We Are In This Together Whether We Like It Or Not

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I like being happy. God knows that I have had enough sorrow and difficulty in my life. I try to see the good in all people and remain optimistic even in the face of unbearable challenges. I have often written of my belief in the innate goodness of people. I truly believe that we humans may falter at times but when things get tough we rise to the occasion. I generally ignore negativity and I’m someone who enjoys children and puppies and flowers. Nonetheless I am not naive. I know that there is an underbelly to society that we sometimes encounter. I do my best to stand up for what I believe to be right but I don’t like the idea of being preachy because I have learned that most folks have their beliefs and opinions from which they are rarely swayed. Still I often wonder when it becomes imperative to speak truths, defend those being abused. One of the biggest questions of my life has been what I would have done if I had lived in Germany when my neighbors were being taken to concentration camps. Would I have been too afraid to speak out? Would I have looked the other way?

I tend to avoid conflict and ignore flaws in people. I prefer calm and a certain ignorance of people’s beliefs. Knowing too much can weaken relationships but then without really understanding a person our connections are actually rather superficial. I do not mind if my opinions differ from someone and I enjoy a good debate that is devoid of personal attack. I am very much a free thinker. In fact I probably spend too much time contemplating the nature of the world around me. It is a habit that can lead to enlightenment but also sorrow because reality sometimes really does bite. 

I decided to tone down my rhetoric about the state of our country and our world beginning with the new year. I realized that I was only talking to the choir and sometimes losing long cherished associations with those whose viewpoints are diametrically opposed to mine. I embarked on a peace-keeping mission attempting to mend fences and keep most of my opinions to myself. I wrote about frivolous things, fun things. 

It worked for a time but events of importance just refused to mirror the calm that I was trying to impose on myself. It was gut wrenching to watch the assault on democracy that took place on January 6, and I wondered if remaining silent would do irreparable harm to the country. I had mixed emotions watching the impeachment proceedings but mostly I was disappointed that few of our elected leaders were willing to consider the facts and follow their own consciences rather than a party line. I longed for another time when both Democrats and Republicans searched for truth and fought for the good of the United States, not Richard Nixon. Nonetheless I decided to mainly keep my peace and say very little even as I wondered if this was a moment when I actually needed to speak. Is this how it was for Germans seeing their country destroyed by a dictator? Is this why so few of them spoke out?

This past month we had an unusual freeze throughout the state of Texas. Most of us lost power for days and it was extremely cold. As with all things I adapted. I wore layers of clothing during the day and slept under mountains of blankets at night. I made do with what had been sent my way but I also know that it should not have happened but for the unwillingness of state leaders to invest in infrastructures and improvements that would have kept the power going. I decided not to complain too much and instead remember what had happened the next time I go to the polls. In spite of my resolve I knew that I was growing quite weary and hoping for some respite from all of the political bickering. 

March had no sooner dawned than the governor of our fine state of Texas decided to unilaterally remove the mask mandate and allow all businesses to open once again at one hundred percent capacity. Suddenly my ire rose to a fever pitch in my chest because I saw no reason to endanger the people of my state with such an irresponsible dictate. I spoke out and announced that I would continue to wear a mask and urged others to do so as well. You would have thought that I had suggested that people lose their right to vote or their freedom of speech. I was lambasted for even suggesting such a thing and told to stay home if I am afraid or, better yet, to move to another state.

Aside from the fact that a more common sense approach to normalcy might have been made in a phased in fashion my main concern at this point is how many angry individuals there are now who would so callously suggest that I am somehow a coward who just needs to hide myself away. It does not seem to occur to them that the simple act of wearing a mask is a loving thing that we do not as much for ourselves as for those that we encounter in our daily wanderings. 

I have actually been vaccinated but it is possible that I might contract COVID and be asymptomatic. If I wear a mask I am protecting others, not myself. If we all wear masks we keep others safe. It is a mutual sacrifice that we do to attempt to insure the health of everyone, especially those not yet fortunate enough to have received the vaccine. What would have been the problem with leaving the mask mandate in force until a more sizable number of citizens had received the shots? Things were going well. We were moving in the direction of recovery and doing it together. Our efforts were a good thing, not a punishment. Now all of the months of sacrifice will be undone and for no really good reason. Mask wearing was not closing down businesses. It was actually helping them to stay open and vibrant. 

I’m as uncomfortable in masks as anyone. I don’t like the way they feel but I enjoy the security that they bring to public situations. I want to know that we are making every possible effort to keep the virus under control until we ultimately reach a level of herd immunity with the vaccine. It is the same kind of effort that the world has made in the past to eradicate polio, measles, mumps, chickenpox, and smallpox. 

I often reiterate a story from my grandfather’s youth. Before the dawn of the twentieth century he as a young man whose father and stepmother were struck with smallpox. The law of the land back then required the whole family to lock down in strict quarantine. They even had to hire an armed guard to insure that nobody came into or left the house. For many weeks Grandpa cared for the household and ordered food and supplies via the guard who would place the parcels inside the perimeter of the property but would not even go to the door of the home. Eventually a vaccine virtually eradicated smallpox from the face of the earth but my grandfather never forgot how horrific it had been nor the measures that people had to take to protect others from contracting it. I never really understood the moral of his story until COVID reared its ugly head last year.

We need to stop our bickering and agree to do whatever may work to get the virus under total control. We must calm down, look around and see who needs our help. We will not get out of this unscathed and our wealth and possessions will mean nothing if we are not willing to share them with those who have little. Our country is troubled whether people want to hear that or not. We can begin to heal it and its people but it will require us to look both inward and outward and demand that we all be responsible. We are in this together whether we like it or not.