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The Highs and Lows of Pandemic Era

The pandemic era is forcing us to see things we never thought we’d see, and to make choices we never thought we’d have to make.
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October 16, 2020

Let’s admit it. The coronavirus pandemic can drive us crazy. It makes us see things we never thought we’d see. We are living in surreal times, which can bring out the ugliest or the most beautiful scenes.

I saw both examples this week in news items from Israel.

The first was a violent confrontation at a wedding reception. Apparently, the party was attended by several dozen guests in violation of coronavirus regulations. When the police came to break up the gathering, violence and chaos erupted. There’s a video of the incident that is making the rounds, but I suggest you do not watch it.

People are screaming. A man is lying on the ground with a bloody face. Officers trying to enforce the rules look befuddled but also forceful. Guests are fighting back. They look befuddled and forceful, too.  It’s ugliness all around.

I totally understand that if we want to eradicate this lethal virus, we all must respect the rules. It’s possible that the police went too far. I’m sure there will be an investigation. And if the hosts of the reception violated the rules, they deserved consequences. I get all that.

My point here is more philosophical: This horrible scene would never have happened without the coronavirus. The law enforcement officers who were assigned to break up that wedding celebration surely have attended weddings where they danced in joy. Now they had to break one up. Who would want that job?

The pandemic era is forcing us to see things we never thought we’d see, and to make choices we never thought we’d have to make.

This pandemic era is exposing us to clashing extremities.

But if the pandemic triggers ugly scenes, it can also trigger beautiful ones. On the same day that I read about the wedding fracas, I read about people reaching out to alleviate loneliness among the elderly.

According to a report in JPost, “Approximately 200 employees of Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality have begun to make phone calls to elderly citizens. The callers check on the elderly person’s well-being and identify any needs resulting from the current lockdown.”

The report continues: “Any details recorded are then transferred to social workers employed by the municipality’s social services department. Workers from all municipal departments are participating in the effort. They have conducted more than 37,000 phone calls to date and receive responses from senior residents, who have often found themselves isolated from family members.”

What I found remarkable about the two stories is that they both originated from the government—in one, law enforcement officers were forced to do ugly work, and in the other, municipality workers were motivated to do beautiful work. It’s tempting to focus on one narrative or the other– either all bad or all good, either all ugly or all beautiful. But we lose something when do that; for one thing, an appreciation for the complexity of humanity and the humbling uncertainty of our times.

This pandemic era is exposing us to clashing extremities. In our own state of dizziness, we must navigate somewhere in the middle, trying as best we can to keep our balance and our sanity.

Shabbat shalom.

 

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