QUARANTINE comes from the Medieval Latin “quarentīna” (“forty days”), carrying deep Christian resonance. It was practiced by Venetians during the Middle Ages to keep ships from plague-ridden countries from docking at its ports. The Black Plague (1347-1352) took the lives of some 75 to 200 million people in Europe and Asia. Globalization was mostly to blame and the plague recognized no borders between Asia and Europe, made no distinctions between the Chinese and Italians.
But if history doesn’t repeat the same steps, it does like to dance to the same beat.
During the Black Plague, mass Christian hysteria required a scapegoat, and once again the Jews became easy targets. Today, it’s the Chinese (and by extension, anybody who looks like them). The President of the United States, possibly unaware that the “Spanish Flu” of 1918 very likely originated in military camps in Kansas, calls COVID-19 the “China Virus”, provoking boycotts, threats, and even violent attacks against some homogenized “can-you-tell-the-difference-I-can’t-tell-the-difference” Asian American community. Far-right politicians across Europe have applauded this. Cynical words causing wholesale unnecessary anguish. And as the epicentre of the virus shifts to the Middle East, South America, Africa, so too will the xenophobia, the racism. Well-meaning people everywhere, using the tools of a critical mind and open heart, will be needed to utilize their keyboards, thumbs and pens, to serve the most targeted among us, whatever their race, ethnicity, tribe.
But what is required right now is a quarantining of political language, particularly from these so-called leaders. A forty-day grace period where only the prodding sterile language of science is given breath. Yes, distance yourself from others, self-isolate, but just as consequentially keep the plague-ridden language of division from docking at your port. #covid19 #quarantine #socialdistancing #selfisolation