By Pamela Noel
A friend recently shared that she had been sent an article about the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic. She suggested I read it, which I did. For my purposes at the moment, it doesn’t really matter what the content of the article was. What was interesting to me were some of the responses she received when she made suggestions to others on Facebook that they might like to take a look at this article. She didn’t have any particular position on it. She was not agreeing or disagreeing with the statements offered. She was merely giving folks the opportunity to look at different thoughts on this pandemic.
As a result she was “slammed.” She was vilified and taken to task for even opening the door to a different way of looking at what we are all experiencing. She told that me it made her feel two things. First, she felt like ducking and covering, not uttering another word. Second, she was astounded that people were not willing to consider a different perspective, not wanting a different view to experience the light of day.
What happens where we have radically different viewpoints? We have “choices” in how we respond. And the manner in which some of us respond saddens me. We are seemingly becoming more divided into a partisan country. I am also saddened that we cannot respectfully have a discussion about the ways things are or “appear” to be, and also disappointed that the freedom of expression needs to be kept under cover and only shared within our peer groups safely and without ridicule.
What if we can be open to another viewpoint? What is the worst that could happen? What is the best outcome? Can we open ourselves to the questions without having to know the answers? Could there possibly be “some” truth in another view, and could this truth be key to our common survival? I think these are valid questions that all of us could consider. Why divide ourselves into a “right” or “wrong” camp? Ultimately and historically, that has led to war worldwide. And violence has never accomplished much. As Mahatma Ghandi once said, “An eye for an eye just leaves the whole world blind”.
Regardless of what is occurring across the country that is working to divide us, we ARE a community. There is much we have in common — the love of the mountains, a rural community lifestyle, the forests, the rivers, and all that surrounds us, as well as the ability to distance ourselves from a more crowded and urban environment.
What we need right now are certain attributes which will help all of us navigate the difficult present, and most likely, a difficult future. We need open minds — the ability to listen and really hear differing points of view. We need to greet one another with respect whenever we encounter a position or opinion that is different from ours. This lubricant of respect will enable us to work together for our mutual survival. We need resilience — the ability to come back from the shocks that are now being felt. We need compassion in understanding those who are different from ourselves, and those who are hurting. We need to be generous if we are in a position to give what is needed.
But most of all, we need to remember that there is more we have in common than what separates us. There are more things in which we agree than in which we disagree. We need to focus on this as we build our foundation for going forward.