Latham: We’re fighting a war on more than one front

Gregg County Judge Bill Stoudt calls the coronavirus situation “war” and truer words were never spoken. It doesn’t matter that no one is shooting guns, at least not yet.

As with most wars, this one is being fought on more fronts than most might realize. The one that gets the greatest attention — as it should — is the one that pits health versus illness.

That is also the one area where we can eventually score a decisive victory as long as we are guided by facts and research. I certainly believe in the power of prayer but I also believe God is counting on us to be His hands in solving the problems.

Doctors and scientists can move us forward with their work and the rest of us must try to keep spread of the virus down until they can find the answers.

Those of us who act as if God is simply going to take this affliction away and are sitting waiting for that to happen are a part of the problem. Now is the time we are supposed to be showing that compassion and love so often referred to in the Bible. That much seems pretty clear to me.

That is where the biggest battles of this war will be fought. If you want to pray, pray for those on the front lines during this time, from nurses and doctors to first responders, to the pure scientists doing their work.

Health is not the only front, though.

We must also wage a serious battle against misinformation. In times of crisis, falsehoods sprout with every tiny chance they are given. With the internet and social media, it is worse than ever. A lie can make it around the world seven times before truth gets to the end of the sidewalk.

People with some of the best intentions are doing the spreading. Bananas can cure coronavirus! Um, no. Extra vitamin C can kill the virus! Nope. Sipping water every 15 minutes can prevent coronavirus infection! No, but it will increase your trips to the bathroom. Gargle with salt water or vinegar to kill the coronavirus!

No, no and no again. The list of falsehoods could go on for at least another 20 examples and that’s probably not nearly all that are out there. Oh, and there’s no vaccine anywhere near to being developed for general public use. The good news is that vaccines that used to take many years to produce can now be done in the space of one or two.

You might think those little lies don’t matter, that eating extra bananas is no problem, except this: Those who believe they are being protected by one of these false cures might not follow the real procedures that actually do help prevent the spread.

Yet another disturbing front in this war is that old nemesis racism. This isn’t the same kind of traditional racism we’ve normally seen in East Texas, but prejudicial actions against Asian-Americans.

While I’ve heard of no reports around here, in other cities in Texas and beyond, Asian-Americans have been bullied, beaten and verbally harassed.

All racism is evil but this current round is particularly stupid. It takes a low mentality to blame an Asian-American — or even just an Asian, for that matter — for the course of viral infection around the world.

President Donald Trump hasn’t exactly done that but he hasn’t helped, either, by calling COVID-19 a “China virus.” This not only fuels nutty conspiracy theories but it implies the Chinese people are somehow responsible. He knows better than that.

I was at a scheduled appointment with a cardiologist last week. He’s a serious, no-nonsense kind of guy. He was deeply concerned about what was going to happen.

He didn’t get closer than six feet. He did not listen to my heart or lungs. He had reviewed the EKG done moments before and everything looked good.

“Don’t go out unless it is absolutely necessary,” he said. “Don’t get close to people. Don’t eat out. Stay at home.

“This virus can kill you.” With that, he strode on toward the next patient, with a final word: “I’ll see you again in two years.”

We can only hope.

— Phil Latham is editor emeritus of the News-Journal. His column appears Wednesday. Email platham@news-journal.com

Today's Bible verse

“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”

— Romans 1:20

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