LETTER TO THE EDITOR
Posted July 8, 2020
Compassion fatigue is when we tire of hearing about people who are suffering. In 2017, Hurricane Harvey saw millions of dollars in aid sent to Houston before Hurricane Irma struck Florida. Like popular trends, disasters acquire a “flavor of the week” status until the next one arrives.
This doesn’t make us an uncaring society. Sometimes there’s more tragedy than we can process.
We overload on more than just compassion. My generation’s (baby boomer) first taste of war news coverage was Vietnam. Our only connection to both World Wars and Korea was through text books, movies and older family members. The nightly American combat death count introduced us to bad news fatigue.
When Governor Pritzker announced our lockdown in March, his tone turned solemn when he announced Illinois’ first COVID-19 death. Now, more than 7,000 deaths later, how do we comprehend such loss? My best answer is that we feel bad for those directly affected, be thankful it wasn’t us, and move on.
While Pritzker spoke, I wondered what the reaction would be if/when the U.S. approached a million COVID-19 deaths. I’m guessing we’ll react the same way we did to the Vietnam casualties report: we will have conditioned ourselves to receive bad news.
On the popular 1960s “Dragnet” TV series, with detectives Friday and Gannon at a murder scene, a fellow policeman would remark, “I guess you guys get used to this.” Friday’s grim response was “You never get USED to it.”
Except, we do.