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Terry McLaughlin: Worst part is we are doing this to ourselves

Terry McLaughlin
Columnist

The confluence of events occurring over the past few months has caused many of us to feel overwhelmed and anxious. Although I have always been a “glass half-full” type of person, I, too, feel as though every day I am witnessing the life being sucked out of America and its citizens right in front of me.

The coronavirus pandemic has wracked havoc on our country in incalculable ways. Most obviously, a number of our citizens have suffered through a serious illness, and many have died. Not only do we grieve those deaths, but we also grieve for those left mourning, many of whom suffer in the knowledge that their loved ones died alone. The inability to hold a funeral or memorial service, providing physical support and empathy from others, amplifies the tragedy.

But the less obvious health consequences are also enormous, as community shutdowns and isolation have caused a documented increase in domestic violence and deaths by suicide, along with serious medical conditions that have gone undiagnosed or untreated because patients were either unable to obtain medical care or chose to ignore symptoms or delay treatments for fear of being in a hospital or doctor’s office. Elective procedures were cancelled or postponed, and in many cases, delaying those procedures has led to long-term, irreversible health consequences.

The economic effects of the countrywide lockdown are obvious on every street corner in America. In our own community, some of the more fragile businesses were unable to withstand months with no income and have closed permanently. Many of those that have been able to survive were forced to lay off employees for an indeterminate amount of time — which grew from weeks into months. Our food banks have been overwhelmed by those in need, at the same time that all of our nonprofits are struggling to maintain their services despite reduced donations and fundraising opportunities.

We must not continue down this path, or all that will be left to us is the hollow shell of our beloved country.

And then a match was lit when one unfit police officer in Minnesota committed a horrendous act upon another human being, whose agonizingly slow death was witnessed via video across the nation. With a citizenry already on the edge from worries about contracting a potentially fatal illness, unexpectedly schooling their children at home, and wondering if they could even pay their rent — this despicable act was the catalyst that sparked demonstrations in most major cities across the country.

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As Americans united in their revulsion over this callous act, what started as peaceful gatherings to remember the victim, devolved quickly in many places into unconscionable acts of vandalism, looting, destruction, injury, and even death — hurting most the very communities and shop owners who were just moving toward reopening their businesses and recovering their livelihoods as their states and counties began relaxing lockdown restrictions. On May 31 alone, the city of Chicago experienced its most violent day in 60 years – 48 persons were shot in street violence, 18 died.

Along with actual instances of destruction and death, thousands of people gathered together in tightknit groups — monumentally increasing the opportunities for the continuing spread of coronavirus. Only time will tell how many more lives will be lost from Covid-19 infections resulting from these interactions. Only time will tell how many businesses will be unable to recover from both the economic shutdown, and then the looting and vandalism that followed. Only time will tell how many employers who suffered at the hands of vandals will permanently depart a community — taking jobs and local taxes with them and leaving those communities even more desperate and distressed than before the emergence of Covid-19.

These protests have spurred a call to defund or eliminate police departments throughout the country, branding all law enforcement officers, who were lauded as heroes just a few weeks earlier, as racist and violent, although actual statistics and our own common sense support neither of those assertions. These protests have spurred a renewed call to remove statues of Confederate figures around the country — an issue that deserves sober discussion and debate, with decisions appropriate to each community made at the local level. Instead, we are witnessing vandalism, graffiti, and sledgehammers taken to public property, as one small segment of the population makes the decision for all.

An orderly shutdown, cautiously mandated by our government leaders and medical professionals in the belief that it would save numerous lives, was accepted by the citizenry as a wise precautionary measure. For several months we have all done our best to deal with a physically, mentally, and economically difficult situation, supporting our neighbors, our medical providers, our first responders, our food banks, our fellow citizens. Regardless of our race, gender or age, we have all experienced the strain of dealing with this pandemic, and many of those who were most able economically have been assisting those whom they know are suffering the greatest distress.

From the tensions built up during this time of isolation and stress has erupted an explosion of anger, violence, and chaos. Intended to honor the victim, what began as a public display of grief for an unjust death has become a disregard for the medical of the country as a whole and been hijacked by some into a vengeful attack on helpless and blameless business owners, destroying entire communities and untold livelihoods.

The worst part is that we are doing this to ourselves — slowly suffocating the compassion, generosity, goodness, and the very spirit of our citizens. We must not continue down this path, or all that will be left to us is the hollow shell of our beloved country.

Terry McLaughlin, who lives in Grass Valley, writes a twice monthly column for The Union. Write to her at terrymclaughlin2016@gmail.com.


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