Ask Alice


I suppose it was inevitable that we would all go a bit stir crazy after being shut in for so long. Sadly my own time in lockdown continues as I allow the more anxious folks to test the waters of returning to a more routine way of life. As my hermit existence is extended I have moments when it feels as though I’ve been pulled down a deep and winding rabbit hole that is filled with a level of crazy that makes me want to batten the hatches and hunker down for an interminable time.

Each new day brings almost unbelievable news of folks not handling the pressure of all this too well, but I should not be that surprised because of my decades of working in churches and schools. As the first lay director of the religious education program at my church I was accused of being an agent of the devil simply for having the audacity to take on the task of working with the children of the parish without being a nun. As a teacher and school administrator I’ve been threatened more times than I am able to count and that is just taking the bad behavior of the parents into account. I have learned that while the vast majority of people are level headed and polite there are always outliers who grab the attention with their noise. Most of the time I able to simply ignore their shenanigans but for the moment my patience is wearing thin.

I suppose that I am a cautious individual by nature and I generally admire anyone who is willing to take a few risks but there are indeed moments when discretion is the better part of valor. I can’t think of a more appropriate time in history to demonstrate a bit of sacrifice for the greater good than now. For the most part people are being quite generous in that regard but my patience has worn thin with those who seem to want to make a stink just for the sake of garnering attention. Those people who crowd into the streets refusing to distance themselves or wear masks or follow safety guidelines are exhibiting highly selfish behaviors. I understand their anxieties regarding their need to get back to work, but what difference could it possibly make to wear a mask and stay six feet apart while doing so? They remind me of adolescent students who refuse to follow a school dress code.

I used to tell my pupils that most rules and their punishments are created when people take advantage and push the envelope to the limits. When the behavior gets too bizarre someone invariably stops it with a mandate that includes consequences strong enough to prevent the unwanted action. If people simply thought of why certain dictums come about they might be less inclined to go ballistic over them.

Those of us who are older or have health problems are essentially being urged to stay at home while the rest of the world goes back to work. I don’t mind doing that at all even for an extended period of time if it helps to safely get our economy back on track. On the other hand when I do have to go out and about I want to feel secure and for now that means keeping a distance and wearing masks. I can’t for the life of me understand why anyone would have a problem with that. If I am willing to do my part by secluding myself to get things running, then why can’t those who are out on the town demonstrate a bit of understanding of those of us in the more vulnerable groups? Just put on the masks and be done with it!

I also prefer honesty even if it hurts. My Uncle Bob is still one of my all time favorite people because when I saw him attaching his prosthesis to his amputated leg when I was quite young he told me exactly why his leg was gone and what his prognosis was. When he died when I was only six I understood what had happened and I loved him for telling me the truth rather than attempting to sugar coat the situation. He treated me with respect even though I was a child and to this day I prefer such honesty rather than attempts to make me feel better. Thus I am quite disturbed by those who try to downplay the pandemic and its future when nobody knows for sure what will happen. I would prefer hearing all of the possibilities so that I will be prepared for any eventuality. It’s a dangerous thing to give people false hope just to spare their feelings.

When the President of the United States floats promises of rainbow days and unicorns coming soon I am wary. He may be privy to more information that I am but I doubt that the long term outlook is as rosy as he sometimes paints it to be. He needs to encourage the nation to stay the course, make the sacrifices and work together. We’ve done this sort of thing before during the Great Depression and two world wars. He should be encouraging us to have the will to do whatever is needed in the moment, not to wear red caps and create difficulties for governors and mayors who are attempting to protect us. He needs to be honest and humble about how long this might take. We will be far more likely to survive with courage and determination if he models a leadership style that offers hope without unrealistic timelines and guarantees.

We are a nation of good and creative people. We do not need to boast or be selfish. This is a worldwide problem and it will be in working with all nations that the world finds its way back from the edge. It’s time we crawl out of the rabbit hole and back into the light of day, just ask Alice.