About a year ago, I lost my Grandmother. She was a force to be reckoned with. She was old enough to remember the Great Depression, having lived through it as a child. The mother of six, she persevered through dealing with one who suffered from debilitating mental illness, then losing another child, and then giving care to my Grandfather before he succumbed to ALS when she was in her 60s. She lived through and read the headlines from almost all the wars in the 20th and 21st centuries and processed more bad news than I would in two lifetimes. I am a better man today for having observed her strength and fortitude during trying times. No matter what was going on, she always found a way to smile and laugh her way through it. She was resolved to live through the toughest of times knowing life must go on.
So how are we as a society doing in that regard?
I’ve had to work hard to maintain my senses during this global pandemic in what seems to be the most trying time I’ve witnessed in my 43 trips around the sun. If you’re like me, you’ve had a hard time keeping up with the ever-changing CDC guidelines and trying to decipher reality from political spin. One thing that I have never questioned was whether this virus was real or serious. I have taken it very seriously and will continue to. It is far more transmissible than anything I’ve seen in my lifetime. Because it’s a real threat… dealing with it and mitigating our way through has taken (and will take) willingness to reckon with the truth and mental toughness to keep the situation in proper context. It is not appropriate to either dismiss it as a hoax or to cower in a closet until it has passed over us… we must find a path forward that shows caution, moderation, and a resolve to carry on.
(As a quick aside… I’m almost done reading Dan Crenshaw’s “Fortitude: American Resilience in the Era of Outrage”. I highly recommend it for anyone needing a little dose of Fortitude.)
I, along with others, have been criticized for using my political influence to push to have the economy reopened. I’ve also said publicly that I do not support a legal mandate for masks for the simple reason that I don’t believe it’s enforceable. As if giving our law enforcement one more thing to have to confront civilians with is a priority right now! Cities can’t control rioting and destruction of public property, how are we going to enforce a mask law? I stand with our Governor on this.
Being willing to stand the political heat for such decisions has been one of the most difficult, and character building things, I’ve done. Fear of being wrong or getting backlash in today’s “Cancel / Outrage Culture” is nothing to joke about. I absolutely can’t imagine the stress our Governor or President have had to endure in light of such a new cultural norm. But small government leaders and business owners who understand what’s at stake in the face of completely shutting down the economy (the effects financially, socially,and yes even mortally) have had to make very difficult and often unpopular decisions.
I do believe we should do anything and everything we can to help slow the spread… short of forcing people to close their doors. Why not close the doors? Because it’s not a sustainable solution. If we knew COVID would be gone in a week, month, or even several months, perhaps it would be an option. But we don’t… so it isn’t. I can’t imagine that most people’s businesses could sustain a complete shut-down for more than a month or so. So how can we mandate that a few industries shut down? Our employees need to work to eat and businesses have to run to survive. If we lived in the stone age, we’d still have to find a way to go out and cultivate, fish, farm, and survive rather than holing up in our caves. Keeping salons, restaurants, and other in-person based businesses alive is no different, and no less necessary for those businesses.
The fact is that this virus isn’t going away quickly and that we have to find a new normal - which to me translates as: we all have to put on our big boy/girl pants, brace ourselves, and carry on whether we like it or not.
Life, by definition, is not risk free; most of us understand that.
I’m hyper aware of that last point these days. I recently tested positive for COVID-19. I’m thankful to report that I am fully recovered and had very moderate symptoms. For me, it was nothing worse than a cold I get about this time every year.
It’s hard to fathom but... many people we know will get this virus. Many have likely had it and not even known they did. A very small percentage will suffer worse symptoms or heaven forbid, even death. Because of that, we should all be happy to do anything and everything we can to help slow the spread… including social distancing and wearing masks unless you face a severe health issue from doing so.
I believe we would do well to learn from our predecessors… those who formed and nurtured our great country and who have pushed on through much worse times. I chose to honor my grandmother and many others like her by not forgetting our heritage and by finding ways to persevere, laugh, and love during this time because THAT IS WHO WE ARE AND THAT IS WHAT WE DO!
Finally, a word of encouragement from 2 Timothy 1:7 -- “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”
My prayer is that we will all both be good stewards of our collective health while not forgetting who we are and where we come from.
George Emami is the District 4 Monroe County commissioner and the owner of The Brokery and Fox City Brewery. Email him at email@example.com.