by Olivia Garcia

Wars are won in one of two ways. Either you knock off your component with sheer brutal force or you both opt into peace treaties and compromise. But contrary to popular beliefs, we are not in a war. The Coronavirus is not an enemy we can fight with the usual tactics; like with guns or blowing things up.

The success of a nation has always been directly related to the strength of their leaders. However, the very presence of the novel Coronavirus has changed the word “strength” to “compassion”. Due to the fact this virus is not something we can blow up and obliterate, tactics that countries such as Russia, China, and the United States are used to, we have been challenged with thinking outside the box. This is a concept these three countries have a difficult time with. Nonetheless, the challenge then became “how do I alter my plan of attack?”

In my opinion, the very reason these next three countries were able to combat the virus so effectively is that they are able to think not based on the needs of security but the needs of their citizens. New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel, and Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-Wen all quickly understood there was only one way they could fight the spread of COVID-19: compassion. Each country understood that in order to gain success over the virus, you needed to understand these three truths: act early, tell the truth, and lead with compassion. 

Each of these three countries all had early plans set up at the first sign of Coronavirus in their nations. By March 26, New Zealand Primeminister Jacinda Ardern implemented a four-level alert system to categorize and simplify the state of emergency her nation was in at any one time. By March 22, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel had contact bans in place as well as mobilizing German troops to assist in the transition of normal to quarantine lifestyle. The country of Taiwan had an unusual advantage regarding the fight against COVID-19. In 2003, the country found itself handling an outbreak of the Swine Flu. This recent flu-like epidemic gave them an advantage in terms of planning ahead. They quickly understood the severity of the situation and trusted science in regard to their own decision making. It didn’t hurt that their vice president was Dr. Chen Chien-jen, a Taiwanese epidemiologist and politician. 

The second reason New Zealand, Germany, and Taiwan have had success in the fight against COVID-19 is that none of these leaders tried to downplay the severity of the virus. They were upfront and frank about the uncertainty the future had for them all. However, one thing they did not let happen was an out-of-control manifestation that this virus was something larger than they could handle. Jacinda Ardern never let fear manifest in her country. Whenever she addressed her citizens, she spoke plainly but with confidence. Understanding that fear derives from the lack of understanding within a situation, she always explained why every action was taking place. Within five weeks, Taiwan’s government swiftly put together a list of 124 action items that the Taiwanese National Health Command Center (TNHCC) would execute. These actions included border control, travel restrictions, case findings and analysis, resource allocation, and spreading political and communicative decisions. By streamlining the democratic process of decision making and passing of bills, they have surpassed all the “red tape.”

Finally, each region understood that the only way to win a fight against an invisible enemy was to get everyone on the same team. This is where I believe that it is important to speak about the fact that these three leaders are all women. Globally, the countries hardest hit by COVID-19 have been led by males. They have all instinctively downplayed the situation because their first concern is not for the mass population but for their personal political careers. None of these three countries did that. 

As soon as lockdown and halting of movement became the clear first step in stopping the spread of the virus, German Chancellor Angela Merkel understood the immediate concerns of her citizens and addressed them. As a human being, you need three things to survive: shelter, water, and food. Understanding what she was asking of her country, she tasked Minister of Food and Agriculture Julia Kloeckner to find the solution to the possible food shortage as well as face the issue of panic buying before it became present. 

Besuch Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel im Rathaus Köln
German Chancellor, Angela Merkel

Taiwan understood their population’s major concerns were about their own safety. President Tsai asked all private and public manufacturers to immediately start mass-producing supplies such as masks for both the public and healthcare systems. She then united Taiwan under one name, “Team Taiwan.” Instead of bringing fear and separation by not having unified decisions, like the USA, Tsai simply and effectively unified her country in one little slogan. By unifying the countries, the actions they took were more accepted. Having gained the public’s trust, each step she took to move forward was met with optimism. 

蔡英文官方元首肖像照
President of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-Wen

I do not believe that any country has done as well as New Zealand. In my opinion, New Zealand is the best example of how compassionate leadership can lead to positive, quick, and effective results. Much like Taiwan, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern knew that addressing her nation under one name would unify and connect her citizens. When addressing her country she would always end her statements with “Our team of 5 million.” She would approach the public confidently and with compassion, even taking the time to speak with children and answer their questions. She even held a press conference just to address children and explain why the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy were having difficulties navigating around social distancing rules. Her slogans kept spirits high within communities. She expressed the message of kindness towards one another, rather than hatred toward an invisible virus. By changing the focus from scary health concerns to “let’s help each other out,” New Zealand is now in the stages of getting back to normal. 

