As we are all aware, we all have said “booster” at least a dozen times during the last several days - who got theirs, who’s going to get theirs, which one, how did it go, what about the kids?, etc. (So not to be left out, Cathy and I get ours next Saturday!)
The more I have thought about the booster word, however, I realize it actually applies to more than Covid shots these days. There’s Biden and team trying to get a now $1.7 billion dollar "booster bill" through Congress. (And according to the latest presidential opinion polls, Biden himself could use a “booster" in that category as well!) But what I really want to write about this evening is our need for some morale boosters during these rainy and darkening days when many of us find it a little more difficult to keep our spirits afloat, especially in this period of extended doldrums as we await more reliable assurance we can be safe again from being infected or contagious. (Will the constant awareness of the implications of the epidemic ever subside?)
The concept of a “booster" is that it reinforces an already existing entity - booster seat, booster club, internet booster, for example. In other words, the effectiveness of a booster depends on the established strength of what it is already supporting. We feel good about the Covid booster shots because they are primarily a reinforcement of the 90% or more immunological efficacy of the original vaccine.
In contrast, the current state of our world is not generally experienced as secure. So we need to be careful about what we intend to “booster." The Trump vision was ostensibly to “boost” a dysfunctional culture of privilege and exceptionalism, and this vision appealed to those who felt the existing platform suited them well and would support them even better. Alternatively, I want to believe Biden’s stated vision includes a recognition of a brokenness that can be improved, “built back, that we can better serve the poor and marginalized and work to address the threats of climate change and racism. But the moral, financial, and historical plight of our divided and distrustful nation does not provide a strong foundation for that vision today to begin with. And that’s a big problem, obviously.
Although it is a mess of conflicting opinions and forces, I am aware of those, particularly our young people, who are seriously and effectively creating “boosters” to the positive movements in our culture. The rising demand, primarily from the young, for governments to seriously, emphatically address the threat of climate degradation is an example of the type of “booster” needed to reinforce the solid science that has already been established. This coming week will offer an opportunity to test the effectiveness the “booster” of the world’s demand for immediate, significant action on the climate crisis.
The range of reckoning with our nation’s past is also a critical “booster” to help us live up to the best of our original ideals of equality and human rights. Truth and reconciliation with our nation’s slavery, racism, genocide against Native Americans, subjugation of women, the violence of systemic poverty, discrimination against LGBTQ, among others, can be considered controversial "booster shots" that will ultimately protect us from further violence and mistreatment - even if it involves some serious discomfort in the process itself and its aftermath. And I am personally especially encouraged by mounting research that nonviolence is becoming better known and used in international peacekeeping as well as various forms of nonviolence training at a personal level.
Tonight I am grateful for the "morale booster” that even though we live in terribly precarious times a healing process is also very much present as well. I only wish we could immunize ourselves from a pandemic of further national upheaval and violence through a similar, reliable scientific method that developed the Covid vaccines. But the human species is not just a laboratory of experiments and control groups (although in some ways we may be exactly that!). We are also very much a creation of messy free will that allows dangerous and unscientific chaos.
I am pleased we are all receiving the further protection of our booster shots. But I have learned boosters are only meant to reinforce what already exists. Ultimately the most powerful source of “boosters" in our personal lives are our established friendships and communities and a grounding in a faith that provides some level of perspective beyond ourselves . May we find in our respect, love and care for each other a daily “booster” as we remember the goodness and graciousness that we give and take from others. And may we each have a sense of a spiritual “booster” that helps us recognize, and connect with, a source of compassion greater than ourselves, however we name that in wonder and gratitude.
Blessings to you during this uneasy but, truly, also exciting time,
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