The word “us” has taken on a new poignancy for me lately in light of the communal responsibility to address the current Covid surge. There is a tragic, age-old competition in the American culture (and universally) between a commitment to the common good and and a view that primarily advocates self interest and individualism. Currently this division is being played out In response to the vaccination debate in our country.
In sum, the thing about the threat of a resurgent Covid pandemic and lockdown is never just about "you or me," it’s about “US," all of us.”
If we are to successfully deal with Covid and its variants and avoid another prolonged, catastrophic lockdown, somehow all of us must rise above our personal fears and political biases (including those who have been vaccinated), and we must continue to seek ways to engage those who are refusing to cooperate with current research and advice. Short of coercion I still hope we can continue to try to persuade through incorporating a plea that begins with a redefinition of self interest and extends out to include all of us. If we did, our appeal might look something like this:
If we have the opportunity to engage people who oppose vaccinations and refuse to wear a mask, we could remind them, for example, that impact of Covid pandemic is ultimately about each and every one of us. It is never just about the those in the medical community who must heroically bear personal exposure, exhaustion and heartbreak while treating suffering and dying Covid patients; it’s actually also about all of us who must forego critical medical treatment during a lockdown. And if possible, in person or in prayer, we could reach out with compassion to those who, personally or with family and friends, have suffered with Covid, many of whom have refused vaccination or the use of a mask, or who have endured watching a loved one die alone and in pain, and who must now face the ongoing personal medical and economic impact of the illness.
And we need to remind each other that a Covid lockdown is not only about the masking up of frightened and bored children who can't go to school and who are missing an education and social skills, it is about the effect closed schools has on homeschooling/working parents, grandparents, and the whole range of professionals who are responsible under very difficult circumstance for the current and future welfare of our next generations.
And Covid is never just about the restaurants and businesses that will suffer economic hardships during a pandemic, it’s also about all of us who depend on essential services, food markets and various supply chains and support networks that keep us safe and provisioned. And that includes all of us, of course.
And finally a Covid lockdown is not only about travel, visitation restrictions and the loss of personal mobility, but more critically it’s about the economic crises imposed on families and hourly workers’ lost wages and lay offs, and all those who must again become dependent on government subsidy or already diminished savings.
The increasing, alarming reality is that we - all of us - may be teetering on another financially and emotionally devastating extended Covid lockdown if the pandemic continues to surge out of control. And I don’t think any of us is willing to take the risk if we consider ourselves responsible and caring people. I would remind those who are refusing vaccinations and mask that essentially they are better persons than to be dangerously irresponsible to themselves and others.
The good news is the protection from vaccinations and masking can prevent such a disaster. And at the heart of whether or not we will be able to fend off another pandemic is whether nationally - or for that matter, internationally - is whether we care enough about the communal and planetary “us” beyond our own self interest.
I am well aware, of course, that many of the folks who most need to change from the “me" to the “us” are not likely to read this column. But all of us need to hold the hope that if we take care of our own responsibility to support the common good, that we make the effort to hold those who do not cooperate in kindness and care, that our witness will make a difference for those who need encouragement to see their responsibility to defeat Covid beyond their own self interest.
I think it’s possible to firmly but gently speak to family members, neighbors, and others who are stuck on their self interest and perhaps pride, and emphasize that the issue of a pandemic, now more than ever, depends on caring about all the others, if not most especially themselves, who will suffer with the extension of a devastating Covid pandemic.
Urge the reluctant to please get vaccinated on behalf of themselves and, yes, on behalf of all of “us."