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Harriet Berkal

Sara Berkal

Harriet Berkal: Turning A Blind's Eye

by Harriet Berkal, May 6, 2020

My mom was born in the US in 1917. She moved from Grand Forks to Winnipeg in 1954, pregnant with her third child. Sara Berkal retained her US citizenship until her death in 2009. She never naturalized to become a Canadian. She was a proud American. It surprised me that she never became a citizen of Canada.


If she were alive today, I wonder what she would have thought of how the President of the USA, has handled this pandemic? Would she be shocked ? I think so.


My mom always made chicken soup on Friday nights for Shabbat. Once I looked in the pot and saw rubbery legs sticking up from underneath the fluid and quickly dismissed the association of a slaughtered chicken to the soup itself. How could we be so cruel to that animal I thought ? I later learned that my Zaida Simon was a shochet (a person officially certified as competent to kill cattle and poultry in a manner prescribed by Jewish law). Omg.


How many of us use the power of disassociation today, to get through everyday life ? If we all actually saw the procedure by which animals are slaughtered, I bet a percentage of us would become vegetarian or vegan before nightfall. And yet we avoid wanting to know the gruesome details because it would ruin our craving for that double burger with a side of fries. A classic we cannot do without. Out of sight - out of mind. It’s not real if we don’t think about it right ?


In fact, we have learned as a society, to compartmentalize so many ugly manifestations in real life, that we can continue to delude ourselves of many truisms; genocides of the past and ones still occurring; corporate fraud; adultery, etc.


The facts appear to upset our sense of balance. We choose complacency as it soothes our souls. It’s easier to not confront what’s in front of us and so we allow our desires and good judgement, to be negated by what the other half of our brains dictates. IGNORE IT. GET OVER IT ! FORGET ABOUT IT. Savour LIFE !


Those who cannot be dismissive are often maligned for being rebel rousers, or disturbers who are  targeted rather than heralded  as heroes for speaking up. The Wuhan doctor who tried to warn the world - he was the whistle blower who fell prey to COVID, in a valiant attempt to save thousands of lives.


So what is astounding to me of late, is that hundreds of thousands of people, who are likely stunned by a surreal pandemic, are reacting in such bizarre ways. It’s difficult to wrap ones head around an invisible enemy which has the power to be most contagious when latching onto someone who appears asymptomatic. They seem healthy. They must be safe. It’s okay to have them out and about- isn’t it ? But alas, we have data that supports quite the opposite reality. They are walking carriers, shedding the virus and are more potent to us than anything.


It has been an economic hardship for millions to be out of work. Yes, we do need to salvage what we can of small businesses and livelihoods but at what cost ? You see beefy looking guys with Ak47’s protesting their constitutional right to get a haircut,etc. They have total disregard for the science and data and aren’t afraid of COVID.


The flattening of the curve manifested because of our unified collaboration, in an effort to stay at home and practice social distancing. At this time, it is the only weapon we have to fight this virus.


But the virus must be laughing at us. By opening up the economy and resuming life as close to “normal” as possible, we are providing a breeding ground for this culprit, which will continue to utilize our closeness to cultivate. The numbers will climb, as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow. At the time of writing this article, there is a projection that there will be over 134,000 deaths by August in the United States--a shocking number (


But so many can look away. They have either convinced themselves that they are invincible or that it’s all hype from fear mongers and so it’s time to get back to life, with a few restrictions. We need our haircuts, massages, shopping and nails done ( phase two I think.)


The projection of the loss of so many lives in the US makes you want to hide under the covers where COVID can’t find you.


It’s not over folks by a long shot. A recent analogy speaks to the dangers before us. If we are all in the world pool, and some are urinating in a part of it, how safe are the rest of us swimmers? Does the virus have boundaries? It does not! Does it care if we have cabin fever - no way. It delights in the fact that streets are now busy again with traffic, parking lots are filling up and a general relaxation is evident in seeing humans without masks or gloves or no regard for social distancing at the sunny beach.


It’s so easy for some to “turn a blind’s eye”. I’d go as far to say it appears effortless and they celebrate in their liberation.


Never would I have imagined that decomposing bodies would ever be found on a truck in NY with liquid from corpses dripping out of the back of the vehicle. This in the United States of America. It’s 2020.


I chose to deny that a dead chicken was lying at the base of my mother’s pot, because her soup was delicious. I wanted it ! All I had to do was pretend that I didn’t see those mangled feet staring up at me and down the hatch that soup went. (I admit that I did eat gorgles for awhile, and tongue, but I swear that ended once I knew that my mom salvaged every part of that bird or other animal she seasoned with delight. )


Sadly and not too far in the future, COVID will be boiling over with fatalities the likes of which we have never seen. The tragic reality is that we know what it is, and it’s fearless and deadly and there is no cure.


Not even your baba’s chicken soup recipe, as potent as it is, will be able to nip this in the bud. We know what we must do. It boggles the mind that we can be this dismissive. We clearly are not all on the same page regarding this novel of horror. 

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