Don Rogers: Our ties frayed and fraught
Stronger together? Remember that beautiful, elusive notion?
I remember holding up a sign bearing those hopeful words and speaking earnestly to a camera for a North Lake Tahoe Chamber and Resort Association spot way, way back when.
We were only weeks into the pandemic then, last winter’s snow on the ground, already thinking this had gone on forever and looking forward to summer. Surely by then this all would pass. Hang in there.
That feels so long ago, lost in a haze of zoom meetings, scrapped and reworked business plans, demonstrations for and against one thing or another, everyone packed together, sometimes masked, often not. Masked on the trail, no one around. Unmasked in the grocery store, proudly mistaking license for “freedom.”
Many of us miss seeing colleagues in person, see only a few friends this way and at a distance, and, well, see maybe a bit too much of the immediate family. Let’s be honest here.
Plenty get out more, obviously, even the governor, boy what a mistake for a leader who forgot that modeling the good behavior he mandates is, well, essential.
But we’ve all made mistakes, slipped up, put ourselves and others at more risk, haven’t we? Enough of us have, anyway, as the pandemic grinds on and grinds us down.
So much, too much and the toughest time of all is … now. Now we’re living on this knife’s edge between our turn for vaccination and the giant wave still mounting in California, taking South and North Dakota’s place at the peak of contagion, ICUs filled to the brim.
Blue state, red state. The virus has not distinguished. The deadliest spike in the world so far was in New York City, bluer than blue. Some still rail at relatively open Sweden, including their king. Yet continental Europe, all of the United States and Michigan, a blue state with the same population of 10 million that locked down longer than most, make Sweden look positively healthy. You just have to overlook the evidence of her Nordic neighbors that did impose strict restrictions and have fared much, much better.
In these times, best live on an island — Hawaii, New Zealand, Fiji, (Australia qualify?) — or in a culture already long attuned to mask wearing: Vietnam, Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea.
Masks still seem widely misunderstood among the left and the right, highlighting our issues with partisanship, a pandemic of its own. Moderately protective in concert with distancing and good personal hygiene is neither ineffective nor silver bullet.
We don’t do well with gray areas, actual reality. Way, way too many of us need our beliefs about life to come in pure black or pure white, truth only in a red hue or blue.
Uncertainty has been a bellows on our fervor and our fever dreams. Somewhere between a fifth and a third of America can’t believe the presidential election results and dismisses COVID-19 as no more than a seasonal flu. I mean that both the doubt and the plain truth exist as realities.
Think about that a moment. Think about the mental gymnastics required here to remain blind to ICU units overflowing, people reportedly dying still in disbelief.
Think about what’s required to come up with ever more elaborate conspiracies for how President Donald Trump must have won as each dark fantasy crumbles under the barest scrutiny, court cases that might have standing lack evidence and credible witnesses, reliably Republican judges, leaders and the attorney general himself understand plainly there’s no there there.
The Republicans have the right to test the election results through court and recounts, absolutely. Let the process play out appropriately, though this has gone maybe a burned bridge or two too far.
But remember that the Democrats went through all the stages of crazy themselves in 2016, culminating with three Democratic House representatives challenging the congressional certification of President Donald Trump’s improbable victory.
So yes, we have played this tape before. The GOP has no lock on the absurd.
Still, shame on us for letting this junk inflame us at home in Nevada County. Distract us from our own very real challenges right here. Affordable or attainable housing evaporating as prices soar, for instance. Small businesses and the people they employ struggling big time. And why are we scapegoating our restaurants, which by the actual numbers have been safe as anywhere to dine outside? Even COVID-soaked Los Angeles counts less than 4% of the contagion from restaurants. They aren’t the problem. We — you and me — we’re the problem.
Stronger together? How about we deal squarely with the true superspreader events, our own garden parties and holiday gatherings with family and friends from out of town?
Stronger together means we recognize this and our own complicity, to borrow a term in vogue on the left, in spreading this disease. This is on us. We can be stronger about our habits, no question. Especially with an end in sight. The slogan still holds. We are in this together, like it or not.
Don Rogers is the publisher of the Sierra Sun and The Union, based in Grass Valley. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-477-4299.
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