Though some of the recent openings are hopeful, other news this past week only serves to highlight differences. From news clips to social media posts, division and debate is what you see. The way we move forward is by focusing on what we agree on, and building on that.
Perspective matters in our large and diverse country. There are dense cities and vast open spaces. Scientists. Artists. Stay-at-home parents. CEOs. Busboys. Law enforcement. Drug addicts. Wealthy. Poor. Hunters. Vegans. No one can set the agenda for what American life should look like without buy-in from others.
As I write this, I’m in a campground, preparing dinner. All day long people have been riding bikes and walking around with their kids and dogs. Whether on the road or in town, getting outdoors and enjoying our pets has been a sanity saver for everyone. Little disagreement there.
And a good meal is a wonderful thing. During the shutdowns, some of us have tried new recipes and shared them with friends. One of the first things that happened after the shutdown was ensuring people who needed meals got them, whether they be children, seniors, medical workers or those out of work. This is universal glue that shouldn’t be forgotten.
We all want to get back to our lives, safely. We might disagree on what the new normal should be, but no one is happy that things got cancelled and workers and businesses are struggling. We agree COVID-19 blindsided us and that we were unprepared. Now we need to agree to take steps to keep ourselves safe health-wise and stave off economic ruin.
We can agree workplaces should be operated in accordance with evolving health guidelines, because workers need to be safe and businesses need healthy staff to keep operating.
We agree that having a job and producing something is good for the mind and the wallet. We agree that business owners should not be forced into bankruptcy. We can agree that facing a disease with health insurance and without it are two very different things.
We can agree our country and our world have great natural beauty. We can also agree that recreation, tourism, the arts and the public and private sectors all play a part in peoples’ well-being. We can agree that clean air, land and water are better than pollution, and that a good goal is to not waste fuel or resources.
Wanting our children to be educated and happy is universal. Wanting transparent, efficient government and logical, beneficial regulations is common as well. A comfortable, healthy retirement. A safe neighborhood. A short commute. A nearby store where we can get what we need. A chance for success if we work hard and play by the rules. Across the board, we aren’t so different in what we are seeking.
True we have inequalities. Some clearly treat people differently based on their religion, their age, sex, race, nationality, or social status. We have scandals. We have those who cheat, steal and break the law. We have those who take advantage of situations and those who delight in stirring the ample fires of discontent.
Ahead, we face the challenges of COVID-19, with insufficient medical supplies, no vaccine, limited testing, an unstable manufacturing and supply chain, and lack of a complete scientific understanding of the disease. We have a damaged economy that demonstrated a huge part of our society, from government to business to individuals, had no savings and no backup plan. We have increasingly severe weather and natural disasters, and grossly underfunded infrastructure to help us survive it. There is no shortage of issues that need thoughtful attention.
We don’t get out of this by focusing on what divides us. We don’t get out of this by screaming at each other and battling behind the keyboard. We get out of this, as we have gotten out of everything, by forging relationships. By talking. By listening. By trying to get everyone to the table so we can build on what we agree on.
Rural, suburban, urban. Business. Workers. Outdoorspeople. Families. Male. Female. Democrat. Republican. Retired. Parents. Students. Even by just sharing the joy of a perfect summer day, or gushing over a banana bread recipe, or laughing about our collective bad shutdown hair, right now we need to connect.
There’s much work to do, and it doesn’t get done by fighting. It gets done by moving forward, together.
Maria Gutzeit is a chemical engineer, business owner, elected official, and mom living in Santa Clarita.