ROSE RTEIMEH WRITES – This crisis has not affected or compromised my necessities, such as housing and food, which I am beyond grateful for, but it has ripped away the futurity of my last semester as an undergrad student. I feel robbed of my final semester to soak in as many social interactions and events as is possible, to continue my placement service as a Marian (Marians is a feminist service organization that believes in the socioeconomic equality of all people), and to see my professors every week. I did not have the chance to give my friends a proper goodbye and essentially have no closure on my time at LMU.
As a transfer student, it is a challenge to ‘fit in,’ and I finally felt like I was. Now, that has come to a full stop. But honestly, what has been the most painful aspect of this is seeing people I love suffer. My loved ones (as well as strangers) may find their necessities and livelihoods in jeopardy. I do what I can, and as much as I can, but it doesn’t feel like it’s enough.
The fear of being evicted or having no food security are more than isolated incidents and not ones that came directly from this pandemic–but are a preexisting condition of our system.
We are experiencing reminders of the dangers of individualism that have long been ignored by those it does not affect. If you are not, say, a part of the working class or are immunosuppressed this could be the first time you felt this scared. Remember this fear the next time you have the opportunity to extend some decency to another person. We are socialized to care more about ourselves, even if it comes at the expense of others. In my eyes, it breeds a rampant lack of emotional intelligence, particularly empathy. To try and combat this, I have been reminding people of the power of community building and solidarity. Moreover, I’ve been donating time and resources to organizations as well as individuals.
Through this, we can try to unlearn these habits of carrying the weight of the world by ourselves. We need a collective sense of urgency to look out for one another, or we will not make it through this pandemic. A large part of, say, ‘spring breakers’ not caring about their contribution to the spread of this shows exactly how this type of narrow view adversely affects the human experience. It may not cost them anything, and they may bounce back, but what about others? These people have internalized highly individualistic and self-serving ideals and acted upon them.
These actions are not equivalent to, say, fights in the grocery store. One is fueled by arrogance, the other is centered around the threat of scarcity. My instinct has been not to ridicule people fighting over toilet paper but to look at them and say, “I’m sorry… I am sorry that hysteria around this pandemic has exacerbated the symptoms of a society that has already failed you countless times.” I am actually sorry that these brawls reflect how many of my fellow Americans are victims of poverty and overwork.
I am calling on all of you to think about this: How much can the quality of our lives improve if we focus on community healing? This is the time to be introspective and draw up new ways to incorporate a more caring, communal sense of thinking about life, about this current Coronavirus and beyond. I have a responsibility to my community, and so do you.
Yes, put your safety mask on first, but don’t take someone else’s on the off chance you’ll need it on your next flight … in 5 years.
Rose Rteimeh, LMU senior, is an Asia Media International contributing editor.