Hatred is poison, not antidote

Humans are social creatures. Before the phrase “social distancing” entered our collective vocabulary, we took for granted casual chats with co-workers and meals shared with friends. Kids could play with their classmates at school and on playdates. People could gather to recreate, celebrate or mourn. Now, we’re being told to stay home and when venturing out to keep at least 6 feet between ourselves and the rest of mankind. For how long is one of many questions surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.

It’s a scary and frustrating departure from normal life. But Downeast Maine is better positioned than more densely populated areas to practice social distancing. Housing is relatively spread out and there are plenty of places to escape outdoors without getting close to others. To some, including seasonal residents already well acquainted with the state’s charms, Maine is looking like a pretty good place to weather the storm.

The early arrival of these summer residents, many of whom come from parts of the country harder hit by the virus, has not gone unnoticed in the cacophony of social media. Some are even being met with open hostility in the real world. The idea that someone “from away” could spread the virus among locals trying their best to adhere to public health guidelines is maddening. But the hard truth is coronavirus may already be circulating in this community. As Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, points out “Everyone should start behaving as if the virus were in their county … The absence of evidence in this case is not evidence of absence.”

We all must be doing what we can to prevent community transmission and this is not the time for nonessential travel. Visitors who come anyway should do the responsible thing and self-isolate for 14 days. But the rest of us should not rush to judge. Everyone is trying to do what they see best to protect themselves and their families. And things are not always what they seem. Those Massachusetts plates may be on a local’s rental car. That cart mounded with groceries may be for a nonprofit, not a private hoard.

Reports that Asian Americans have been subject to racist remarks and hostilities because of the virus’s origins in China are particularly vile. This is not a Chinese virus, it’s a global pandemic. Hate and divisiveness can do more damage than disease.

When we look back at this time, will we be proud of the way we acted under pressure?

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