The Plague by Albert Camus Teaches Valuable Lessons

 This week in between listening to news clips reporting on the Derek Chauvin trial and the events surrounding the death of Daunte Wright, I’ve been thinking about the difference between action and intent. Millions of us have watched portions of the video showing Chauvin, the police officer, kneeling on George Floyd’s neck. We witnessed the action. Deliberate murder or reckless behavior? We cannot read Chauvin’s mind.  The police officer’s decision not to take the witness stand reinforces my sense he has something to hide.  We will never know what he was actually thinking. We can only speculate.

The circumstances around the shooting of Daunte Wright are murkier. He is dead. Is officer Kim Potter guilty of manslaughter?   A 26-year veteran of the police force, how could she have confused a taser with a gun? How can things like this happen?

I don’t have the answers. 

We’ve had the imminent threat of Covid- 19 hanging over our heads since mid March 2020.  How has it affected us? Did it have any impact on the behavior of the police officers, George Floyd or the crowd that watched on May 25th 2020 in Minneapolis. Did it affect Potter’s judgement?

Not long after our Covid-19 lockdown in Maryland began last April, I decided to read The Plague by Albert Camus. It’s a work of fiction, but the circumstances seemed eerily familiar. Published in 1947, the story relates how the residents of  the city of Oran cope with a mysterious illness for which there is no cure.

Initially there is denial. It’s easier to hide the dead rats than investigate what killed them.  Many citizens become angry when the city is quarantined.  They attempt bargaining with the authorities as to what they can and cannot do.  Some try to escape. Ultimately there is acceptance, which leads them to help one another to make the best of a difficult situation. 

The writer Albert Camus did not believe the universe has meaning and order, although humans will always be looking for answers.  The themes of his writing, however, align him with the idea that humans are partially defined by their actions. The characters who choose to help each other at their own personal risk, find new meaning in their lives. Their actions serve to redefine who they are.

A rudimentary vaccine is developed and herd immunity is achieved. Many people of all ages and social classes die, but the town survives.

Nonfiction 2021. We are we currently experiencing a Global Pandemic? Why? Is God testing us? Is the earth too crowded and Mother Nature is letting us know she has had enough?  Was the virus spread by an evil scientist or government as some conspiracy theorists would like to believe? Maybe we live in an absurd, disordered world and things just happen.

 As humans we look for meaning behind events. In our quest for meaning we can find purpose. We all have the freedom to choose what kind of person we want to be by the actions we take. Chauvin pled not guilty. Potter is yet to enter a plea. In The Plague, death for some of the characters is inevitable, but what is not certain is which characters will emerge transformed by the experience.

The Covid-19 Pandemic has given Americans time to see the social inequities in our society. What can we do to make things different? 

 Can we help one another become a better nation? It’s a challenge. First we all need to recognize the current system is broken. 

Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich on Pexels.com

Published by Nadja Maril

Nadja Maril is a communications professional who has over 10 years experience as a magazine editor. A writer and journalist, Maril is the author of several books including: "American Lighting 1840-1940", "Antique Lamp Buyer's Guide", "Me, Molly Midnight; the Artist's Cat", and "Runaway, Molly Midnight; the Artist's Cat". Her short stories and essays have been published in several small online journals including Lunch Ticket, Change Seven, Scarlet Leaf Review and Storynews. She has an MFA in creative writing from Stonecoast at the University of Southern Maine. Former Editor-in-Chief of What's Up ? Publishing, former Editor of Chesapeake Taste Magazine a regional lifestyle magazine based in Annapolis, and former Lighting Editor of Victorian Homes Magazine, Maril has written hundreds of newspaper and magazines articles on a variety of subjects..

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