Jacinda_Ardern,_2018
New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern

The war with COVID is very simple. Those cities which are thriving and rebuilding their economies have leadership that puts the needs of their citizens first and above their own political likeness. They understood that within a state of emergency, their roles as president, chancellor, and prime minister are first and foremost to protect human life above political personal gain. In the words of our New Zealand friends: Be Kind and Stay Calm.

by Olivia Garcia

As the number of COVID-19 cases are rapidly rising in the USA with over 5,000 new cases as of recently, the presence of anti-lockdown protesters is concerning but more so confusing. 

As an American citizen myself, I understand the sacrifices we are all making that comes from losing our jobs, closing our schools and blocking us from travel. What people do not realize, though, is that we do this because we are trying to prevent the spread of COVID and keep people safe. 

Being that this pandemic is only the second time a mass influenza like this has occurred, the decision to halt the lives of all Americans was not a decision the federal government took lightly. It’s naive of me to say that President Trump didn’t understand the severity of the situation, or even that he was naive to the fact that he was effectively closing our economy. Everyone was aware of what could happen with such a drastic shift to the way we live our lives. But it was necessary.

So why are people risking not only their own lives but the lives of others to protest these orders that are in place just to keep them alive?

Let’s start with the facts.

I think it is important to state the symptoms of Coronavirus and these people are potentially risking. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), symptoms include but are not limited to cough, fever, difficulty breathing, and chills. The most severe cases may end up hospitalized. There is currently no cure for the coronavirus. Those patients who die in the hospital are alone.

So why across the USA have protesters gathered in large masses (sometimes in the hundreds and thousands) to demand the reopening of the country?

We must first know why people protest. Movements like the Women’s March, Pro-Choice, and Black Lives Matter all are movements that are founded on bringing awareness to these minority groups who have faced oppression continuously since the founding of the United States. Using their legal right to do so under that first amendment in the constitution, groups of minorities have the chance to publicly vocalize their demands peacefully.

With this being said, where do these anti-lockdown protesters fit in? 

They don’t. As the majority are white Americans, they are not a minority group. These are not peaceful protests. These protesters are found screaming in the faces of police and bringing semi-automatic weapons into courthouses to “try to prove a point.”

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(Protestors gather in a group, obeying social distancing rules by standing closer than six feet and not wearing masks)

On my journey to understand, I started on Facebook. That’s where these protesters were organized so I tried to see if I could get intel from here. Having to first apply to get into these groups, I started with “Michiganders Against Excessive Quarantine”, “Reopen South Carolina 100%”, “Reopen California”, and “Reopen USA”. Each group asked a question along the lines of “are you against the lockdown and demanding that the country reopen?” Even though I do not agree, I had to answer yes to gain admittance. 

Once I joined each group, I surprisingly stumbled upon several welcoming communities. For new members, every week one of the administrators of the group would tag them all in a personalized post to the page. This action was oddly comforting, serving as an introduction to the space they’ve created. 

I stumbled upon the Michiganders page first and watched a livestream one of the administrators was doing. They were asking the followers of that account to call into their local capital’s office and demand the reopening of their county. They even knew where the capital was, the number of their county’s representatives, a time they knew they had to call and the exact number of phone calls that were necessary in order to show support for their cause. It was VERY organized. They had links on the stream, people asked questions and knew almost every answer. In all honesty, I was surprised.

After this, I needed to see if anyone would talk to me. Being completely transparent, I introduced myself as a student journalist and hoped to get numerous responses. I messaged over 50 people and only 8 responded and showed interest. When asked for a comment only 3 said yes, and all 3 wished to remain anonymous.

I wanted to know the impacts the virus has had on their communities. All three expressed that effectively everything in their communities had been closed and events had been cancelled. One PhD student in Southern Carolina stated that they had not had “in-person interaction since March” and described their community as being in “critical condition”.

Fortunately, none had lost their jobs and had to file for unemployment. However, one member said that their income was reduced and they could, therefore, no longer apply for “jumbo loans.” When I asked each respondent to elaborate on how the either loss of/reduction of payment had affected them, one protester suggested that they had to start cooking and are unable to make regular food purchases.

When I asked each person if they agreed with the $2 trillion in federal government spending allocated during the pandemic, only one said yes. Their justification was that if states had not enforced lockdown or social distancing, the spending would not have been as severe. 

Each respondent showed concern when they learned about the current U.S. debt. All 3 understood very clearly that the only way to repair said debt was to get as many people back to work to start funneling money back into our country. 

The final question I asked was regarding the possible second wave of cases these protesters could potentially cause. I brought up the fact that mass media has depicted these protesters as careless to the community and could very well possible be the cause of an increase in cases. 

The first respondent simply answered “no.” Their reasoning was that, even with the lockdown, the virus could and would still spread. They said, “There will be no summer respite from the virus. The rate of speed is likely to drop to that of flu outbreaks.” 

The second respondent showed more concern regarding feeling silenced or discredited by the media. This respondent does not concern themselves with listening to “experts.” They also stated that “people have antibodies to the virus.” Their final statement was that “even 100,000 protesters is a fraction of the U.S. population and only a small group of them will contract COVID-19 as a result of protesting.” 

Finally, the third individual simply responded, “Honestly I don’t think it matters.” They offered no explanation. 

When I asked if they were worried for their own safety or the safety of their fellow protesters, the main concern was of arrests, doxxing/employment retaliation, and police brutality. 

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(protesters stand outside a building holding signs such as those stating “Heil Witmer” with a swastika, as well as a Trump/Pence sign)

Within the USA, we hold our own individual rights and liberties as citizens closer to our hearts than the rights of others. The selfish nature of Americans, such as individual prosperity and unalienable rights, has allowed these racist and harmful protests to occur. The platform that the U.S. has built for the white majority has resulted in a double standard of how a person can act. Let’s be honest, if these protesters were black and not waving large “TRUMP 2020” flags around, the protests would not have happened. We would be seeing graphic images and videos of arrests and tear gas being used on these protesters. We would be mourning over the unnecessary loss of life because police “felt they might have been carrying a weapon.” This situation proves that there is a double standard in this country. This double standard has been present the whole time, especially with the pandemic. 

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((A comic depicting the difference between white and black persons protesting)

Some links for more info:

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/04/anti-lockdown-protests-200420180415064.html

https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/#countries

https://www.facebook.com/groups/4035375409821058/photos/

https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/pro-trump-group-plans-dozens-anti-lockdown-protests/story?id=70395717

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/21/us/politics/coronavirus-protests-trump.html

https://rallylist.com/browse-protest-and-rallies/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1164291657251953/photos/

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/symptoms.html

 

 

 

 

 

We come together in creative ways.  At the beginning of this pandemic, I had no perspective.  The only image I was ever able to create in my mind was this broken unrecognizable reality.  Globally, nothing was the way it was, and there was a major shift in everyday reality for everyday people.  Simultaneously, all of our lives were disrupted. As a community, we lost a lot. There was a period of time when we all started to pay attention to all the things we were going to miss out on.  Proms were canceled, graduations were destroyed, and people were physically getting kicked out of dorm rooms. Times were really dark for a while. As we began to settle in, our new profound realities scattered.  It got worse. Society was shutting down and the world was turning really dark.

It goes without saying that most of us took to social media—pain was felt and noticed on all platforms.  Frustrated by the lack of stability, we all fell into a vast global grieving process.  Anger from the lack of toilet paper. Anxiety by not being able to go outside. Fear from catching COVID-19.  It was terrifying. 

But something I noticed was that we didn’t stay there for very long.  Once we allowed ourselves to have an adjustment period for our new worlds of self-isolation, most of us got creative.  With the new and sudden boost of content on the internet, we tried to make the most out of it.

We came together in creative ways.  All across the planet, everyone was trying to help with this pandemic in every way possible.  We got fashion designers making masks and Shakira making hand sanitizer. My new favorite notification on my phone shows when people throw dance parties in their front yard.  The world is pretty cool. We’re doing some pretty cool things. I’m actively prioritizing my time to be here with all of you. 

I’m a 2nd-year college student from UCSB, so I live in Isla Vista—the most compassionate and united community I’ve ever had the chance to live in.  It astonishes me how other places aren’t like it. There is a standard of respect in the community.  We understand that everyone has their difficulties that life throws at them, meaning there’s no reason for why we can’t help them out.  They need to only ask, and usually they’ll find a helping hand. It’s a pretty cool place to live. 

I hope we continue to care for one another after all of this.  I don’t want the immediate response after COVID-19 to be a reversion to the hateful world that we were.  I want to see lasting change in the function of our societies. I want us to notice each other’s presence and respect them without question. That is what society should look like.  We have to get there. We have to use this to our advantage and plan and promote the societies we want to live in.  The only way through this all is together.  We got this. I love you guys.  – OG