May 1, 2020

May Day

May Day has many meanings depending on where you live and what mythology you grew up with. It is about half way between the Spring Equinox and the Summer Solstice. In England, Morris Dancers are up at dawn, in Ireland and Scotland, it is called Beltane, in many other countries it is similarly celebrated as a Festival of Spring. And for the last hundred years or more, it has also been International Workers Day, which celebrates laborers and the working class. Here in Seattle, there are usually large demonstrations in support of those ideals.

This year, it was a mixed affair. Yes, there were the usual ones drawing attention to the lives of the working class and unfair labor practices, but some did a caravan instead of a march, others protested in front of the Amazon spheres. But this year, there were people protesting who had never demonstrated on May Day before. They were demanding the state re-open. Our governor, though, has extended the main shutdown and is planning to open up the state in phases.

From an epidemiological and medical viewpoint, not to mention the self preservation aspect, I agree with this plan. By opening slowly, we are less likely to have a surge and we can keep a low rate of infections. But I know that it frustrates many people. It is interesting that in my organization’s town hall to discuss the state guidelines, my medical director predicted “Jay Inslee is very conservative and will move slowly to open the state”. The Republican Governor of Georgia has been called liberal for opening up his state sooner. Topsy Turvy times.

I am distressed that so many people doubt the pandemic is real, doubt the numbers of deaths, doubt that they are at risk if they get infected, and believe the conspiracy theories. It saddens me and makes me wonder how sad and lost their lives must be. How much our country has lost by allowing these conspiracy theories to thrive?

I am sad, but I am not shocked, because these are many of the same people that believed Obama was born in Kenya. I have been to Kenya. I cannot imagine a young American woman traveling there to give birth in 1961. The hospitals, when I was there in 1990 thirty years later, did not have many supplies at all, including medicine or IV’s, much less surgical equipment. I brought them supplies when I went as a medical student because we were asked to do that to help out.

I feel that that most of these protestors are seeking meaning in their lives and want to show their bravery, that they aren’t afraid. But they are acting like bullies, with their guns and yelling, which to me means the opposite. They are scared little boys who need to prove themselves because they have no feelings of self worth and this makes them feel worthy. So sad and pointless.

And that is how our country and culture have failed them. Somehow, we all need to do better helping everyone learn to feel their own innate goodness. We need to teach compassion. It can be taught. Even reading novels teaches compassion. Compassion would help them see the rest of us as humans, and not their enemy. Compassion for their own selves would be transformative.

These are tough topics and hard times. I know people are losing their livelihoods and people are scared. Grief is present in our lives and we should acknowledge it. We are all in this together. The way forward is with love and compassion, humor and grace, music and art, community and kindness, mythology and stories. And science. Don’t forget the science.

Wash your hands and cover your nose.

And finally, my caveat is that this is my experience and my opinions, which are subject to change as more information is available, and not related to the organization I work for. Thanks for reading.