It has been no less than a trying year for many people. Amazingly, I can make this representation without having anyone suggesting that I am exaggerating. Much of what occurred in this past year has left many feeling like our nation became a house divided. As the world rose to the challenge of battling a remarkably communicable virus, mechanisms used to combat this disease left us reeling. Restrictions purportedly designed to protect essentially eclipsed freedoms. Tensions mounted. Stress levels soared. Our true enemy, the fear Gremlin, crept out of the shadows and trounced on the hope Sprite. Without an understanding of when things would change, when businesses and schools would reopen, when we would be able to visit our loved ones, fear and distrust took hold.
When the fear Gremlin takes over, a cauldron of negative emotions simmers just below the surface. Judgments are clouded. Responses are sharp and cutting. People act before they think. In 2020, media outlets covered what felt like a never-ending cycle of fear Gremlin behavior. Then, the page turned. Vaccines became available. Hope rose. At Mach speed, we left 2020 in the rear view mirror. Citizens of the United States breathed a collective sigh.
Where do we go from here? How can we repair the wounds opened by this abysmal virus? As a first step, I suggest that we take a moment to recognize that one truth unites us: this virus cataclysmically altered all of our lives. No one escaped unscathed. Everyone lost something. If we take a moment to recognize this, if we take a moment to understand that each of us experienced unimaginable sequelae from this virus, that we, the people, all had to rise to this challenge, perhaps we can allow the healing process to begin.
So, where do we start? How to we begin to heal? Perhaps we can start by communicating respectfully. When listening, each of us must focus on the words spoken so the intended meaning can be analyzed and understood. When responding, providing a reasoned and metered reply serves two critical purposes: it sets a tone of respect that can foster continued dialogue, and it reflects a willingness to engage in a thoughtful debate.
In a democracy, one is not required to have the opinion of another. Thankfully, we live in a country where this freedom is more than a concept, it is a tenet. Our forefathers carefully articulated this right within the First Article of the United States Constitution. Remembering this fact should serve to remind us that we, as a nation, are blessed. What others yearn for, we have as an inalienable right.
Did our collective communication gap occur entirely because of this virus? Arguably, the answer to that question is no. Discord has certainly risen since the 2016 election of former President Trump. Many will debate who holds responsibility for this fracture in our ability to communicate. I suspect no one will win the argument. What we can do is move past this stalemate by deciding to communicate respectfully, no matter where you stand politically.
As we all know, it takes only a moment for skin to be cut, and it takes much longer for that cut to heal. During the healing process, the skin may throb; the site may become infected. Eventually, from the inside out, the skin knits. This virus cut our skin, causing pain and triggering raw emotional responses. Changes in the political landscape prompted us to figuratively cut each other’s skin. Thankfully, we are on the path to recovery. But, much like the body’s healing process, emotional healing cannot be rushed. Time, patience and vigilance are required.
We, the people of the United States of America, can do this. Over time, and with all due vigilance, let us exercise the virtue of patience each time we listen and respond to one another, no matter upon what side of the aisle we stand.