Visitors walks through artist Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg's "In America: Remember," a temporary art installation made up of white flags to commemorate Americans who have died of COVID-19, on the National Mall, in Washington, Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021. Credit: Jose Luis Magana / AP

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I woke up the other day realizing that we are actually in our second civil war right now. The COVID epidemic has taken more lives than our first Civil War did, and it’s far from over. Each side in the public health wars thinks the other side is killing them – by infringing on their rights, or exposing them to a deadly virus by not masking and not vaccinating. Living through a civil war is not easy on anyone. It’s stressful.

Everyone knows about stress. Cortisol is a chemical that is associated with stress levels, and my hunch is that for many of us our cortisol level is 10 to 20 percent higher than normal, so we are operating much closer to profound states of rage, fear and paranoia than we normally are. Our stressed selves are not our best selves.

Here’s my request of us all: Let’s give each other some slack. What do I mean by this? This means that when we want to scream at each other, take a moment, take a breath, and talk in a normal tone of voice; when we are panicked, instead of hurling insults, listen as attentively as possible. We don’t have to agree. But we do have to treat each other like worthy human beings.

As Martin Luther King said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Let’s make the effort to be kind to one another.

Emanuel Pariser