In Sunday’s edition of The Daytona Beach News-Journal the headline reassured us, “Humanity will prevail.”
Will our basic sense of humanity really pass the coronavirus test?
I have no doubt our species will survive COVID-19 and prevail as the highest life-form on the planet as we ultimately find the right chemical compound to kill it – and a vaccine to ensure it stays dead.
But what will our nation – our sense of society and community – look like on the other side of this crisis?
I recently posted on social media what I thought was an interesting question about the preventive curtailment of certain basic American freedoms – like our right to association, to engage in otherwise lawful conduct, to operate a business and engage in commerce without government intrusion.
The countermeasures adopted by all levels of government are unprecedented, and have caused some to contemplate if our civil liberties are a myth – applicable only until the next ‘emergency declaration’ gives federal and state elected officials (and their amateur counterparts in local governments) the authority to confine our movements, close our businesses and shutdown public beaches and recreation areas.
Not by providing sound information and suggestions – but through draconian mandates, measures which seem to change hourly in some interstate gubernatorial one-upmanship – backed by the force of law.
Your thoughts may (and should) differ from mine – and that’s okay.
Regardless of my personal opinions, I am following the rules and practicing the prevention suggestions of the Centers for Disease Control, as I hope everyone else is.
When the first comments appeared on my post, I immediately regretted the decision to ask a philosophic question as the responses turned partisan, ugly and angry.
I watched in horror as my Facebook “friends,” i.e., people I am connected with on the social media platform but have never met in person – began openly attacking actual friends of mine, i.e., people with whom I have actually shared life experiences and developed a personal relationship.
It made me uncomfortable.
Then, as things digressed, members from all categories of my “friends” branched off into internecine skirmishes – arguing presidential politics, hurling invectives and pointing fingers of blame.
In one exchange, I was shocked when a self-described healthcare professional told her over-agitated political antagonist out there in the ether that she would still save his life if he were infected by the virus (rather than let him die over his political opinion?) as through that has become an option in this country. . .
As I watched the conflagration build, I contemplated simply taking the post down with the click of a button – but since we can’t switch these issues off “in real life,” and will ultimately need to have a national conversation on these important questions – I let the post stand.
Then, this weekend I published an essay here on Barker’s View entitled, “A step too far?” wherein I questioned Volusia County Councilwoman Heather Post’s call for the complete closure of beaches, recreation areas and businesses – even after she agreed to relegate emergency executive authority to County Manager George Recktenwald and County Chair Ed Kelley.
In my view, Ms. Post broke emergency management protocols when she publicly lobbied in an open letter – effectively violating the agreement to allow Recktenwald and Kelley to make these important decisions – while upending the single source of public information policy that seeks to avoid confusion during a crisis.
I didn’t agree with her – and I said so.
That made other people uncomfortable.
The piece sparked a massive response from Barker’s View readers, with many engaging me on social media and privately, either supporting my opinion, voicing their own views or vehemently protecting Councilwoman Post from what some felt was an “attack” as she tried to educate her constituents on preventing the spread of COVID-19.
Some lashed out at the source, accusing me of breaking ranks with those trying to end the status quo in Volusia County – or allowing my views on beach access and driving to outweigh the public good – while others took the opportunity to tell me how “disappointed” in me they are.
However, in my view, had I failed to call attention to this important issue, or show favoritism, it would have been disingenuous, and I would have felt less of myself (if that’s possible.)
The fact is, I normally support Ms. Post – especially in her attempts to bring a fact-based alternative opinion to the lockstep conformity of county government – and I happen to know she has the hard bark of a now veteran politician which allows her to take criticism in the spirit in which it is given.
But the shear number of people who accessed and read the blog post – then took the time to share their views with me – proved once again how fragmented we are in Volusia County and beyond – yet, how willing we are to voice our opinions – even during a time of national crisis.
Believe it or not, I try not to take politics too seriously – it’s not something I fixate on – and my opinions on the issues tend to come from my own knee-jerk reaction, rather than an in-depth analysis.
Now that we’re all cooped up in our homes – trying hard to do the right thing and prevent the spread of this microbial monster that is actively destroying our economy and threatening the lives and livelihoods of our family, friends and neighbors – I find my thoughts turning more insular, more brooding and dark.
But, is what we’re seeing really the best of our national values at play?
While contemplating the meaning of all this, I got depressed thinking, ‘How can we claim to “all be in this together,” if we remain tribalized by local, state and national politics – republicans vs. democrats, liberals vs. conservatives, the haves and have nots – locked in an ideological war for the soul of a nation, a pitched battle that seemingly knows no boundaries or circumstance where hatred isn’t an appropriate initial response.
After contemplating the issue for a moment, I realized that what I was witnessing is the very essence of a free and open society.
In fact, there is nothing more typically American than arguing the issues, exercising our right to free speech and expression, vocalizing our fears, airing our concerns and staunchly defending our views and values through raucous debate – and the fact one participant in a pitched argument would remind their opponent that they will still care for them – regardless of how different their views may be – speaks volumes about our underlying sense of unity.
Our political and personal opinions on the issues of the day remain as individual as our fingerprints – and our willingness to share and defend them is refreshing.
That reinforces my faith in our local and national values.
Humanity will prevail.
Perhaps when this crisis has passed, it will be time to have a good old-fashioned Barker’s View “Meeting of the Minds,” at a locally owned establishment where we can join together with the beverage of our choice, put a face to a name – once again shake hands – and embrace each other and those things that unite us.
Let me know what you think.