Erin's Journals

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Just a thought… Our most basic instinct is not for survival, but for family. [Paul Pearsall]

Huh. And so here we are again: many of us self-quarantining (except for the tiniest family bubble) and trying to close the door gently and step back into a life of care, caution and compassion. Our hearts are with our neighbours south of the border, those hundreds of thousands of families with an empty chair at a smaller Thanksgiving table this year; the millions more who are paring down their celebrations as per the guidelines and advice of those in the know.

Right now, US Thanksgiving 2020 is shaping up to have the potential to become a super-spreader event. Yesterday, flight patterns showed more planes in the skies over the continental US than on the day before Thanksgiving in 2018 and only slightly behind last year’s activity. It’s like an awful lot of people either don’t know that there’s a pandemic, or are willing to take their chances. (And how many stories are there about travellers refusing to wear masks on the plane, I wonder? The poor flight crews.)

Such is the pull of family, of tradition, of the need for humans to gather and celebrate and rekindle the hearth and heart fires after such a difficult year. But how is it human nature to turn our backs on danger? I can’t speak to that.

The “lizard” amygdala part of the brain that I learned about in addiction counselling tells of a fight, flight or freeze mentality, but there’s nothing I could find in our need to survive that tells us to turn our backs on a killer – unless, of course, it’s to run. I wish I could understand the logic of what’s happening, but I do comprehend the emotion of it. I mean, who isn’t dreading not being with family next month?

It’s empathy. We feel for them. We know this is a holiday that for many is bigger than Christmas in terms of gatherings, as more people have (or take) more time off with the four days over Thanksgiving than at Christmas time, when Boxing Day – a month today – is not a statutory holiday (as it is here).

This week I had a chance to talk with David Coletto of Abacus Data, as part of an upcoming CREA Real Time podcast, in which we look back at 2020 and ahead to 2021. And he pointed out to me that while Canada was supposedly built on the tenets of peace, order and good government, the US has always been about “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

I get that. But what if that liberty in their pursuits of happiness is actually causing death to others, themselves and/or their loved ones? Where does that come into the equation? It’s beyond me. The ICUs in several US cities are filled to capacity; the death tolls keep rising and yesterday’s case count in the US was its highest in one day since back in the spring.

Canada has its problems and we’re not in the clear – not by a long shot: our heretofore healthy and smug Vancouver Island now has the highest per capita new case rate in all of BC. But to hear President Obama name-check our country in an interview the other night in terms of how a pandemic could/should be handled, it made me thankful. We’ve got a long way to go before we’ve got this thing under control and we can safely gather for our own big celebrations again; right now in many parts of our country most of us are trying to obey rules and adhere to guidelines in an effort to save Christmas.

Will it work? We can hope. There’s still a tsunami of misinformation and deceptive news being circulated online in attempts to thwart the efforts of actual experts to keep us safe, healthy and alive. I mean, why believe actual scientists when you can listen to crackpot theories about the vaccines, the efficacy of masks, etc.?

It all becomes an awful lot to take if you stop and think about it for too long. But when the big picture becomes overwhelming, what do we do? The best we can, one day at a time.

Stay safe, stay sane and stay healthy. And to friends from the US who are here today, I wish you a Thanksgiving that includes gratitude for your good health, memories of gatherings past and hopes for celebrations – joyful, bountiful and boisterous – in years to come.

I’ll be back here Monday.

Rob WhiteheadThursday, November 26, 2020