My wife and I were shocked to hear that President Trump and the First Lady contracted Covid-19. Hence, we prayed for them that they have a complete and speedy recovery. No one deserves to get this horrendous virus. Covid-19 is completely non-political and marches to its own non-partisan tune. Republicans and Democrats must scrap their differences as we face Covid-19, the greatest global challenge and threat of this century, caused by global climate change

How is it that people of all ages refuse to face facts and do the three essentials: wear face masks, practice social distancing, and stay at home as much as possible? And why does the White House continue to downplay the severity of the crisis we face as the number of people who contract the virus comes to 40,000 citizens of the U.S. daily? 

I realize that millions of people cannot stay at home since they have to eke out their own existence by working outside their homes. Hence, Covid-19 causes the greatest danger to the poor and middle class, particularly blacks and Latinos. The upper echelons of society have a difficult time wearing a mask when in contact with others, social distancing, and staying home as much as humanly possible. I find it difficult to believe that Rand Paul (R) from Kentucky refuses to wear a mask in the Senate, though he’s a medical doctor and should presumably know better. How is this possible?

In this connection, I’m reminded of the work of thanatologist Elizabeth Kübler-Ross in the Seventies, who spoke of the stages of dying. The stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance.  Some individuals are still in denial about the lethal nature of Covid-19. Denial in my book should not be seen as entirely negative. It gives a person time to adjust to a painful reality. I remember reading many years ago that 30 percent or more of patients on the cardiology floor of a hospital deny that they had a heart attack. Nurses and doctors should, then, give patients time to cope with this Covid-19 so that they can deal with this disease with a positive mind-set, as much as possible.

No wonder folks are angry and frustrated that they cannot shake hands with their friends, give hugs or kisses, and feel trapped at home. We now have more cases of marital break-ups, spousal and child abuse, and suicides as a direct consequence of Covid-19. Those who are single and stay at home, particularly the elderly, feel cut off from others. These individuals suffer from depression, often have great difficulty making ends meet, and suffer from overwhelming loneliness. 

And loneliness can be deadly. Some years ago, Theresa May, prime minister of Great Britain, on January 17, 2017 appointed to her cabinet a “minister of loneliness,” a plan of cure for a self-inflicted injury. (See Friendship In Islamic Ethics And World Politics, edited by Jafar Mahallati, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 2019, p. 1). May made her decision based on a report from the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness in 2017. This Commission concluded that over 9 million Brits suffer from chronic loneliness. This loneliness has major effects on a person’s physical and mental health.

For Kübler-Ross and other thanatologists, those seriously-ill attempt to postpone their death by coming to the bargaining stage. Patients have a strong wish to prolong their life until it’s fulfilled. When a close relative of mine who raised me was dying, she held out for me to come home from Phoenix, Arizona. She died exactly one day after I visited her, and family members told me she postponed her own death until she saw or heard from me the final time. 

The final stage of dying is the acceptance stage. Acceptance may occur particularly if the person following a prolonged illness decides that death may be preferable to living under constant pain. 

Finally, as we face these days of trial and tribulation, I find hope in these words, “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God,” (Philippians, chapter 4, verse 6).

Richard Penaskovic is an Emeritus Professor at Auburn University. His writings have appeared in the Birmingham News, Columbus- Ledger Enquirer, Montgomery Advertiser and online by Informed Comment and Politurco.

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