For the Common Good

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Two years ago my husband and I visited London with my brothers and their wives. We fell in love with the city and its history. Perhaps we were influenced by a professor from Rice University whose classes we have taken in the years since our retirement. He had made London come alive in our minds and we could not wait to see all of the wondrous places he had described. During our visit we found a modern vibrant diverse city filled with treasures from the past and so much to study that we knew we would have to one day return to see everything that interested us. 

When the pandemic came all chance of traveling to London dissolved and so we began watching videos from different people filming areas as they took walks around London. At first the changes engendered by Covid-19 were only minimally noticeable in the quick little films. The crowds on the streets were not as large as they had been when we visited but the stores were open and the traffic was moving and there was still a sense of energy about the city. Most recently as the new UK variant of the virus has forced more drastic precautions a kind of pall has settled on London that is clearly evidenced in the videos. Streets are nearly empty and shops and restaurants are mostly closed. It feels as though London has become a ghost town with dumpsters filled with garbage being the only indication that people are still living there. The virus has taken command much like another plague did back in the 1600s. 

I suppose that all of us would like to think that we will very soon be able to just return to the world as we new it before Covid-19. Many of us have decided that we are done with all of the isolating and quarantining and mask wearing and lack of human touch. We have begun to distribute the vaccines and we think that surely our most vulnerable populations are on the way to being almost immune to the most horrific effects of the virus. It is so tempting to believe that we must surely be immediately freed from all of the constraints of the past year. 

Sadly we are learning that we have to contain our enthusiasm for just a bit longer. We have to be patient as we watch for hard data indicating that all of our efforts are in fact beating back Covid-19 before we rush out to a way of doing things as we once did. We hear that the UK variant of the virus is in our midst and as of this moment we do not know exactly how it is going to impact us. Our friends in the UK warn us to be wary and those videos of walks in London provide witness to the effects of the new strains. 

So my priority for now is to continue to follow the advice of the scientists and members of the medical community. With two vaccines in my body I am in a better place but I am not out of the woods and neither is anyone else. The process of healing will be slow and hurling insults at President Biden or Dr. Fauci because they want us to keep our masks firmly planted on our faces will not change reality. Making fun of those who continue to be cautious and insinuating that they are just frightening sheep does nobody any good. A wise society and one concerned with everyone would  be happy to make small sacrifices for the good of the whole. 

We have become greatly confused about what constitutes a democracy, a republic, a socialist society, a communist nation. If someone asks us to let people know if we contract Covid-19 some argue that their freedoms are being taken away when the truth is that tracking the virus will save lives. We need to know where the outbreaks are and when we do we can protect others without ending up with an entire city or state or nation in lockdown. When we wear masks we do so to protect both ourselves and others, not out of some hysterical need to control the choices that other people make. Working together during a pandemic should have nothing to do with politics and yet we have turned it into a war of wills rather than understanding the need to do whatever it takes for the nation’s good. 

We bandy about the word patriotism a great deal these days. We argue about who has more right to claim that badge of honor while also witnessing our flag being used for purposes that fly in the face of our nation’s principles. We even use it to defend ridiculous theories that Covid-19 is a massive hoax that has been perpetrated on our citizens. Those who refuse to follow the recommendations for stamping out this plague argue that they are preserving our freedoms even as they ignore the damage that their actions have done. 

My priority at this moment in time is too stare truth in the face. I will not look away. I will not be swayed by illogical unscientific posturing. Insult me all you wish. Call me a sheep, a snowflake, a communist intent on destroying democracy. I can handle whatever you may throw at me because I know that it is far more difficult to do the right thing than to give up and surrender to my own desires to just feel normal again. I will be patient. I will be kind. I am willing to share what I have with those who have little. We are in the pandemic not as individuals or families or neighborhoods or cities or states or nations but as the world. Something happening in London or Paris or Beirut or Wuhan affects everyone of us because the virus knows no borders, acknowledges no politics and respects no walls. We make changes and stay vigilant and share and remain patient for the common good of all. I’m proud to do my part.