Our Endless COVID Summer
It all kind of piled up this week.
COVID hospitalizations and deaths are up. We’re still trying to convince the unvaccinated to get vaccinated, even as intensive care units fill beyond capacity. As the Delta variant attacks our children, Florida’s governor threatens the withhold the wages of educators who want to protect the lives of young people in their charge.
People are still shopping baseless claims of election fraud, and are actively working to knock the legs out from under American democracy. And, as an added bonus, an earth-shattering new report reinforces the reality that the world is literally on fire.
It’s … a lot.
Surveying a landscape of denial on the basic realities of public health (vaccines and masks prevent illness) and science (people contribute to climate change, and are in a position to mitigate it), you ask yourself what you can do to sway the opinions of so many people who are so clearly dug in, and won’t move off those positions, no matter how hard you try to appeal to their better angels or sense of patriotism.
My own rage over seeing the nation dragged backwards in its fight against the pandemic after a summer that began with such promise is palpable. I’m beyond tired of the “I wish I’d gotten the vaccine” stories that have seemingly accompanied every new death. I’ve yelled at the TV after the umpteenth account of a passenger attacking a flight attendant because they refused to wear a mask, or follow some other pandemic protocol designed to keep all of us safe.
So I could have gone on the attack. And the people who agree with me would have applauded. And the people who disagree with me would have filled my email inbox with invective that I can’t repeat here. And nothing would change. And we’d make no progress.
But giving up also isn’t an option. As the ancient Roman philosopher-emperor Marcus Aurelius reminds us, all you can do is put your head down and do your job. Ultimately, as author Ryan Holiday has translated for him, the obstacle becomes the way. And examples of it are everywhere if you look.
Take, for instance, the Florida school officials who have told Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis to bring it with his threat to dock their pay over mask mandates.
“Standing up for our students and our families is part of our job,” said Nora Rupert, a member of the Broward County School Board. “Being afraid that we’re going to lose our job — be removed from office, fined, lose our salary — bring it. Bring it. Because when you put that out there it makes me work harder for our school children and our families.”