Admit You Mistrust

There’s a concerning trend going around that I’m not sure has been given the attention it deserves, if it’s been noticed at all. The trend is a change in behavior that first trusted the stranger, but that now concerns it. This is simple precaution, we’ve been told, to slow or eliminate the spread of this novel virus. Very good, we will not go to work anymore, and the nightclubs and nightlife, and the restaurants, and the gyms—everything, good, it’s okay to shut it all down. Then we were told, “Okay, you can go out now, but if you do, wear a mask, don’t touch your face, and wash your hands.”

Okay, okay, and if I do this, you say I’ll be good?

Yes, this will prevent you from contracting the virus.

So we wore the masks, and we didn’t touch our faces, and we stayed six-feet apart from everyone—that’s actually not that far away from someone—and we carried around hand sanitizer, and we washed our hands. And of course everyone didn’t do this and so the numbers kept going up. But that’s not the point of this writing. The point of this piece is that when it came time that restrictions were lifted a little, and people started to meet up with one another, and date, they began spending more time outside and slowly returning to the places they used to visit.

Dating right now is risky, not because of the virus, but because you might get stuck with someone who fears the virus more than they can ever be intrigued by you. Maybe I’m just being sensitive, but read this. What does one show when one meets up with someone right now, in these uncertain times? One is showing a level of trust, perhaps heightened trust now. Not wearing a mask is another show of trust, though someone would say it’s a show of disrespect, or carelessness—maybe it’s possible to match trust with all other qualities. When one goes on a date, it should be mutually understood that one is interested in more of an intimate relationship that one wouldn’t otherwise find, or intend to find, in a conventional friendship. We would trust one another to be open to the idea of opening up further.

This, so far, I’ve found to be the dealbreaker. While I’m open to trusting the other person further, and believe that they would be honest with me, the other person doesn’t appear to be as naïve as me. Perhaps that’s prudent, given the novelty of the virus. But the accusation at the root of refusing to open further is a built-in mistrust of the other person, that they can’t be honest, and that they can’t be trusted. The bar for someone to prove that they don’t have COVID is impossibly high. It could only be achieved with the gift of hindsight and time travel. To fully convince someone that, let’s say, I did not, as a matter of irrefutable fact, have COVID, here are all the things I’d have to show:

  1. I’d have to travel to November 2019, maybe even a few months back to where this disease absolutely didn’t exist in the United States.
  2. Once the virus did hit the United States, first in Washington State, I would begin a 24/7 video feed when my self-isolation would begin immediately.
  3. I would need to stay in there for a month, so that if I did have the virus and was asymptomatic, the virus would definitely have been killed during that time period.
  4. After the month, I would take a COVID test, or wait until it gets invented.
  5. Take the COVID test, which should show negative.
  6. Show the person you’re interested in meeting the entire video feed, up to the moment when you left your house to go meet her or him or however he/she/they/them identify.

I think it’s in people’s nature to trust more than to be suspicious. We’re curious creatures by nature. It’s risky to make friendships and begin relationships, but we know the value of a well-executed risk. People, however, have been convinced that they need to act in the opposite way than their nature dictates. You should be mistrustful as the default, goes the new guidelines. Mistrust is a virtue. Mistrust has become a virtue. Worse, its hideous nature is further hidden under the language of care and compassion for the stranger.

But you can’t help someone you don’t trust. And right now people don’t trust each other. But they think they’re helping each other. But all they’re doing is showing the other person how much they don’t trust them. I wouldn’t have a problem with this if people only recognized and admitted what they were doing. Rather than say, “I’m doing this because I care about Grandma Dina, who by the way is some theoretical grandma that’s simply a stand in for all grandmas everywhere,” I would like to hear, “I’m doing this because there’s some mysterious new virus going around and we don’t have a vaccine and I don’t trust you to be honest or even know whether you’re carrying the thing. I don’t trust you, I don’t trust a word you say—there’s nothing you can do, save go through the six steps outlined above, that will convince me it’s okay to trust you.” I’m just asking for a little honesty, here.

The next logical question is: When will you begin to trust again? When there’s a vaccine? Right now, we’re hearing that could be October, or maybe November. But will the vaccine be mandatory to take? Imagine that: A government plan that administered federal injections. Auschwitz could never, both political sides would say. So what that means is that there will be big chunks of people who do not take the vaccine, such that, like measles, coronavirus remains alive for longer than it should. In fact, it never goes away. Like measles, there’s upticks here and there, and maybe record-breaking numbers—it doesn’t go away. When do you begin to trust again? You stopped trusting when the government told you to. Will you start again when you hear a similar command, knowing what you know, and being keenly aware of what you were just made to go through? I don’t see why you wouldn’t grow more mistrustful when a vaccine comes out.

So trust remains a problem and there’s no logical point at which trust should be regained again. No logical point. If you suddenly grow trustful when a vaccine emerges, you must have conveniently blocked out the anti-vaxxers from your head, or been privileged enough to not receive more than one conspiracy theory from your older relatives about how the virus will be used to inject you with the Sign of the Devil—worse, you would have failed to admit that your mistrust of others was done for bullshit reasons. It wasn’t to help. It was because you were told you couldn’t trust other people, and you accepted that—and the speed with which you accepted that bears strong consideration.

You forgot that your Facebook Newsfeed is not the whole world. You forgot that the numbers you saw on TV were representative of an entire country and not your local county. You took one story shared a million times to mean that a million other people had experienced something similar. You made error after error in not putting what you saw and read online in its proper context. You were allowed to not think critically—you were actually excused from thinking at all—because the virus wasn’t eradicated yet, and the only news that will matter is when the virus is eradicated. That was enough for you to put your guard up. And you were happy about it.

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