It dominates our conversations. My wife lost her dad earlier this year and goes to visit her mom in Montana once a month. Now, she can’t go to see her. Our day started with this conversation: should Lynette just go see her, should she drive, should she chance it and fly? She still has a plane ticket for May 9 and the question remains — what do we do with it?
We have been COVIDING from home for over a month and I’m afraid it’s starting to win. Endless emails from students, principals, and district officials. FaceTime calls with our friends and families. Virtual Happy Hours with friends. Not hugging extended family and friends. Pretending that taking a walk around the neighborhood is all the freedom I’m yearning for. Every day exactly like the last damn day. And I’m getting tired of it all.
I’m tired of hearing about it. I’m tired of fighting with my kids to stay at home, when I can’t even stand the thought of staying at home. I’m tired of listening to people fight about opening the economy versus staying at home, like they are two diabolically opposed forces of a spectrum. I’m sick and tired of everybody being sick and tired. We are all grouchy about this and we can’t pretend anymore.
I teach a rhetoric class. One of my Day One lessons is that Argument gets a bad name in our world. Argument, at least according to Aristotle’s definition and the one I use, is the basis for scholarly discourse. At its core, Argument should be used to create discussion and help one strengthen one’s opinion by being challenged by valid perspectives on the other side of the argument. To truly hate the designated hitter and argue against it, you need to know the positives of it and why people like it. Simply saying “the American League sucks!” is a low-level Aristotelian argument.
Yet, “The AL Sucks” argument permeates our world. People are so polarized on either side of ANY debate, that it makes our world exhausting. I am so tired of our world not listening to each other. I am so tired of our world insisting that Trump is the Devil or Trump is God, with no in-between possible. I am so tired of people’s emotions ruling their arguments and creating a sense of righteousness in them that doesn’t deserve to be there.
I am not taking the economic impact of this pandemic lightly. I am also not taking the health impact of this pandemic lightly. Isn’t it possible that both perspectives are valid? Isn’t it possible there is something to learn from both perspectives? Isn’t it possible that there are three sides to any story: yours, mine, and the truth?
I want our world to listen to the other side of the argument and see what we can learn from it. I want our world to use Argument to work toward a unified goal.
I see people saying that our world will never get back to normal because of COVID and this “new normal” will be with us for years. Do I worry about my and my family’s health? You bet. But I don’t wrap myself in bubble wrap and refuse to go to the grocery store, either. I don’t have a portable Lysol shower strapped to my back.
I see people saying there is no COVID and it’s just the government trying to control us. Do I worry about governmental overreach? You bet. But I don’t have armed guards forcing me back to the house when I leave. If I want to go drive my Jeep and get out of the house, I do it.
However, I am neither a constitutional lawyer nor a doctor. I am not an epidemiologist or a disaster response manager. I will wager that I read and write more than most people, but I am not an expert in what is going on. So the only course of action I can take is to read and learn from people who are doctors, lawyers, epidemiologists, and disaster managers. I also make sure and read sources that don’t come from social media. Social media is becoming a sewer line of “ideas.”
I got accused the other day of being a sheep and just listening to what people say I should. I disagree. If I have a problem with my diesel pickup, I watch some YouTube videos and try to figure out what is wrong and if it is an easy, cheap fix. Sometimes it is. If it isn’t, I trust a diesel mechanic to get it running again. See, I’m not a mechanic. I don’t confuse my YouTube certification with the training and tools my mechanic friends have. They have expertise that I don’t have and I’m okay with that. It isn’t a shot at my manliness or my worthiness; they are better mechanics than I am.
I use that mechanic analogy and apply it to our world. I am not a doctor. But my sister, Torree McGowan, is an ER doctor and a disaster response manager for the Oregon Air National Guard. She literally knows more about this shit than almost anybody else in the nation because of her unique training and background. She has access to more information than I can find from Karen on Facebook. I’m lucky because I have somebody I trust for information. If you want her interpretation on COVID-19, check out some of her writing from the last two months.
Returning to Lysol and the current Facebook name-calling fight, I am seeing this exact spectrum of division regarding President Trump and bleach. Depending on who is writing the source, emergency rooms should either brace for a bunch of Trumpsters injecting their veins with bleach or he didn’t say it at all. Isn’t it possible that there is a middle ground? Isn’t there an answer for the nation between “Trump is so stupid he believes this” and “Trump Derangement Syndrome?” Yet, nobody can argue this effectively. I keep seeing The American League sucks, pathos-laden arguments.
I saw this same issue with President George W. Bush. I remember the Saturday Night Live skits making fun of him for how dumb he was. I watched him get crushed in the media for any mispronunciation of any word. However, on Sept. 11, 2001, he was faced with something not seen since 1941. I remember watching him and feeling calmed, reassured, and united. People rallied behind him and figured out how to move forward. I don’t know if people changed their opinion from before, but they found a way to put America first and get united.
In the time I took to write this, Diesel is still exiled outside. Both of us are pissed at the dog. Both of us are pissed at each other. But in truth, both of us are pissed at COVID-19 and all this crap that it has brought. But the longer I think about this, I wonder if this situation is just highlighting the problems we already had with our world.
As a young football coach, I used to say that adversity built one’s character. As I’ve gotten older, I have changed my thinking.
Adversity reveals one’s character and I’m tired of what I see. I want America to get focused, get united, and get better.
This would have been easier if it was aliens.