We Americans are truly a different breed from most of the rest of the world. We are about as diverse as a nation can be and the reach of our land area is enormous. Bringing all of our disparate sections together has been rather remarkable given that similar attempts at creating such a grand mix of cultures has mostly failed in other attempts throughout the world. Our united states are a wonder but keeping them together has been difficult from the first moments that the original thirteen colonies signed on to the Declaration of Independence.
If we boiled the beginnings of the revolution down to the kind of simplistic ideas that seem to so often drive politics today we might suggest that the war with Great Britain began over taxes, guns and freedoms of speech, press and religion, with taxes and guns at the forefront. It was after all worry that British troops were coming to take away firearms from the colonists that lead to the standoffs at Lexington and Concord. Our obsessions with guarding our personal rights, our pocketbooks and our weapons have continued from that moment forward.
The argument about what behaviors should be protected freedoms have ensued from the earliest days of our government and have sometimes included troublesome ideas like the right to own slaves. The squabbles over our nation’s “original sin” culminated in a civil war that left a schism that has festered all the way down to the present day. Our efforts to compromise, appease and look the other way in issues of equality have been the source of great injustice over the decades with the progress toward a realization of the ideals of independence and freedom for all humans being gut wrenchingly slow for many or our citizens.
In many ways our nation is inflicted with an ugly scab that sometimes appears to heal but all too often is suddenly torn off to reveal a pus- filled infection. For the most part we are indeed moving in the right direction toward remission of the disease that has been so much a part of our history but we still have those who stubbornly cling to the idea that it is not really true that all men are created equal. From time to time they reemerge from dark corners to remind us that our work to undo the terrible mistakes of the past is not yet finished.
COVID-19 should have been an opportunity for national unity in a cause that affects every citizen. Instead some of the worst of our national traits have emerged to create chaos, confusion, and even death. We have made fighting a virus political and in doing that we have wasted our opportunities to halt its spread more quickly. Now there are new battle cries of “Freedom” and accusations that those who conform to medical directives and science are motivated only by “Fear.”
I have grown weary of people who choose to ignore simple precautions in the name of some supposed freedom. I am angry with those who accuse those of us who have stuck with a scientific plan of being afraid. I am disgusted with politicians who flaunt the advice of medical experts and persist in creating potentially dangerous situations like removing mask mandates and allowing large crowds to gather. I want those guilty of such behavior to know that I am not afraid! I am simply of the mind that we can stop the spread of this virus if we use a common sense approach for the common good. I wonder when it became so popular to focus more on individual liberties than on the greater needs of society as a whole.
Let’s be very clear we are engaged in a real battle against a real disease. As with any war we must have generals who create strategies and then we as the troops must stick with the plan. We need sentries to guard us and in this case those would be our doctors who are warning us that we are very close to victory and this is not the time to retreat. We need all of our defenses if we are going to win and not prolong the struggle. We have to wear masks. We need to get vaccinated. We have to demonstrate some rational thinking by avoiding the temptation of either planning or attending any events that involve crowded conditions with people that we do not know.
I am as eager to resume a normal life as anyone. I hate the masks. I dislike having to curtail so many of the activities that I love. I miss my family and my friends. I long to sit with them and see their smiles. I want to feel as free as anyone does but I do not believe that my personal rights should trump those of others. I may be vaccinated but it is possible that I can still carry the virus to someone else if I do not wear a mask. I may even get a mild version of the virus if others are not wearing a mask. We are working toward herd immunity but we are not there yet. If each of us cooperates we may achieve that goal more quickly than if we insist on protecting our own personal desires.
Freedom will ultimately come to all of us if we are actually willing to sacrifice just a tiny bit. On the other hand it will be threatened if half of us refuse to help with the effort. We will be caught in a cycle of super spreaders and surges that will delay our progress toward eliminating the virus for good. We have to quit reacting and begin thinking. We have had many plans most of which have been upended because of the impatience of a few. Let’s at least agree that our history teaches us that turning our backs on truth and taking the easy least uncomfortable route has never worked. Our best times have been those when we buckled down and did the hard work of setting things right no matter what it took. Now is the time to revive that spirit of America for it is what is most truly good about our nation. Let’s be defined by a willingness to sacrifice rather than arrogant self interest.
Mask up. Vax up. Be responsible. Think of others. We will only be successful if we do this together with love and respect.