When we look back at 2020, those of us who survive to see 2021, it will probably not be with fondness.
We have protests, we have clashes with the police, we have a virus that likes to sicken and/or kill indiscriminately. We have camps on different sides of every issue, online school, in-person school, kneel, don’t kneel, wear a mask, don’t wear a mask.
Somewhere in our vaunted past America has missed a boat. We have become not so much a nation with shared values as a country of different groups held together by either what they are for or what they are against. Unfortunately, and to the detriment of the country, many of the people in these disparate groups are there for reasons that are not logical, factual, or in some cases, reasonable.
Opening, or not opening, schools for in-person teaching is one. People who express a desire to open schools for in-person teaching fall into two categories, parents who need kids in school so they can go to work, and people who believe that not being in school is detrimental to children for a myriad of reasons which they share.
The people wanting schools to only have distance learning cite the obvious reason, they do not want students, faculty and staff contracting the virus and they know how difficult it will be to both keep masks on students and enforce social distancing.
There are, without doubt, good points in each argument. One, however, is more compelling. We do not know what the virus actually does yet. We do not know its long-term effects on the human body. That means we must prioritize, above all else, getting rid of the virus before we return to any semblance of normal in our schools or society. One fact is certain, dead kids are worse than any of the other reasons cited by the pro-open school group.
The appearance of the virus and a new awakening about the permanence of systemic racism in such close proximity would rock any nation. The difference is that no one is actually defending the virus, although some are working very hard to make it appear to be a myth or a conspiracy, something often done when things happen people do not understand or cannot comprehend. There are, sadly, those defending systemic racism.
I have been both surprised and pleased by the reaction of the majority of Americans to the new anti-racist movement. I have been surprised and dismayed at the response of many to the virus. Particularly disturbing is the idea embraced by some, including our current secretary of education, that people are going to die, but not that many. How many deaths do we find acceptable and for what reasons? Which members of your family or friends are you willing to sacrifice to the Gods of Fake Normalcy? We are not going to be back to normal economically, educationally, psychologically or societally for quite a while yet.
A pandemic is not something you can believe in or not believe in. It is a fact. Americans have to stop operating on a system of belief and begin to operate on one based on science, data and fact. What your mama, neighbor, Facebook friend, third cousin twice removed’s sister-in-law, says is not relevant.
The pandemic and our reaction, or lack of reaction, to it has exposed a potentially fatal flaw in America. Too many of us believe things are true or false based on what we want to be true or false despite what evidence is presented to the contrary.
This has to stop, devotion to ignorance can, and does, kill.
Cookie Newsom is a Greene County resident and columnist.