I have been sitting here for hours, writing and re-writing. I started last night and deleted everything I had written because nothing seemed adequate. And I am still struggling.
I have watched videos of people all over the world singing in unison in their apartment complexes, leading exercise classes on their balconies, giving concerts from porches. Last night, all the church bells in Italy and Germany rang in unison as a sign of solidarity and the people of both countries lit candles in their windows to show their neighbors they are not alone.
Here, we see small things here and there. In my hometown, there are hearts in windows and a friend urged everyone to put their American flags up on porches and in yards. We have seen Christmas lights re-emerge in some places.
But, the American way is failing us as we tackle the most unprecedented enemy of our lifetime. This invisible virus that we don’t really understand has left us in denial, because denial is easier than fear or even facts. Our independence and personal responsibility serves us well on so many levels, but not here. Not this time. My newsfeeds are filled with people who “just can’t stay at home…” because they are bored and those who believe that this is all a media hyped scenario designed to “make people of all ages suffer” or that this virus is just a way to “take the president down.” People who refuse to Social Distance because “the government” won’t be allowed to “tell them what to do.”
Tell that to the family who’s father died alone in a hospital earlier today and his wife who had to say goodbye over the phone. Or tell it to the 12 year old who is on a ventilator in Atlanta and her mother who is terrified. Tell that to the church in Bartow County who has over two dozen cases and one death.
Now is not the time for grandstanding and “political correctness” from either party. We are past the days of Republican and Democrat and Independents. This virus doesn’t care if you are white, black, Hispanic, Asian, male, female, or gender neutral. It’s just looking for body to lay claim to. Unless…
We come together. We come together as Americans. As Georgians. As people who care about other people. As people who are selfless and sacrificial in our regard for others. Unless we adapt to this new way of life for now.
If we want to win, if we want to congregate and socialize and hug our grandparents, we have to love our neighbors as ourselves. If we want to send our kids back to school and return to work, if we want to not overthink a handshake or a hug anytime in the near future, we have to act now.
This isn’t about you or me. This is about your sister with an autoimmune disease. It’s about your parents and grandparents who are at a higher risk because of their age. This is about the kid on the soccer team who has asthma and your co-worker who has cancer.
We have an issue with authority in this country. We have a problem with being told what to do. We have been raised on personal responsibility and a fear of our “rights” being taken away.
And yet, when the enemy is SOMEONE who is SOMEWHERE ELSE, it’s somehow different. When it’s a nation we are raging against, a people in some far off land, we sing God Bless America and tears stream down faces and we send our men and women in the Armed Forces off to protect our freedoms that we hold so dear. But when it’s us, when we are what could endanger the people of this land, well, all bets are off. You do you and stay inside, but I will not be inhibited by YOU.
Frankly, we have never been asked to sacrifice. Not during 9/11 or any war in recent history. We aren’t planting Victory Gardens or rationing anything except toilet paper and ground beef (thanks a lot, y’all). We aren’t buying war bonds or asking you to give up nylon. We are being asked to stay away from each other inasmuch as is humanly possibly. We are being asked to refrain from congregating for a short period of time for the greater good, in order to flatten the curve and bring healing to our land.
So maybe instead of spinning this on social media as a government takeover, maybe we begin to view this as our American duty. Maybe we see Social Distancing as our personal responsibility in the fight against COVID-19.
The fear of a loss of freedom is as American as apple pie. I get it. I really do. But the fear of the loss of a loved one, especially when we can control this on a very personal level, is as human as it gets.
I am appealing to you as an American, as a Georgian, as a fellow human being, to be a good citizen, neighbor, and friend and STAY HOME. We can do this. We can fight this in solidarity. But it’s going to take a changing of minds and hearts.
I’m in. Are you?