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We can learn a lot from viruses

TRAVERSE CITY — We can learn a lot from coronavirus.

Lesson 1: Life is precious and we are all fragile, so take care of yourself and others, especially the very old and very young, for they are the most vulnerable.

Lesson 2: Wash your damned hands, people, and not just after using the bathroom. (Most people don’t, you know. I just saw an old Far Side comic with a “Didn’t wash his hands” alarm going off over the head of a guy emerging from the restroom. That alarm should be a for-real thing, paid for with government dollars. I think we can all agree on this.)

Lesson 3: Cover your coughs and sneezes. Be a player, not a sprayer. (I don’t know what player means in that context, I just liked the rhyme.)

Lesson 4: Also, don’t be a virus-passer. If you’re sick, stay home. Don’t “power through” and go about your daily routines. I don’t want to touch the same door handle, elevator button or gas pump handle you’ve touched. Gross. Think of others, wouldja?

Lesson 5: Has nothing to do with a biological virus, actually. Rather, it has to do with a mental virus that is also doing a lot of damage to our society.

I encountered this virus the other day. I was scrolling through posts from Facebook friends when I came upon a meme with a 2008 photo of Joe Biden at an Obama campaign rally with the late Sen. Robert Byrd. Above the photo – in all their poorly punctuated, grammar-free glory – were the words “Biden with Grand wizard Of KKK. So who again is playing you, lying to you, using you for the votes, Creators of the KKK, opposed civil right of blacks. Yup that’s the Democratic party.”

A quick Snopes.com search turned up the info that Byrd wasn’t, in fact, the grand wizard of the KKK, although he had been a member in his younger, stupider days. But he had also, decades before the photo, repeatedly described his racist past as the “biggest mistake” he had ever made.

Was it fair to post that? I don’t think so. Politics is a rough business, but if we’re going to judge candidates based on who they’re seen with in photographs, I’d be happy to show you photos of Trump with Jeffrey Epstein, Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un.

Everyone, I think, has a responsibility to be at least a little careful about what they post. I’m not bothered by political views that differ from my own. Say what you want, it’s free country. But I do think truth should be respected, especially when it’s so easy to check facts online. (The Democratic Party, for instance, did not found the KKK.)

But that’s not the direction we’re headed. People these days seem to care more about “their person” winning than anything else. We have lost respect for truth and fairness, especially when it comes to politics. It doesn’t even seem to matter that the memes we spread so casually could have been created in a foreign meme-farm and are designed to tear us down as a nation from the inside out.

Don’t be a tool for these people. Using our social media feeds to pass along suspect or outright false information is like sneezing in a crowded elevator and not covering.

You wouldn’t do that, right?

Please, god, don’t say yes.

— — —

Andrew Heller, an award-winning newspaper columnist, appears weekly in the Daily Press. He graduated from Escanaba Area High School in 1979. Follow him at andrewheller.com and on Facebook and Twitter. Write to him at andrewhellercolumn@gmail.com.

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