Category Archives: Communications

how we communicate with each other makes a difference

Tips for the Virus-Wary

Healthline.com has assembled a group of medical experts to discuss the  coronavirus in its present and future contexts. It’s not a happy outlook, but we’d best be aware of what’s ahead.

The first thing is to avoid multiple contacts in crowds and to purchase face masks when they become available. (Drug stores are likely to be out of them more regularly than not.)

Coronavirus is described as “a bullet train without the constraint of train tracks. It is moving very fast in many directions at the same time.” That means the virus will likely be everywhere before much longer. So start taking precautions, say, with your next breath.  If it eases off in a month or two, it’s “likely to recur next fall”. Seriously.

You probably know by now that younger people have a far better chance of   besting the coronavirus than older ones, but that will always be germane.

It’s likely to be 18 months before the U.S. has an effective vaccine for the coronavirus. We could go on, but there’s more first-hand information in the Healthline post. Check it out directly. (And learn how to stop touching your face.)

Downplaying the Corona Virus

The presumptive President of the United States, Donald Trump, says the Democrats are “politicizing” the coronavirus, that it’s “their new hoax” – that’s what he was saying at a rally yesterday in South Carolina. Of course, Trump isn’t our “presumptive” president at all, he’s for real in the role – and that could mean woe is us.

The President, of course, has placed Vice President Mike Pence in charge of coordinating the federal response to the virus threat. From Trump’s tone yesterday, Pence shouldn’t have much to do, and we know that’s not the case at all.  The first death from the virus has just been reported in Washington State, And the virus appears to be spreading up and down the West Coast and heading inland.

Scoffing can be taken too far. Defenders of the President say he didn’t call the virus itself a hoax.  But if there were ever a time for choosing one’s words carefully, this is it and Trump spoke rather spitefully.

There are times when Trump’s handling of his nation-leading job seems as much prompted by whimsy as reality, and this is one of them.  We should be expecting more of the President – caution in the face of a health hazard that threatens us all. Yet the corona virus is “the Democrats’ new hoax”. We couldn’t let that one pass by. That wouldn’t be fair to a nation whose apprehension is growing  over the prospect of the virus spreading from coast to coast.

Let’s hope it doesn’t, but let’s not downplay the possibility either.

The Meaning of Fairness

So, just what is “fairness,” what does the term mean? We’re prompted to discuss that because we’ve come upon a website, The Patriot Post, that claims “the word ‘fair’ has become an all-purpose statement of moral superiority tinged with victimhood.”

That’s just not so. To us, fairness means equity, one of the terms The Patriot Post rules out. The term needs to be viewed in whatever context fairness is being considered – even-handed and due regard are synonyms. Fairness isn’t a child’s term of spite.

It’s important that we know our terms, that we have basic agreement on what we’re discussing. Fairness is a kind of moral gauge, L. Sun writes in his 2013 book, The Fairness Instinct. Even-handed treatment is instinctive in young people, until they get to feeling that they’re being crossed up by older people.

We view fairness as the hallmark of civility, a starting place for discussion,  listening and learning. “Maybe there is something to that” ought to be our reaction when we encounter a new point of view, one that merits closer listening, not a spiteful retreat. It’s a word requiring awareness, not hunkering down.

Fairness is thus a term worth burnishing (as in building a website around it). You don’t have to be Robin Hood, not at all, to be mindful of practicing it. “Stop, look and listen,” is how it begins, and it leads to justice and compassion.

Newspapers No Longer at Our Doorsteps

Grinding ever onward, no downward. That’s the fate of America’s newspaper industry, and perhaps the most trusted means of keeping the nation’s people informed. Now  McClatchey, the country’s second-largest newspaper chain, is filing for bankruptcy.

As these dire developments in print journalism continue, start counting the minutes of actual news on the nation’s evening television newscasts. We’d bet they’re declining too. Will it matter so much what actually happens in the nation – its cities and towns – if fewer and fewer people are reliably informed about the daily news?

Some of us used to deliver newspapers to customers’ doorsteps daily and Sunday and felt we were performing a service in doing so. We felt we were helping to hold our communities and, yes, the nation together. (And making some pocket money too.)

Yet here’s the Sacramento Bee, the newspaper that started the McClatchey chain, saying that the Chapter 11 filing will allow it to restructure its debts and, it hopes, “shed much of its pension obligations”. There are “10 pensioners for every single active employee – a reflection of another economic era.” Well, gee, somebody had to gather the news and get those newspapers out. What happens to them now? This is all beginning to sound  pretty ghastly.

And there, on the NiemanLab digital site, the bankruptcy story is accompanied by a YouTube video.

Does it matter what happens in public life if nobody is reading  about it, and barely listening either? Sounds like an information crisis exists, but who is to confirm that’s so?   A teenager on his bicycle hasn’t left that information on your doorstep, and won’t.

Speaking Freely. . .and Officially

Righteousness, at least self-righteousness, doesn’t necessarily jibe with fairness. It has, however, been a hallmark of the Trump Administration in Washington.

We’ve had this in mind especially since reading an Associated Press dispatch a while ago about a Trump administration official saying that the inscription on the Statue of Liberty refers to “people coming from Europe” and that America only wants migrants “who can stand on their own two feet.”

For a refresher, courtesy of AP,  Emma Lazarus wrote her “New Colossus” poem in 1883 “one year after Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, which banned laborers from China. The poem is best known for its line about welcoming ‘your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

Beginning in the 1930s, AP added, supporters of immigration began using the poem to bolster their cause. Biographer Esther Schor said Lazarus was “deeply involved in refugee causes”.

Thus fairness involves, from the start, getting one’s facts straight and, especially if one is a government official, being well-informed and careful about even impromptu comments.

Yes, fairness is a discipline in itself, appropriate for all government officials yearning (as we assume most do) to speak truthfully and as well as officially.

(The photo above shows Karen Meja, left, fitting her mother, Leonor Chipayo, with a souvenir Statue of Liberty foam visor on a visit to Ellis Island last year in New York.)