Hollie Grimaldi Flores: Disconnected
I began writing this piece a few weeks ago. At the time, I believed AB5, (the bill that limits freelance writers to 35 articles to a publication annually) would be modified, and this one aspect of my life would remain intact. That has not happened and so, sadly, this is my last column until next year, or until an amendment to the legislation passes.
What a difference a week makes. I, like many in the community, had been reeling from the violence that broke out against peaceful protestors. I had been thinking about how our citizens had become divided and was wishing there was an easy way for us to remember that (as Kamala Harris is fond of saying), ” We have a lot more in common than what separates us.”
And then a fire broke out and reminded us. Neighbor helping neighbor – no one asking for party preference before offering a helping hand. It was quite a distraction from the week prior when a peaceful protest became violent.
We are living in an incredibly tumultuous time. With growing concern over the state of the country overall, but more so in our beloved hamlet in Northern California, I am watching the growing discord that began with a virus, was perpetuated with yet another senseless death and continues with an unending cry for justice. The divide between the left and right in the country is growing ever larger and is rearing its ugly head in this county.
Our citizens are passionate in our beliefs. I realize it is not just one thing, but a culmination of the never-ending challenges of 2020 bringing out the underbelly of our community. At the center are isolation and separation caused by the restrictions of the pandemic that has shifted the overall ethos.
The members of the community in which I live have thrived on being involved. We boast about having a disproportionately large number of nonprofits. We have five different Rotary clubs in our county of less than 100,000 people! For a time, there were three Soroptimist groups (a service organization of women who raised funds and awareness for women and children) along with Kiwanis, Lions, Elks, and Masons, just to name a few.
We are a community of givers who are not afraid to work hard for the greater good. We have clubs for animals, children, Veterans, gardeners, quilters, newcomers and gemologists. Name a cause and you can be certain Nevada County has a club or organization to support it.
Fundraisers were the life blood of the community. Each and every weekend there was at least one organization hosting an event to raise money to further their mission, be it the eradication of polio, women escaping violence, reading programs, respite for caregivers, arts enrichment — the list was never ending.
Businesses owners would talk about multiple requests from local groups soliciting donations for their particular cause occurring daily. We attended dinners, dances, auctions, casino nights, plays, concerts and gatherings of every imaginable theme, all for the greater good of our friends, families and neighbors.
The county has always been diverse in its political views and lifestyles, where loggers and miners met new age bohemians who discovered the area, settled in and made the mistake of telling their friends, who began buying real estate as well.
Many an evening, the most conservative members of the community could be seen sitting alongside the most liberal, while bidding on auction items or playing blackjack at a speakeasy, all for a cause.
Even the county fair boasted a food alley designed to support our local nonprofits while the mechanics and animal auctions would benefit local youth. In addition, we had summer markets where we would once again put aside our differences and literally dance in the streets.
We were a busy group. It is what kept us all connected. Certainly, we could have differing political views, but we could all agree raising funds to help the homeless, or youth or the elderly was a good idea. We taught our children to give a hand up, and to stand up for injustice.
Now, all of that is on hiatus. We seem to have lost our sense of community and how much we all have in common. What began as and still are safety measures put in place to slow the spread of a deadly disease is turning us one against the other. Over the span of just a few months, the rate of infections, and deaths have become a point of contention.
Would we feel a bit more able to withstand the financial hardships if more people we knew personally died from the virus? Would it feel justified if our hospital were overrun with patients, our medical staff pushed to the brink of exhaustion? Did we do too good of a job of slowing down the spread that we believe it was all for naught?
A musician friend of mine recently played outside at a venue and was feeling conflicted. The live music helped the venue but also drew a crowd. How do we strike a balance as personal freedoms versus the safety of all has become a polarizing topic?
Do we stay at home or do we protest? Do we support those businesses we used to count on for donations or watch them close from a lack of funds?
The financial hardships from this pandemic are a long way from over but our greatest loss is our connection to one another. I miss seeing my friends and neighbors out dancing under the stars, go cart racing, talking smack about their dance moves, or paying our respect to first responders.
I miss the heart of our community. Early this year, I had a conversation with a group of people (at yet another fundraiser) about how it was always the same people at event after event, and how we were all getting a bit tired. What would we give to have our dance card full today? And when we are again able to attend those events, what kind of community will we be? I can only hope that when the smoke clears, we can find a way to respect what separates us and embrace all that we have in common.
Hollie Grimaldi Flores is a Nevada County resident and freelance writer for hire. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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