Many would argue that we have had culture wars brewing in the United States for years. Now, the COVID-19 pandemic appears to be exacerbating this. We risk being divided by the pandemic, the opposite of what we need.
One pervasive and divisive message that never goes away is that you cannot trust “them”, whomever that is – name your authority of choice, the opposite political belief, other generations and races. Right now, them might mean anyone who disagrees with your ideas about this pandemic and how to approach it.
When we are scared of something, one thing we humans do to feel better is to make it someone else’s fault. When we create this “other” who is the problem, we may feel a bit safer, but then again, maybe not. That “other” is always out there, waiting to get us, taking up our energy with worry.
Our beliefs shape our behavior
“Othering” is one of the major things CTN is on a mission to counter. It is central to ageism. We give our negative traits and fears to another age group. We assume we know all we need to know based on just one trait.
Othering is part of the conversation about the pandemic. For instance, only unimportant “others” will die. Or, some “other” caused this problem, or it is “others” who are making this worse.
Our beliefs and biases shape our response to the coronavirus crisis. Ageism, racism and other forms of “othering” impact our decisions about what to do.
When we “other” we funnel our energy into separating ourselves from the problem, instead of solving it. There is us and them. We lose sight of what we have in common.
Reframing brings us back together
Reframing is not about using language to feel better, at least not as we see it. It is an effort to tell the whole truth, which includes gray areas and overlapping realities. Reframing means taking a realistic look at the situation in its entirety.
In a cultural war, or any war, there have to be winners and losers. It’s a fight. This is entirely the wrong way to solve the problem we face in the coronavirus pandemic.
We face a common problem. We cannot be divided by the pandemic and hope to solve it.
This is not a new sentiment, but yet we lose sight because of fear: what connects us is bigger than what divides us. If anything, this pandemic shows that. Anyone can be brought down by the same microscopic invader. We all need the support of our friends and neighbors. We all rely on our friends and family, let alone all the grocers, farmers, delivery people, teachers, mechanics, medical professionals . . . and the list goes on.
No matter your generation, your politics, your race, your religion, your sexuality, your physical abilities and whatever other ways you can be defined, no one can go it alone.
We must reframe our response to this crisis, coming together instead of moving apart. We have a common threat and have to work together. There is no “other” group of people. There are different collections of perspectives, experiences, skills and knowledge. We rely on them all to keep us fed, healthy, productive and to challenge us to be our best selves.
We do not have to be divided by the pandemic. Without a doubt, it is time, instead, to come together and not let the idea of the “other” get in the way.
Sara Breindel, Changing the Narrative blogger