Opinion | America’s Pandemic P.T.S.D.

As the clinical psychologist Sherry Walling wrote in Fortune this week, the Great Resignation is being caused, or at least fed, by the “Great Grief.” As Walling said, “Our grief fueled great personal upheaval and pushed many of us to question how we spend our precious, finite time on earth, especially considering that about a third of it is spent at work.”

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What will work and life look like after the pandemic?

This kind of collective aching manifests in unrestrained, unruly ways as well.

Some experts worry that we could see an increase in workplace violence as people begin to return to the office. As one expert told the Society of Human Reason Management last year, one reason for concern is that “many workers continue to struggle with physical, mental and emotional stress stemming from the Covid-19 pandemic.”

But that’s just what could happen. Increased violence in other areas is already apparent.

Reports of road rage shootings hit a record high last year. As the advocacy organization Everytown For Gun Safety noted, “a person was shot and either injured or killed in a road rage incident every 17 hours, on average, during 2021.”

Last year was also the worst year on record for unruly passenger behavior on flights. People are not only spitting, cursing, using racial slurs and punching the backs of seats, they are also punching other people. One Southwest Airlines flight attendant even had a few of her teeth chipped after a passenger attacked her last year.

In January, CNN published an article about the number of unruly-passenger incidents that rose to the point of needing to be investigated by the Federal Aviation Administration. “From 1995 to 2020, an average of 182 investigations were initiated per year,” the network reported. “In 2021, the FAA initiated 1,081 investigations — a 494 percent increase over the historic average of investigations.”

We have also seen a surge in violent crime, especially gun violence. Countries such as Spain, Britain and Germany have not had the same surge, a disparity that an article published in Time magazine in January attributed in part to the hyper-politicization of American politics.

According to the authors:

Recent research shows that during the pandemic, marginalized communities bore the brunt of the increase in such violence. A forthcoming study shows the same is true since 2014. Most of these neighborhoods have suffered high rates of violence and poverty for generations. This suffering can ultimately be traced back to policies of racial segregation and disinvestment that began in the early twentieth century.”

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