By Alison Despathy
I have faith that our amazing Vermont community despite our differing perspectives and world views will work together to preserve and secure our liberties, integrity and democratic process all of which are integral to the health of humanity and personal sovereignty.
Fear paralyzes. As we all know, it has been an incredibly destructive and detrimental twenty-one months for many people on so many levels. People’s lives have been put on hold and altered in ways never witnessed before because of covid and all the associated collateral damage such as: job loss, mental health struggles, increases in drug use and addiction, compromises to our children’s education, social-emotional concerns during these formative years and interference with natural, healthy, human connections and interactions.
Despite the trauma that each of us as individuals as well as our community have undergone, it is vital that we find a common ground to move forward together with respect and compassion for each other and all of our differing opinions and perspectives. Remembering our humanity and using our moral principles and values as the ultimate guides during these times will ensure that we all make it through intact with integrity, liberty and honor preserved.
It seems that people are starting to be able to think clearly again and get a hold of the paralyzing fear that has recently directed so much of our thought and action. The cycle and stream of misinformation and the hyped, exaggerated narrative as is so often portrayed by the media feeds the fear and trauma and creates a very dangerous, misinformed echo chamber. This then results in a wave of societal pressure including blaming, shaming, judgment, discrimination and coercion that is not only cruel but is also not grounded -scientifically, ethically or legally. Regardless, it dangerously prevails as the ‘acceptable’ narrative and cruel treatment of others with differing perspectives.
We hear about new variants and there is instantly panic. Coronaviruses are common cold viruses that have always existed. They are highly contagious, RNA viruses which naturally and easily mutate and have most often been benign throughout history. Staying calm, keeping the historical track record of coronavirsuses in mind and seeking real information is what will allow people to break out of the fear and the vicious cycle of tracking coronaviruses with naturally endless variants and contagion.
It is important to keep in mind that cases do not equate with lethality, active infection or transmissibility, quite the contrary, a high majority of the cases are asymptomatic. It is vital for the health of ourselves, our children and our community that we try to rise above the fight or flight stress and the fear that often permeates and see if we can take in information that will really inform our perspectives and thus our decisions and our actions. Trying to use logic and reason not fear and compulsion to balance out the equation is necessary to attempt to reach a true understanding of the situation and not be impulsive and destructive in our thoughts and actions
We know that the social emotional health of so many in our community has been impacted by this situation. Healing trauma in an individual and in this case also healing trauma in our community and society will take time. It will take conscious behaviors to pull ourselves back from the surrounding fear and the fear culture that has taken root through this time. Acknowledging the traumatic experience that everyone has gone through is critical to then determine what steps should be taken to heal ourselves and our community.
This then leads to the question of common ground. What is our common ground? What is the foundation that we can all work from despite extreme, polarized differences of opinion and world views in this present moment? Respect and compassion must reign supreme and fear cannot be the driving force. It is critical to keep in mind that throughout all of history, people in all parts of the world have undergone persecution due to differing world views and belief systems.
We need to consciously prevent a slip back to that nightmare and never allow that to happen again.
We can look to the holy wars, the destruction of cultures and all of the religious persecution and revolutions that took place throughout the centuries. As guaranteed and outlined in our Constitution and Bill of Rights, these differences can indeed coexist together and more so are respected and protected.
We as individuals, have liberties guaranteed that are untouchable and innate. This was truly revolutionary. This is our common ground: the fact that humans have rights granted to them by a power higher than the state or any other human being.
This was the intention, the design, the plan, in order to prevent any situation that may arise from ever interfering with our basic fundamental human rights. This is sacred and profound and is the common ground that we must work from with respect and compassion as our driving forces so that we can come through this together.
Regardless of our Founding Fathers’ faults and the fact that they were working within a framework of their time, they were able to create a document which guaranteed individual liberties and freedoms that were to be held up and defended by our elected government officials as well as our courts of law. This was their gift to us, to all American citizens. The current approach to handling the covid pandemic brings risk to these inalienable rights, these guaranteed civil liberties and freedoms that form the very foundation of our country.
Individual freedom and liberty is a gift granted and ensured by our existing government documents and framework, we must again recognize and acknowledge the significance of this gift so that it is not dismantled and swallowed under our very own watch. If we want to prevent this from happening then these liberties and rights guaranteed by our Constitution must be upheld at all times. This is our common ground.
Our democratic process, our inalienable rights and our humanity are all being tested and challenged in ways we have not experienced before. We must hold onto these gifts through the storm that currently rages and the many that humanity will undoubtedly face in the future.
This will be the gift that together we can pass to our children and descendants. This is the torch that we are tasked with carrying through the darkest of times, the most polarizing, seemingly divided times. Our success in upholding and securing these rights will ultimately determine the future that we leave for our children and humanity and the preservation of a free society for all.
Let us please keep humanity, compassion and respect for our differences at the forefront of our thoughts and actions. Let us not slip back into the mindset and judgment that permeated so much of our history and involved persecuting our neighbors for different world views and belief systems. With this in mind….
I call on you to stand up and reach out to your neighbors and legislators to help preserve freedom for our children and all of humanity.
I call on you to recognize the intimacy and necessity that exists between freedom and our individual rights of body autonomy and the ability to make health choices and medical decisions for ourselves that our private and protected.
I call on you to stand up against mandates that violate fundamental human rights guaranteed in a free society.
I call on all of us to come together and have meaningful, long overdue, respectful civic debates and conversations.
Without these rights, true freedom does not exist and the fabric and foundation of what makes our country so unique and a shining light for so many would be destroyed. We have been offered a gift, the most precious gift in history and the question is can we hold onto this gift, this common ground, through the many trials that will arise for humanity along the way?
The author is a Danville resident and St. Johnsbury clinical nutritionist.