “My body, my choice” signs are, as they continue to stand behind dangerous pro-life policies, while upholding the patriarchy’s control over women’s bodies. Protesters who are demanding higher stimulus checks maybe one day will learn to not vote to have welfare abolished. People against government controlling their lives, will acknowledge how millions of people of color are controlled by the government. Folks for the first time, are experiencing a reality that is the reality for most Americans.
Empathy isn’t the solution in this case, but rather a need for a larger conversation around privilege.
My hope is that the people remember these sentiments, these feelings, these fears that so many Americans feel day after day, year after year, decade after decade.
That they can learn to extend empathy.
What I realized yesterday, is that my own privilege guided my thoughts on empathy. As one of our writer’s @juliachildsheyl so beautifully communicated in her comment on the post yesterday, “Perhaps the oppressor doesn’t deserve our empathy.”