Thursday, December 16, 2021

Tug of War


Yesterday the Howard County Schools cancelled all extracurricular activities, effective immediately, and continuing through January 15th. This includes “Athletic practices and contests, Theater rehearsals and performances, School concerts and performances, Extracurricular activities, and Field trips.” 

Nobody wants this. Absolutely no one is cheering, “Yay! No extracurriculars!” 

But the numbers of COVID cases have been on the rise in such an alarming way that it was necessary to address it. Some folks feel that this situation is serious enough to warrant going to virtual learning immediately. While that may be true from a public health standpoint, it’s clear that hcpss wants to do anything they can to avoid that. Ceasing extracurriculars is something they have in their power to do without curtailing face-to-face learning.

I don’t know if it will be enough. But we will have to limp along together towards the winter break and see what happens.

I read a statement yesterday from an angry parent who said something like, “I just want normal.”

Me, too. We all want normal. And we might be a whole lot closer to normal if our national and local response to COVID-19 hadn’t been turned into a political tug-of-war. That’s absolutely the wrong way to address a crisis of this magnitude. In times that challenge us the most we should all be working together.

Can you imagine community members putting in sandbags against an impending flood while another angry group shows up to knock them down? 

“Who would do that?” you think. “That's just not normal.”

But that’s what we’ve experienced every step of the way with COVID. We are not all pulling together, and what we see going on right now are the consequences of that behavior. 

Years ago I went to a neighborhood event where children participated in a real, old-fashioned tug-of-war. Most of the adults present gathered around to see the outcome of the contest. There was some quite serious pulling on either side. I held up my phone to snap a photo of the winning moment.

Then, quite unexpectedly, the rope just…snapped. And everyone on both sides fell on their backsides. It was not the photo finish anyone had expected.

Friends, right now in Howard County we are all on our backsides. This has become a contest that no one can win. We should be pulling together. Often we are not.

And people, just like the rope in the tug of war contest, are snapping. Breaking. Wearing thin. Systems like schools and hospitals are overburdened by the damage done by those who are determined to turn a public health crisis into a political contest.

My heart aches for the students who will be missing out on the experiences which are often the most important to them in their school lives, and to the teachers who have given their all to prepare them. Nobody feels good about this. 

If it prevents more people from getting sick, that will be a good thing. Right now it’s what the school system feels it can do.

This is not a party game. It’s the biggest challenge that many of us will ever face.  If we don’t commit to the work we shouldn’t be surprised by the outcome. 

If you want normal you have to work for normal.

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