“Here comes the plague, she likes to dance,
and when she’s rocking around, she’s the queen
of the town!”

Enrique Guzmán, Mexican singer

Carlos Barón

VERACRUZ, MÉXICO—In these quarantined times, as the world holes up in their homes (except those who do not have one), all kinds of responses to the crisis begin to appear on social media. We use and abuse phones and computers more frequently than we use all other gadgets. The virus of the Internet?

Nevertheless, since El Tecolote is published bi-monthly, times like this give us the wonderful opportunity of gathering some of the responses, reactions, or conversations that focus on the issue of the coronavirus assault on humanity.

And the responses, comments, suggestions and memes are quite varied and entertaining. 

Although the feverish way in which the virus has attacked humanity has created a great deal of fear, it has also opened the doors to a feeling, an ideal, a belief, that many of us among the “boomers who are most at risk,” thought had disappeared: solidarity. Perhaps the younger ones will feel it for the first time and take the lead in the struggle?

To be clear, in this society, we do not expect solidarity from our leaders. 

Illustration: Alexia Huerta

We have been disappointed for so long that confusion now reigns in our midst and we tend to mistake what is right with what is wrong. Or, in the case of politics, it would seem that most people in the USA would rather behave like the old saying: “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.” 

Thus, abandoned by those less-than-perfect leaders, due to their innate incapacity or by some other Illness, such as greed, lack of empathy, or compassion, we generally dismiss and resent them. Thus, we have to find other ways to combat an aggressive common enemy, the kind the coronavirus is. 

To be fair, if the federal government is slow to react to the viral attack, solidarity can also be provoked or encouraged by leaders at the State level, from governors to mayors, to supervisors, to superintendents of schools. And, luckily, there are many examples of good leadership to be found, all over this nation and, most importantly, all over the world. 

We cannot forget that the United States is part of the world, not the center of the Universe. The fight is global and the coronavirus knows nothing of artificial borders.

When I was a kid, in Chile, I used to hear this: “Eat all your food! Think about the poor children in China!” I know that the phrase was (or is)  also used in other countries, including the United States.

Us western kids rarely asked more details about the children in China, as we dutifully slurped our soups. I believe that we understood that the phrase was just some kind of mantra, a little nonsensical encouragement to clean that plate. It was neither a threat nor a warning. I have come to interpret it as one of the first examples of the word solidarity. Poor children in China go hungry, don’t leave food on your plate. Always think of others, even those who are so far away. Solidarity. Maybe? Why not?

But the kind of solidarity that is being awakened in the population by this viral attack is the most interesting and moving. Because of social media, perhaps it is a more contagious type of solidarity. 

We can see the ways how people in Italy, Spain or China, react to being quarantined, by coming out to their balconies and singing, how fish, birds and other animals begin to invade the human habitats, as if beginning to tentatively reclaim long-lost territories. After all, most deadly viruses occur because humans invade and destroy all natural habitats: animal and otherwise.

In these times of distress and uncertainty, people strive to be positive and share more. In big and small ways. Yesterday, I saw a great soup recipe posted by a muralist whom I did not know as a cook. Then, I actually took a Zumba class led by my old instructor from the gymnasium. Later, I opened links to free movies that another person shared. All that helped me to gather my thoughts for this note.

Perhaps the biggest challenge is to realize that this coronavirus might not just be the worst of plagues, but a possibility for change, all over the world. As old oppressive economic and  patriarchal political systems are crumbling, new possibilities appear.

Those who have traditionally controlled those crumbling systems will seek opportunities to continue in control, making money with insider trading, or cornering the market for “The Cure” for the virus, or trying to blame other nations and races for their own failures. The North Pole is melting? There’s money to be made.

We must stop those oppressive ideas and establish human solidarity. 

Solidarity with Mother Nature (or Pachamama) is essential. Perhaps this is a crisis that Mother Nature sent our way. Not a chastisement, but as a warning. 

Or an opportunity to stop systems that never had the term solidarity in their greedy DNA.