Sunday, April 05, 2020

Boundaries in the age of COVID

Appropriate boundaries.
Social boundaries.

Emotional boundaries.
Sexual boundaries.
Age and experience boundaries.
Comprehension boundaries.
Education boundaries.
Personal boundaries.

Physical boundaries.
Professional boundaries.
Conversational boundaries.
Therapeutic boundaries.
Family boundaries.

Language boundaries.
Cultural boundaries.
Civic and municipal boundaries.
National boundaries.
Political boundaries.
Epistemic boundaries. 

I've had to deal with all of them over a lifetime, I think, either as a boundary setter or a boundary obliger. There may be some I missed in the list. Boundaries seem to be what being a human is all about, negotiating them artfully and successfully. We all have them, and any encounter with another human involves strategic navigation of them. Some are easy to navigate, others are harder. I imagine the more people are involved, for example in governing a country, the harder it is.

One of the ways I keep myself busy these days is sitting back at home (because it saves lives!) and watching leaders lead on live stream on my desk top.

I have watched Andrew Cuomo, governor of New York,  plead for his federal government to help his state by taking charge of a national crisis and not leave states to fend for themselves or have to compete for masks and gowns with other states, the federal government, or other countries. (New York City is in trouble with COVID, big time.) He is always careful to separate his delivery of facts as they emerge, separate from his own personal musings upon said facts and his role as leader and his ongoing playfight with his brother (who tested positive).

I have watched Trump, who seems to have attention deficit disorder at the best of times, put out baffling and confusing and contradictory messaging. He seemed to actually come temporarily into focus a little better when it was proposed to him that he could play the role of a wartime president. His lack of boundaries of all kinds borders on pathological.

I have watched Trudeau, my particular Canadian leader, emerge from his cottage where he quarantined himself, to deliver a briefing, day after day. He is the king of boundaries. He gives facts. He answers questions straight-forwardly most of the time, in two official languages. He skirts all questions about his own personal attitudes toward other leaders. This is also known as being politically wise.

So, these are the three main players in the mask dilemma, act one scene one.
The play itself is about what happens after a country that has dominated and still dominates an entire continent, pretty much, decided in longer ago times to allow its companies to make way more money by abandoning workers in their own country and go offshore to hire workers in factories overseas who would work for much lower wages. It's the old David and Goliath story, but without slingshot.

One such company (3M) is a mask-making company. It makes masks but not many right at home. Turns out the raw materials for making the crucial kind of masks come from elsewhere, i.e., the pulp to make the paper in the masks comes from Canada.

Boundary issue.

Watching Trudeau navigate these boundaries is like watching a political athlete do perfect pole vaulting, every single day.
I must say. I do not envy him. The Canada/US border is one of the longest borders anywhere and has had to be one of the most elastic ever since it was put into place. 

The way Canada has dealt with the relationship between itself and the US ever since Trump was bizarrely elected has been that each Canadian official has developed, nurtured, and managed a relationship with his or her closest counterpart in the US government, a strategy they call Team Canada. It worked quite well for the NAFTA renegotiation, one is given to believe.
Together they think they can get the mask business sorted. At least that's the reassuring message from Trudeau, every day. He points out that just a few days ago the US wanted to put military at our common border, but that sort of blew away after Canadian officials pointed out how it didn't make any sense.
In these days of COVID, it's not lost on any of us that thousands of Canadian nurses travel back and forth to the US to work there, and they need US-supplied masks when working in US hospitals. It's not lost on us on an even more basic level that most of our food comes from the US. Mostly California. 

Tricky boundary navigating times are upon us.

The Canadian government and Public Health officials came up with a new word, "Care-mongering." It's been working so far. Quite different from war-mongering.

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