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Coronavirus and intolerance

@citriko_mx
citriko_mx

I am Mexican. And like billions of people, I am at home right now, reflecting on the circumstances that we are experiencing during this quarantine. Tirelessly wondering if we will know how to bring out the best or the worst in ourselves in the face of this crisis?

We are scared, because we´ve seen what COVID-19 has done to more organized societies than ours. It has brought them to their knees. This virus has tested North American, European and Asian health systems. The figures that we know today, of infection and mortality, show us that they have failed. Are we going to fail too? If this happens, along with the economic crisis that awaits us, I fear that all the memes in the world will not be enough to extinguish our distress.

Almost all of us who are alive today have been truly lucky generations. We grew up far from the World Wars that forced our grandparents to migrate to other continents, without the certainty of returning home to their loved ones. However, we are not exempt from war, natural disasters, or pandemics. We are sitting on the verge of what many anticipate will be a tragedy. And uncertainty and fear play a very important role in our decision making. Unfortunately, sometimes this leads us to fall into negative behavior patterns.

The first to blame, naturally, are bats, because apparently one of them ended up in a soup in a market in Wuhan, passing this virus to humans. And a few weeks ago, in Peru, a group of people scared by the contagion, went out hunting and burning hundreds of them. Frankly, the lack of information and ignorance led them to take brutal, wrong measures.

The next in line for scapegoating, has a racial connotation. Many nickname the coronavirus as the “Chinese virus,” or criticize Chinese eating habits with some prudishness. I ask you for a moment to reflect on the impact it would have on our security and integrity, if this were known as the “Jewish virus”. Would you consider it fair, or appropriate? Would you fear for your safety?

It is worth mentioning that in the United States, during the past month of March, dozens of people of Asian origin were attacked and insulted on the streets. All because of the failed perception that they were responsible for what is happening. We could argue (as some international leaders have already done) that the authorities of the Chinese regime are guilty of not having contained the epidemic in its beginnings, hiding vital information, and other errors of action and omission. But to blame people of Asian origin as being disease agents … it´s a long and dangerous stretch.

In Mexico, the situation tends to be different, but equally alarming. There are those who blame the upper classes for the spread of Covid-19. Also, I have witnessed people violently criticizing the lower classes for not being able to stay at home.  In an incident in Jalisco, on March 31st., nurses were denied the right to use public transportation, while some aggressors threw chlorine water at them. Nurses potentially will have the power to save our lives, and instead of offering them chocolates and cheers (like other countries do), we showered them with discrimination and chlorine.

@citriko_mx

During the Middle Ages, the combination of intolerance and ignorance was the breeding ground to allow slander against the Jews. Without any trace of evidence, Jewish communities and individuals were violently targeted for allegedly causing the Black Death. It is very easy to hold others responsible for the uncomfortable reality we are going through. And, as the history of anti-Semitism has taught us, hatred is itself a violent virus that infects entire groups and societies.

It seems that the Coronavirus has the ability to teach us many lessons, but the most important of all, in my opinion, is that despite all the ideological barriers that we have built throughout history, we are all human. Poor and rich, Asian, African, Australian, Latinos and European. No race is immune. No country is immune. Mosques, synagogues, and churches are also not immune. While some are wasting time and resources accusing these or those for the contagion, Covid-19 is infecting all humans alike.

We need to be more united than ever. It is our ticket to success to vanquish this pandemic. I beg you, today more than ever, to fight with information and compassion against that evil historical voice, that is pressing us to commit atrocities against “the others.”

It is imperative that we all take care, but not only to prevent getting sick, but also to avoid social ruptures that will cause more damage and divisions. Because the only thing it is for sure, is that it will be up to us to rebuild the world.

About the Author
Sara Galico is a Mexican educator, writer, and speaker. She received her BA in International Relations from the Universidad Iberoamericana. She has a Master´s in Management and Leadership in Organizations from the Universidad Hebraica. For fifteen years she has been fighting prejudice, discrimination, and Antisemitism. She has worked with schools and communities in Southern California and Mexico, helping them in creating safe and inclusive environments. She is a member of the World Jewish Congress JD Corps, an elite diplomatic program representing the Jewish communities of the world.
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