Part of living in community is experiencing the consequences of other people’s actions. This happens in the community of our families, our neighborhoods, our workplaces, and our churches. On a much larger scale, this can happen in our individual cities, our states, our nations, and ultimately, other people’s actions can affect the entire world.
To be honest, it makes me angry that there are times when other people’s poor choices affect my life in negative ways. I try to live my life in such a way that my choices affect people in a positive way, but I cannot trust that everyone chooses to live this same way. I am far from perfect, and I know that my words and my actions have hurt other people. However, I hope that these choices have made small ripples in the lives of those around me. I also hope that these choices have only affected those closest to me. Unfortunately, there is no way to know how much of an impact, both positive and negative, my choices have made on the lives of others. At least, not yet.
In the midst of a global pandemic and a polarizing presidential election, I have seen more and more how other people’s poor choices can affect large groups of people, including our entire nation in the United States. I cannot say without a doubt that the information that we read and hear from the mainstream media is 100% accurate. I am not that naive to believe everything that I hear because I recognize that every media outlet is biased.
Despite the fact that the media is biased, I do choose to believe health officials when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic. I choose to trust the medical wisdom that journalists provide through the informed advice of organizations like the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and my local health department. I choose to believe that it is best for us to keep our distance from one another, to avoid large gatherings, to wear masks when we are with people outside of our immediate family, and to wash our hands regularly.
I am not ignorant to believe that the COVID-19 pandemic has not been politicized. Of course it has. This has happened in all avenues of government, from small town politics to the Oval Office and Capitol Hill. Sadly, the American public has suffered because of the lack of a central message when it comes to mitigating the spread of COVID-19. We have heard mixed messages from government officials, including the current presidential administration. We have been told that it is safe to shop, it is safe to rally and demonstrate, it is safe to go to school, it is safe to fly. Yet, here we are with 13.4 million cases and over 266,000 COVID related deaths since March 2020. The numbers have not stopped growing, and in fact, they have skyrocketed since the beginning of November.
Today, I read an article about what I would consider to be a “control group” when it comes to the practice of mitigation strategies based on the advice of health officials. Currently, the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma has experienced very small percentages of COVID cases and COVID related deaths because their tribal leadership put strict mitigation policies in place in the spring of 2020, including mask mandates and protecting their elderly population. They have not experienced any shortage of PPE for medical workers, and they have been able to share PPE with surrounding non-native communities in Oklahoma, a state that has experienced a frightening increase in COVID cases due to loose mitigation restrictions.
This isolated example of the Cherokee nation demonstrates that when there is a strong central message about something as potentially dangerous and devastating as COVID-19, that groups of people can follow the plan and help to prevent unnecessary tragedies within a community. This example is not isolated to the Cherokee nation as we are seeing similar cases in nations like Vietnam where strict, early lockdowns and mask mandates has helped to curb the spread of the virus.
Now, of course, any skeptic can choose to disregard data from any other nation, especially a nation that has had a history of government policies contrary to our own in the United States. However, I choose to stick with the science that suggests that social distancing, avoiding large groups, and mask wearing curb the spread of COVID-19. I also choose to believe that a nationwide plan would be more effective than the chaotic approach that has happened in our nation. And I also believe that the reason for our high positivity and death rates is due to people making bad choices because they have chosen to disregard science and follow politicians.
I am tired of facing the consequences of ignorant people. When it comes to a global pandemic, individual communities can make a huge impact on whether or not the virus spreads. Sadly, one of the wealthiest nations in the world has had a disjointed response to the pandemic based on political games. And we are losing this game.
So who has suffered from those who think that mask mandates are unconstitutional? Health care workers like doctors and nurses who are witnessing PPE shortages and increased numbers of patients with more serious symptoms related to COVID.
Who has faced the unnecessary effects of those who continue to host large gatherings with no social distancing and no mask wearing? Teachers and other educators who have to continue providing quality education while wearing masks, meeting virtually with students, and facing criticism from local politicians who are threatening to further cut school budgets.
Who has experienced tragedy from irresponsible political rallies and unsafe political demonstrations? Small business owners who have to lay off employees, shut their doors, and file for bankruptcy.
Today, we are all dealing with the backlash of bad choices from our federal government to our average citizens. We are losing loved ones. We are losing jobs. We are losing hope. And I am angry. I’m tired of other people’s choices affecting me in such a tragic, horrible way.
Stop complaining about losing your rights because you have to wear a mask in Wal-mart. Stop arguing about whether you should reschedule or cancel your holiday parties. Stop making your bad choices and ignorance affect everyone around you.
Think outside of yourself. Protect those who are at risk of complications from COVID-19. Wear a mask for others. Stop making this a political problem when it is a health crisis. People’s lives are literally on the line.