Are We In This Together?

March 20th, 2020 Posted by Susan's Musings 13 comments

“We’re all in this together,” is a rather contradictory phrase to use at a time when we are being exhorted to stay apart from each other. Nonetheless, the more widespread that sentiment, the more successfully we will weather this crisis.

I suspect that many of you, like me, vacillate between thinking that we, at community, state and country level, are dealing with this virus too leniently or alternatively in too draconian a fashion. I do not envy those making decisions. Nonetheless, I am concerned at social and governmental factors that belie the idea of one people pulling together in a tough time.

There have always been greedy, power-hungry and selfish people. Communities that could be loving and warm to those who fit in could also be indifferent or hostile to those who didn’t. However, I don’t think I am guilty of over-romanticizing the past in claiming that when doctors, storekeepers, teachers and mayors met the individuals they served in church, at Rotary and on the street, they actually saw them as individual human beings. When times were tough, those who had much helped those who had little. Those who had little helped those who had even less.

It concerns me that a chasm seems to exist between a large number of people whose paychecks come from money taken from taxpayers by the government and those who work in the private sector. I have sympathy for my local librarian as I do for my local shoe store owner. The private school teacher whose school shut down needs to feed her family just as much as the public school teacher who is also sitting at home. The business owner who is watching his sales plummet needs to pay his mortgage just as his state Senator does.

In other words, I have a sneaking suspicion that we are NOT all in this together. Some government workers are being paid while staying home. Others, like mail carriers and police and firemen are working under more difficult circumstances. Many of us in the private sector are reluctantly home while some industries will get a boost from this event. Doctors and nurses are seeing the exacerbation of problems they have known about for years yet been silenced from mentioning because they are politically incorrect.  If those making policies and decisions that affect all of us felt the nail-chewing, lie-in-bed-worrying anxiety of their constituents, their edicts and suggestions would be more helpful.

I don’t have the answers. I do worry that describing certain industries as too vital to fail or treating government workers differently than those in the private sector or trying to put band-aids on some areas but not others, or looking to cast blame on the wrong places, will slow our recovery. If this virus and its accompanying economic plight can turn us away from the “me” and “special-interest” and identity politics Balkanization virus that has overtaken our society, we can be healthier after it passes (as it assuredly will) than we were before.

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13 comments

Daniel Lonce says:

Just when it seemed that Socialism had been exposed and was gasping for breath for survival in America; Along comes the covid-19 Pandemic and the Responses to it. And like the proverbial shot-in-the-arm socialism is suddenly alive again and ravishing Americans freedom.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Dear Daniel–
Nearly all politicians and bureaucrats firmly believe Saul Alinsky’s advice in Rules for Radicals, “Never let a crisis go to waste”. Those weren’t his exact words but he was advising his followers like Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama among others, to use crises to increase power.
Sad. But this will pass. It will just leave us with much to clean up. The swamp grows
Cordially
RDL

Joey R says:

Hi, Susan,

As usual, you have hit the heart of the matter on this issue. I have a brother who looks at the current situation and says socialism and more government controls is the answer. I look at it and see all kinds of opportunities for relationship building, even though prudence dictates that people not congregate in large numbers. Here are a few thoughts, not necessarily answers, because only HaShem has the answers.

I would love to see individuals, churches, and synagogues using this situation to help those in need. Help local businesses, to the extent one is able, by buying gift cards, for example. Many restaurants are hurting badly. Order take out where possible and tip generously if you are able. These steps might save some businesses from going bankrupt. Many elderly are feeling lonely and isolated. We, and our children, might contact a local assisted care or nursing home and see about sending notes to those who may be feeling sad and abandoned.

I don’t want to see government take over saving the economy because it reinforces the thinking of some that government is the answer to every problem we face. Some of what is going on is being done with good intention. I recall, however, my grandmother saying that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

I also recall a story I read some years ago about Davy Crockett. He was a Congressman at the time. When running for Re-election, he travelled through his district. He stopped at a farm to solicit the farmer’s vote. The farmer said he was not sure he could support Davy because Davy voted to use taxpayer money to help a widow (I think) whose home was destroyed in a fire. This widow lived in Washington, DC, and many congressmen and senators knew her and sympathized with her plight, so they voted to use public funds to help her. The farmer was blunt. He said that if these gentlemen wanted to help her, they should have used their own money not taxpayer dollars. Why not? Because these congressmen were responsible for using government funds to serve all the American people, not individuals they happened to know and like.

This virus is hurting our whole economy but the Congress will be making decisions on who to help. They need to beware that their choices are not based on personal bias. I do not envy them their task.

Susan Lapin says:

Joey, your suggestion about gift cards is a wonderful one. I know our synagogue has people making daily calls to the elderly and I am sure that many other places are doing the same. Notes to nursing homes would be most helpful, I’m sure.

I, too, heard the story about Davey Crockett, though I think (not sure) that it is apocryphal. Nonetheless, there are other stories that are documented showing the same thing. Tax money should not be allocated based on tugging heartstrings. That ends up giving it to some and not others and not helping the “common good.”

James says:

This is by no means to diminish the severity of the COVID-19 outbreak, actual, potential or pending. For certain government actions may indeed be called for. For who knows what our government knows about this virus that we do not know. Yet to echo the Two Daniels, it does indeed seem ironic that even the Republicans so many of us trust are now taking draconian actions that can only serve to increase the strength, power and scope of Mega-Government. This massive increase, if not reversible, can indeed by seized and exploited by the next Nimrod.

Susan Lapin says:

That is of great concern, James.

Gordy Beil says:

We ARE all in this together (each in our own individual and sovereign way)! Am I kidding? I hope so! In a Crisis, people seem to work together for a while and the more avaricious side of their nature comes to the fore. I live in Darrington Washington. Six years ago, we had a mudslide that took out a neighborhood and killed 43 people. I was proud of the way our citizens responded at first and later on digusted by the actions of several of them.

Is this one of those tests where there is NO completely right answer? Or is the answer to do the best that we can to the best of our ability.

Take care, Gordy.

Susan Lapin says:

Gordy, there is no all-reaching right answer for all of us other than that we have a responsibility both to our own families and also to the society at large. How that manifests will be different for each of us.

Kristin Grose says:

We’re Americans…with places to go, things to do and people to see! When our enviable lifestyle is all of a sudden blindsided by a mysterious and heretofore unknown huge health hazard necessitating a nearly total change in the way we live it’s frustrating, frightening and depressing with few answers. But, again, we’re Americans and we’ll take this challenge head on and show the rest of the world why we’re the greatest nation on God’s green earth as a mutual friend is wont to say.

Susan Lapin says:

That is certainly an optimistic attitude, Kristin.

Judy Cockrum says:

Are we in this together? WE ARE!! I remember …

I’m 71, I’ve never been this way before. (A 3-year-old has the same sentiment.) We’ve each had hardships, seen a bit of life, and don’t like our routine shaken or redistributed. I caught myself being upset yesterday that my Walmart Grocery Pick-Up substituted half-and-half for milk, I ordered milk, they were out of it.

No wait!! Let me re-think this. I’ve been quarantined when my sisters had measles, that was daunting for 10 days. I was in high school algebra class when President John F Kennedy was assassinated, my world stopped for months. Then, there was Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy’s lives ripped from us. I’ve personally been home bound without necessities, in the blizzard of ’78. I’ve had physical ailments that nearly took my life; in addition, life as I knew it was completely devastated on 9/11/2001 when I stood 3 ft from the tv screen and watched the twin towers fall to a sky high dust cloud. I particularly remember the blue skies, with no airplanes for days afterwards. The first plane I saw was frightful, as I had no idea if it was a terrorist or the flying restrictions were lifted. Early in our marriage, I waited for 13 months for my husband to meet our son, as he served in Korea on the DMZ, during the Viet Nam war. I’m in recovery for addiction, and know that if I allow old thought patterns and judgements to return I could go back to my old ways, in relapse. I’m the daughter of a WWII vet who participated in the liberation Dauchau Concentration Camp, he returned home, met my Mom, they married, raised 3 daughters and he never truly faced his demons. I’ve been here before, I’ve been together with fearful loved ones, but only in pieces, in snippets.

I’m pulling from all of these experiences and telling myself and others, that there is a God who cares, He knows our future. I’m praying for those in leadership, government, employers, store owners; praying for the mothers burdened with schooling and scraping family meals together, and encouraging my own family and friends.

But, today I’m so grateful. I’m not a victim of this Pandemic. I’m a participant by existence. I’m encouraged that this crisis we’re experiencing is controllable. So far, we can stay connected through social media, while we practice social distancing. Using this beautiful gift to encourage and hold each other up is so crucial. Love your family, reach someone in need today, and pray for those who make decisions affecting your life. Our reactions are showing. Document your experience, your grandchildren will hear of the pandemic of 2020, and will want to hear your take on it. Remember is one of my favorite words, can you tell? We’ve leveled the playing field again, what will we build this time?

Susan Lapin says:

What very beautiful words and ideas, Judy. Thank you.

Lisa Fulkerson says:

Thank you Judy, Susan, and Rabbi!!! These words were all so very encouraging. I have a lot of time to read and meditate on the Bible. God tells us over and over to “Fear not, for I am with you” I am just concerned.

Rabbi, I have a question. This has come up on Facebook encounters with people that I love very much but have a radically different worldview than I do. A friend had posted about how she missed going to church. People were encouraging her that God is everywhere and that she doesn’t need to be in a church. Her response was that she just loved being with her church family. I sensed a sadness in her response and I responded that isn’t this a great time to be alive – when churches are closed but abortion clinics are open. You can imagine how well that comment was received. Hence my question: when is it a time to be salt and when is it a time to turn the other cheek because I don’t want to add to chaos but feel that I should speak up.

I would really appreciate your insight.

Thank you.

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