We Can Do Better

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There’s no question that the last two years have been rough on everyone. Although we were all in the same “storm,” we were not in the same boat. Small business owners, movie theaters and restaurateurs struggled to retain employees and their businesses as quarantines and social distancing kept customers away. Teachers had an untenable responsibility to deliver instruction to decimated classes both remotely and in person, often at the same time. Parents soldiered, on working from home while supervising their kids’ online learning replete with continual technical interruptions. Amid distance learning students faced the loss of many traditional rites of passage like proms, graduations, and last day celebrations. With preschools closed, youngsters were deprived of the opportunity to learn social mores (aka getting along with others) and first year college students matriculated from home. As a retiree, I had it relatively easy as I did not have to worry about work, a paycheck or supervising school age children.

 Still, there are commonalities: the isolation from those outside our family, the fear of contracting what could be a fatal virus, and the pent-up fatigue from restrictions we have endured these past two years. Together these seem to have morphed into anger and scratched the veneer of our once more polite society. We seem to be less tolerant and less respectful of others. With the increased polarization of our country, we are witnessing behavior from the local school board meetings to the assault on the Capitol that is shocking, unacceptable and dangerous to our democracy and wellbeing. While I don’t attribute this totally to the restrictions of the past two years, as the pandemic continues to ease, I hope that we can take a step back and remember that political discourse should not be violent or abusive of others. As we remind a child to “use your words, not your fists” let us follow that advise and use our words to convince, debate, and explain, but not to detonate.

As we strive to go forward and mend the divisions in our country and even in our town, let us look to the example of two of our fellow citizens who we have just lost. Joann Sullivan and Mary Anne Zak, who died within a week of each other were shining examples of grace, good humor, selflessness and community involvement who we would be wise to emulate. They added so much to our town and the lives of those who live here. We at the Observer are grateful for their myriad contributions and mourn their loss.

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