The CDC has lifted mask requirements, and here in rural upstate New York, Trump country, we’ve started noticing lots of folks now happily doing just that: happily wandering around in public spaces, mask free. This, after it took all kinds of mandates and very visible notices to get folks to wear masks (properly) in the first place. We’ve been vaccinated, as has every person in our little social circle. But, surprise surprise, most of the people who live in these parts do not believe in the Covid vaccine. So…here we are, back to square one again.
On a recent episode of The New Yorker Radio Hour, Drs. Atul Gawande and Siddhartha Mukherjee discussed this state of affairs, and were distressed about what the effects of this proportion of non-vaccine inclined Americans would have on the eventual desired outcome for all of us: a Covid free nation. They, along with host David Remnink, circled back to the idea of public service and patriotism: why couldn’t a country that puts so much weight on the idea of patriotism and flag waving, get behind the idea of vaccination as a patriotic duty of every American citizen?
Mulling over the issues raised in the podcast, I thought about the larger community in which I live, where the prevailing notion is very much us vs. them: liberal vs. redneck (Trumpian) conservative, recently moved here from cities vs. always been here. That kind of compartmentalization makes us destined to move around always worried about who has been vaccinated and who has not. And, in that spirit I offer this poem for Poetry Friday:
Where We Are Headed ~ Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer
At first we just say flower. How
thrilling it is to name. Then it’s
aster. