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The importance of being social

I am really looking forward to seeing everyone at our Langseth Fundraiser and Taco Bar on August 12. I hope, like me, you are fully vaccinated against COVID and eager for social connection. If so, you can go to the Events page on this website to rsvp.

Happily, holding the event outdoors at the large shelter in M.B. Johnson Park minimizes the risk of transmission. Although the pandemic is not over by any means, the science that brought the vaccines so quickly to our adult population has enabled a return to some semblance of normality for those of us who were lucky and sensible enough to get the jab.

As we begin to slowly put the coronavirus into the rearview mirror, I think it’s a good time to begin to take stock of the lessons it teaches. High on the list has to be the recognition that humans are social animals. Although I personally did not have nearly as hard a time getting through the pandemic as many people, I have seen the toll that social isolation has taken on the mental health of people I know and care about. We need each other.

Our interdependence was also driven home by the politics of mask wearing. Masks are somewhat effective in protecting the mask wearer, but they mainly serve to protect others from the contagion one might unwittingly transmit.

The pandemic thus became a lesson in the importance of social solidarity. Caring about others’ welfare is not only sound morality, but decidedly in our own self-interest if we ever want to get this thing under control.

Unfortunately, that lesson has been lost on those who cling to a misguided individualism. People who place their own individual freedom ahead of their ethical obligation to the group have been emboldened by a great deal of misinformation and disinformation, and the same dynamic that caused resistance to mask wearing now fuels resistance to getting vaccinated. It is all reflective of a culture that has come to distrust our social institutions, and most especially the institution of government.

Yet the pandemic also compels us to recognize that we need government. It is what helped us get through the economic shutdown. It is largely responsible for bringing us the vaccines. It is, in short, the best means we have for acting together as a society in service to the common good. That is not a call for blind obedience, but rather for political engagement. We are all called upon to push for a government that genuinely works for all of us.

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