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March 11, 2020

No. I don’ have the COVID-19 virus. At least I don’t think so. I hear the incubation process is about two weeks, so how the heck would I know? Check back with me in fourteen days.

Steve and I take precautions, though. We forego leaving on a jet plane tonight because we might pick up this virus that is spreading like wild fire. And, though, we likely will survive based upon our ages and health, we don’t want to spread it to someone who will not. Survive, that is. At this moment, I should be throwing the final items in my suitcase to head to New Orleans tonight. I usually and gleefully restock our apartment there with household items that we have an excess of here in Connecticut: toiletries, coffee, Equal for said coffee, shampoo. (I know, I know. This is so First-World, but think of it as medicine for my NOLA soul.) Instead, I’m standing at my kitchen counter here in New England banging out this blog, dressed in layers for warmth, one eye on the idiot tube, on the cable news that will inform about the virus and other things like the forthcoming elections.

What a crazy time in the United States! And the world. You feel it, too, right? We are hand-wringing, but unable to touch our faces with the same hands. The stock market is mad at us. In the U.S. our democratic primaries continue now without rallies. Bizarre. Presidential appearances are quashed. Equally unusual. Folks debate online whether we are overreacting or under. Isn’t just another flu? Why are we cancelling the St. Patty’s Day parades in places like Boston, New York, and New Orleans? Live your life. No, don’t. Events on my calendar drop like flies. Speaking engagements on immigration at the University of Alabama in Birmingham and at Miss Porter’s School here in Connecticut are being rescheduled. To when? Who knows?

This big hoohah of COVID-19 reminds me of what I learned about Asian cultures, and how they approach society-wide catastrophes. I’m certainly not an expert but I did take a little one-credit Japanese Law class at Loyola Law School in New Orleans. Mostly, Professor Rosen (first name escapes me) herded us into a small classroom and showed old, Japanese black-and-white movies with subtitles. Why? Because, he said, that the films demonstrated the culture, and that studying the culture was almost as important as studying the law itself—which, if you’re keeping score, was based on the U.S. Constitution after World War II.

So, what exactly is the culture, the way of life, the habits of Asian societies? Fascinatingly enough to this Western me, it was and still is: putting societal needs before individual needs. Think: the horrific practice of Hari-Kari or when the head of a corporation actually resigns from it when it fails. Or something as simple as wearing a mask when you are sick (pre-Coronovirus sick even). This concept is so foreign to us Americans that we don’t know what to do when a pandemic hits. I’m not knocking the United States. Rather, I am praising the beautiful and unusual practice of putting others before ourselves. That’s all.

And, just so I don’t go on blathering like I can do, I’ll just wrap it up now with this: we could learn a lot from our Eastern brothers and sisters.

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