Sunday, September 18, 2022

Honor and Grief


Two things came together in my head this week: a video that was shown at the Rise to the Challenge event and an essay in USA Today by columnist Connie Schultz.

Here’s the video, made to honor those in the community who came together during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic to help others:

Here’s the essay by Schultz:

COVID-19 is still deadly real. Why do we allow disinformation to persist?

It occurred to me, as I watched the video, that some will watch it and see it as a prime example of everything that’s wrong with County Executive Calvin Ball. It was impossible for me to take in the images without remembering the steady drumbeat of naysayers throughout that time, denying the seriousness of COVID.

They’re not in the video. But their self-righteous rants on social media became an unavoidable part of the soundtrack of my life during the last few years. I found myself grieving as the images passed in front of my eyes. How much more could we have done as a community if we had been united in focusing on public health and caring about the needs of all?

The experience of seeing people in my own community use an international pandemic as an opportunity to sow political division has been the greatest disappointment of my lifetime. 

The essay by Connie Schultz describes her experience at a local pharmacy in Ohio as she waits to receive the most current COVID booster. She’s having a positive and friendly conversation with a woman which takes a startling turn.

As we talked, two lines of customers began to grow. Not uncommon in the 4 o’clock hour, when a lot of people are heading home after a day’s work. The pharmacy clerk walked over to me with a clipboard and instructed me to fill out the consent form. “For both your flu and COVID shots,” she said, smiling.

In that moment, my newfound friend dumped me. “I would never put that poison in my body,” she said.

I turned to look at her. “You haven’t been vaccinated against COVID?”

“Nope,” she said, shaking her head. “It’s a government conspiracy. No worse than the flu.”

It gets worse. Read it for yourself. If you use Ms. Schultz’s link it should bypass the paywall.

I have a friend who takes multiple medications now to cope with excruciating pain she never had before COVID. A dear friend from high school lost her apartment while struggling with long term disability due to COVID. People are still getting sick and people are still dying. I can’t imagine what our local healthcare workers are thinking.

Maybe an event to celebrate those in our community who worked together to address COVID is needed not just to help them process those hard times through the lens of their community’s gratitude. Perhaps it is doubly necessary because of the words and actions of angry people who mocked and discounted them at every turn. 

Of course it’s an election year and people are likely to view any action by the county executive as a campaign move or an attempt at political grandstanding. There is bound to be spin of all sorts. That's to be expected.

But, as the incumbent, Ball must run on his record. Clearly he is not running away from the focus his administration has put on public health during the pandemic. When Ball declared his intent to run for re-election I wrote:

It’s interesting to observe that very few if any of the folks dragging Dr. Ball yesterday acknowledged the fact that he has been governing through a pandemic. How would you like to win an election and find your plans and goals sidelined by an enormous life-or-death situation? That’s what it means to be a true public servant, though. You must cope with what comes along. (The Hat, the Ring, and Me” Village Green/Town² June 2, 2021)

But an event like the one this week is not a “look at me” event. It’s a “look at us” event. It is an acknowledgment of the power in a burden shared. 

It’s a “we the people” moment, and not a Sally Brown moment. As much as the video means to remind us what is worth celebrating, I found it an unexpected reminder of what we, in Howard County, have to grieve.

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