I was interested in this New York Times piece on the many Americans who somehow remain in denial about the risks associated with the spread of coronavirus– either as a carrier or potential victim. It seemed familiar. I realized that was because it sounded like what you’d hear from somebody in active addiction.
- Coronavirus: “it’s my life, all right? We all have to die sometime.” That one is actually a quote from the NYT article. It’s from a woman in her 60’s who doesn’t want to have to interrupt her vacation with her friends.
- Alcoholism: “No doctor is gonna tell me I can’t have a drink now and then.” Of course, that’s what a doctor is supposed to do when indicated. Besides, if it were really just ‘now and then’, it wouldn’t have come up in the first place.
- Coronavirus: “That’s just the Fake News media at work.”
- Alcoholism: “That cop was out to bust somebody and I just happened along.”
- Coronavirus: “I feel good. If I start to feel sick, I’ll do something.”
- Alcoholism: “She’s just exaggerating. My drinking is not that bad.”
- Coronavirus: “I can’t take time off. I might lose my job.” What about if you got sick?
- Alcoholism: “I was under a lot of stress back then. That’s why I drank.”
- Coronavirus: “Nobody knows for sure what will happen. I’ll wait and see.”
- Alcoholism: “I asked my doctor if I had a problem and he admitted he couldn’t be 100% certain.”
- Coronavirus: “I heard on the news things will be back to normal by June.”
- Alcoholism: “You wait, once the divorce is done, I’ll be able to get my act together.”
I imagine most of you can provide examples from your own experience.
We all exhibit this kind of reasoning, from time to time. In addiction, it’s exaggerated. Same thing appears to happen with coronavirus. So I’m not surprised that it required heavy, persistent persuasion by the nation’s best experts simply to convince the President to extend a self-imposed ‘deadline’ for the end of social distancing, out to April 30. To me, the whole thing was absurd: on the heels of a quarantine, we want those same Americans to pack the pews of the nation’s churches? Including the most vulnerable among us?
COVID-19 spreads through close, person-to-person contact. Such as we might expect to experience at crowded church services on Easter Sunday.
The coming danger, of course, lies in the tendency to slip back into denial once the immediate crisis has passed. That’s what so many people in treatment do, in the wake of a close call. Just helps pave the way for the next crisis.
Anyway, there’s a movement afoot to restore the teaching of critical thinking skills to high school students. Let’s all support that.
In fact, maybe elementary school is the place to start.