HOPE GIVER OR FEARMONGER (Article) by Dr. Abidan Paul Shah
(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on March 24, 2020)
Before we go any further, let’s get some preliminaries out of the way: Coronavirus (COVID-19) is not a hoax. It can be fatal. It’s very critical that we all follow the guidelines—Wash your hands, use hand sanitizer, don’t touch your face, cover your face with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, clean surfaces using disinfectants, avoid contact with those who are sick (unless you are in health care), and avoid contact with others if you’re up in age or have serious underlying health conditions. Now that we’ve addressed that, let’s talk about what’s happening in our nation.
In the words of a friend of mine who’s a senior adult, “People have gone nuts! I’ve never seen anything like this in all my life and I’ve lived through a lot!” I cannot agree more. Even though I haven’t lived as long as this person, I’m shocked at what’s happening in our nation. It feels like a mass dream (more like a mass nightmare) and any moment we’ll all wake up to normalcy. Unfortunately, it’s all very real and we’re all wide awake. Right before our eyes, schools and college campuses are closed everywhere; more and more businesses are shutting down every day, some for the very last time; restaurants are unable to stay open and keep their employees; working class people in America are worried about their jobs and some now have zero income coming in; and travels and vacations have been restricted. People are scared to go anywhere and most places are closed anyways. The list goes on and on. How did we get to this?
To start with, we’re living in the world of digital “over connectedness.” We have easy and quick access to anything going on anywhere, sometimes too much access. Remember that old saying, “what does that have to do with the price of tea in China?” Unfortunately, “over connectedness” leads people to think that what happens in China directly and immediately impacts us. In reality, we’re not living in Wuhan, China or Lombardy, Italy. The former was the first to be impacted by the virus, possibly from the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market. Sanitation in the market was horrendous. In fact, the very day (January 20) that the President of China gave the statement on the virus, 40,000 families attended the Chunyun festival in Wuhan, which is a potluck banquet! Fortunately, China took aggressive steps to combat the disease with about little over 3000 deaths. In Italy, the situation was very different with over 6000 deaths. According to experts, the reason for such high mortality was their higher percentage of older population (second to Japan), pre-existing illnesses, close-knit family structure (similar issue in Spain and Iran), and failure to isolate the elderly population. The point of all this is that we’re not Wuhan or Lombardy. It’s absurd for us to equate our standard of living, healthcare, and cultural habits with the rest of the world. I’m not suggesting that the disease cannot come to our doorstep. That’s why border closing was a huge step in preventing the spread to our people. But, to apply every restriction to ourselves that was applied by other countries to their situation is ludicrous!
Furthermore, some in the media and politics have unjustly compared COVID-19 to the Black Death (Bubonic Plague) and the Spanish Flu (H1N1). While it is true that both killed millions, medical research has far advanced since then. Yes, I’m aware that the vaccine for the COVID-19 is still in the future but I’m referring to our emergency medical care today. Also, we’re not living in the filthy streets of Florence in the 1300s or fighting World War I in the muddy trenches of Europe. In fact, compared to the death rate through Ebola, Sars, Mers, and H1N1 (2009), the current virus is no where close. Again, I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t take this crisis seriously but do we have to go bonkers? It’s time we start using discernment in who and what we hear, watch, or read. This is especially true when it comes to social media where people write things just so they can get more likes and shares with no or very little regard for truth and consequences.
Finally, my fellow Christians, it’s high time we stop posting messages that incite fear and doubt. Don’t forget that those are the Enemy’s tools. Remember, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). Also, the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Hope. “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13). It’s time we post hope-filled messages that draw people to Christ. Could it be that God is bringing an Awakening or Revival to our great nation through this! Don’t waste this opportunity in fearmongering.
Once again, in closing, as my mentor prof Dr. Robinson reminded me recently—“Pilate washed his hands, why not you?”