Sunday was a lovely day and I decided to go for a walk in the park near my home. Most people are cordial as you pass by and greet you with a friendly “Good Afternoon.” It is a pleasure to interact with others, even from a safe distance these days, as our interactions seem so much more precious than they used to. Even a friendly “hello” from a neighbor across the street brightens my day.
As I was finishing my walk, a lady walked by in her mid-twenties. She looked very angry and would not even look at me. She was Asian and I think Chinese. I didn’t think much about it except that she must have been having a very bad day. I thought about her a few more times that afternoon and then forgot about her. The next day, I read in the New York Times that many Chinese Americans are being harassed by others. They are being called names, spit on and even physically attacked. I was shocked at this behavior and began to wonder if perhaps someone had said something to the woman I had seen the day before.
For a bit of personal perspective, I grew up in a region close to the California border. About twenty-three miles south of where I lived was a Japanese Internment Camp near Tulelake, California. About 120,000 Japanese Americans were placed in one of those camps during World War II. As a child, I toured the camp and tried to imagine how daily life must have been for those interred there. When I grew up, I hoped we had learned our lesson about displaying hatred and prejudice to those of a different nationality or race during difficult times.
Apparently, not so. Again, we are seeing fear and hatred rear their ugly heads. People feel out of control having to deal with the vagaries of the coronavirus and they are lashing out at innocent people of Chinese descent. Do we honestly think that our neighbor, those we work with or those who run the Chinese restaurants in our cities, had anything to do with the Coronavirus? Really?
If we have the opportunity, let’s make an effort to reach out with kindness to those Chinese Americans living among us. Let’s let them know they are safe around us and try to treat them the same way we would like to be treated if we were in their position. If there was ever a time to apply the Golden Rule, it is certainly in this situation. After all, “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you,” should not be just another positive maxim, it should be the standard we use as we continue to weather this difficult crisis together.