OP-ED: Are we in this together?
“We’re all in this together” is the catchphrase of solidarity. It is a simple, but profound thought that when a crisis has affected all of us to one degree or another, this shared experience unites us.
In this pandemic, all of us have been touched, in one way or another. Many of us have lost loved ones and employment. Many are fearful to lose businesses, and many want to go back to work but have no child care or live with at-risk family. Many are working remotely with kids learning remotely. Many are alone, battling depression and addiction, or shuttered with abusers. Many are missing proms and graduations, weddings and funerals. Many of us just need a haircut.
The impact of this crisis is different for each of us and not equal among groups of people for many reasons left for another column. Yet, I believe we can see ourselves in, or know someone experiencing, these circumstances and more. If we are all in this together, battling a virus that doesn’t discriminate, we must be thoughtful in how our decision-making impacts all of our neighbors.
It’s ignorant, unrealistic and elitist to spew the talking point that folks at risk should just stay home, so the rest of us can get on with things the way we want. I can only imagine the frustration the disabled community experiences in fighting to ensure the well-being and safety of all to participate in society. Isn’t that what government is entrusted to do, to promote the welfare of the entire population?
Personally, I’m not in favor of the “let the elderly die to save the economy” plan that many on the far right are pitching as a patriotic choice. Not just the elderly are vulnerable to serious or fatal cases of the infection, but also anyone who is obese, diabetic, has high blood pressure, undergone cancer treatment, suffers from asthma, or smokes. Does that sound like anyone you know?
The cure wouldn’t be worse than the problem if our representatives were trying in earnest to innovate better solutions. Sadly, our local elected state legislators, even our district attorney and sheriff in York County, are making this pandemic both political and partisan.
Particularly disappointing is the behavior of freshman state Rep. Mike Jones, R-York Township. Denouncing experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Rachel Levine, he posted May 6 on his legislative Facebook page: “The experts aren’t experts. They’ve been wrong on virtually everything. They are power hungry and unfit to serve. It’s time to take back our state.”
Undermining our heath officials because you don’t like what they are saying is dangerous. But then Jones chose to blatantly disregard all federal and local advice and convene a private meeting of 150 people at Wisenhaven Event Center May 9. Based on pictures posted, the majority of attendees were not wearing masks in close quarters. Why couldn’t he have held a virtual town hall, to keep everyone safe? Frankly, it should disturb us all that a public official feels the need to convene private meetings.
Jones posted on his House Facebook page that he had the backs of businesses asking for his advice. Whose backs does he have — all of his constituents or only those who think like him or belong to the same political party?
But just in case you misinterpreted his position, Jones posted May 10: “I need to clear up a misconception — it was NEVER about making businesses open. It was ALWAYS about giving them the CHOICE to open. This is an undeniable casualty of forcing them to close.”
Jones is not an expert in liability law or insurance to even nudge with his rhetoric businesses to contemplate reopening against state health orders. However, he does have an expertise that really would be helpful, if he was interested in helping his constituents. Instead of expending energy bashing the leadership of the governor, perhaps Jones could use his time and supply chain expertise as someone who formerly led St. Onge, a supply chain-engineering firm. He could help businesses that can reopen find the masks, hand sanitizer, gloves, and other items they’ll need to protect staff and customers.
Jones should also spend time analyzing his policy positions and their impact today. For example, he posts about his concern for victims of domestic violence, people with addictions, and the growing suicide rate because of the shutdown. Yet he sponsored in January 2019, along with his YoCo cohorts, HB33 that repeals a general assistance program for adults with disabilities, drug dependent individuals and persons fleeing domestic abuse.
Jones was recorded at his private meeting firing up the crowd with partisan attacks on Gov. Wolf, gleefully reporting that they had “Wolf on the ropes”. Is this a game for Jones? Wolf is not perfect, and some of the rules did not make sense. Many of us agree. But the constant rhetoric making this a Republican-Democrat issue is poisoning the health of relationships in our community — among neighbors, friends and in families. I expect better of our representatives.
Those who lack leadership skills or ideas use the rhetoric of “us against them.” It takes real leadership to communicate in a way that unites, not divides. It takes real leadership to collaborate for solutions that give all of us the opportunity to be healthy, safe and prosper in our community — to be stronger and successful together.