As the reports about the coronavirus and its devastating impact on the world continue to cause fear and trepidation here in the U.S. as well as in other nations large and small, I’ve been amazed at how little we understand the true connectedness that exists among the world’s population — as well as how often and how easily we attempt to deny and ignore that truth.

I suppose when tragedy strikes someone else and we believe that we’re either immune to or above such things, we find it more expedient to simply turn our heads and look the other way. But when danger comes to our own backyards, into our own homes and begins to take hold with reckless abandon on what has been our normal routine, then, and only then, do humans consider including others into the equation.

Suddenly, and with little notice, we face the potential of a new way of existence — one in which masks have become a required mode of dress, where quarantine stations are commonplace and where we’re unable to gather when, where or with as many others as we’ve long grown accustomed — partying like it’s 1999.

Without answers, we find ourselves at a loss — grasping for straws, unable to do little more than stick our heads in the sand while greedy business owners jack up the price of hand-sanitizing bottles — price-gauging for the sake of profit.

Meanwhile, schools, colleges, churches and synagogues, businesses, transportation companies and many other institutions have begun to wonder how long they can safely keep their doors open. We, at the same time, find ourselves unable to contemplate how life will proceed without their services.

Those who are most vulnerable, at least here in the U.S., also comprise the majority of people that have been cared the least about and the most easily “thrown away” — like the homeless who have no way to maintain life-saving practices of hygiene and standard cleanliness. But there are others, too, including the elderly, many of whom live in human-made Petri dishes — nursing homes where the virus seems to have made itself comfortable.

Then there are those with compromised immune systems, like the millions of men, women and children living with the HIV/AIDS or infants whose immune systems are just beginning to form and may be unable to ward off the effects of the coronavirus, even if their families have healthcare and the needed finances to keep them warm, well-fed and with medicine to keep them from experiencing unneeded pain.

Finally, there are the poor and downtrodden who always bear the brunt of unfortunate circumstances.

If you’re one like me who fondly remembers the old folk tales that your parents used to read to you, you may recall the story about Henny Penny — more commonly known in the U.S. as Chicken Little. He believed that the world was coming to an end, thus the phrase, “the sky is falling,” figured prominently in the story. But for Chicken Little, his fears were merely reflective of a mistaken belief that disaster was imminent — a fear that he could not shake after an acorn fell on his head. And while the story allows us to poke fun at those who become overwhelmed with paranoia or succumb to mass hysteria, it also reveals just how easy it is for one person’s unfounded fears to become the fears of everyone around them.

For Chicken Little and his many friends who follow him along the road of absurdity, they all meet their deaths when, after inviting a wily fox to join them, they return to his lair where the fox eats them all.

So, maybe the sky isn’t falling — not yet anyway. Still, we have seen evidence of mass hysteria and panic taking hold in the U.S. and abroad and it’s building with each passing day. Isn’t there someone who understands that we can survive the assault of falling acorns when we put our heads together and work toward using our collective minds for the sake of the collective good? Or are we too busy looking out for Number One, like Chicken Little did — so busy that we cannot hear, see or think about anything else but our own selfish concerns?

But what if the sky is truly falling? What do we do now?

D. Kevin McNeir – Senior Editor

Dominic Kevin McNeir is an award-winning journalist with more than 25 years of service for the Black Press (NNPA). Prior to moving East to assist his aging parents in their struggles with Alzheimer’s,...

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