OPINION: It’s time for us to meet in the middle without COVID-19 attitudes

(Illustration by Abigail Compton | Collegian Media Group)

As the crisis that is COVID-19 continues to run rampant at Kansas State — as well as across the country and around the world — there are many conversations about the best ways to handle all aspects of the virus. From lockdown debates to pro- and anti-maskers, the pandemic has not been without its political controversies.

As the situation becomes increasingly complex and chaotic, this is not ideal. Facing an unforeseen and unprecedented world health crisis is more than most know how to handle. Still, we seem to be piling political rhetoric and hate for opposing political views onto the chaos.

While each individual is different, it seems the general trend is for right-leaning people to dismiss the virus itself as a small issue and focus on the large economic repercussions while left-leaning people combat that sentiment with claims Republicans are flippant, selfish or don’t care about people dying.

If I had to guess, the disagreements stem from the fact that we’re all a little bit scared and confused. We’ve had our lives completely upended and we don’t know how to handle it. We hear convincing viewpoints from politicians and TV pundits and we double down on the position of our party.

While I understand why individuals are doing this, I think it is bad for the country. Whenever I catch myself falling into the tempting habit of partisanship, I have to remind myself of a few things.

The first thing is that I’m not an expert and neither are most people. Actually, considering the fact that a pandemic this drastic has yet to hit modern America, no one can really be an expert. We are all just people trying to figure out solutions in real-time.

I avoid long Facebook posts or flippant tweets that insert my opinion about how people aren’t handling the pandemic correctly. I don’t necessarily have the authority to make that judgment. Plus, doing so polarizes my following and results in arguments from people who also are not experts.

Something else I try to remember is that it’s almost never productive to criticize people with a harsh tone or condescending attitude (even when I know I’m right). We will likely only make people defensive by telling them that they are selfish, ignorant, inconsiderate, overreacting or anything else that has recently become popular.

No one responds well to being told they are living their life incorrectly. We get defensive and protective of our actions and decisions. Next time you encounter someone who you believe is handling the crisis with too much or not enough caution and you want to speak up, remind yourself of their humanity and enter the conversation with an attitude of understanding.

The final important note I keep in mind is to let people speak and listen when they do. Recent discussions feel like they are becoming more and more touchy. I’m never sure how far into a COVID-19 conversation I can go before deeply offending someone. Try to detach people’s identities from their opinions and just listen. When they say something you disagree with, let it roll off your back and remember an opinion is just an opinion.

Like with all other political issues, people form their ideas from life experiences. Our parents, siblings, churches, communities, schools and more influence the intricate pieces of our belief systems. So as long as the world remains a complicated place with a vast array of opportunities, cultures, religious beliefs and experiences, we will all be influenced differently.

Now more than ever is a time to remind ourselves that, despite those differences, we’re all doing our best for the most part. Most people don’t have malintent, they just have a separate set of life experiences than you. In that way, our differences make us all beautifully alike. Let’s get through this difficult situation together by resisting the urge to name-call and argue, and acknowledge each other’s perspectives with compassion and an effort to understand.

Anna Schmidt is the Collegian opinion editor and a junior in mass communications. She is also an assistant editor for Manhappanin’ Magazine. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.