Monday, March 9, 2020

Out of Control

An event dubbed a “controlled burn” in Quantico, Virginia caused hazy skies and concerns from Howard County into DC yesterday. While I had seen the notifications on social media, not everyone had. And they were worried.

It made me think of ways in which people think they can make their own choices, keep to themselves, and not affect anyone else, nor be beholden to them. Whether by individuals or communities, these actions almost always touch others. To deny it is foolish, and often selfish.

Case in point: coronavirus hoarding. If you buy all the hand soap at the store to protect your family, how will other families protect themselves? And don’t you at the very least want those people to have clean hands when they are around your family?

I came across a Facebook post from Congressman John Sarbanes highlighting his support for the School Breakfast Program. Right away this complaint popped up in the comments:

Breakfast is the parent’s responsibility not the government.

To which I replied:

Caring for the vulnerable is everyone’s responsibility, and a wise investment in the future, as well.

What we do, or fail to do, touches others. Like the “controlled burn” whose smoke could not be confined in one neat and tidy area, our choices rarely take place in a vacuum. This should not paralyze us but, rather, inform our decisions.

Perhaps at its root it is fear that makes us do this. Fear that there will not be enough, fear that we cannot keep our own families safe. My fear right now as we watch the coronavirus epidemic unfold is  of communities that fracture into tiny cells, withdrawing from each other and destroying the ties that make us human. This is when fear can turn to cruelty. Turning away from the suffering of others will come full circle when others turn away from us.

There’s no such thing as a controlled burn. We all breathe the same air. We all live under the same sky.

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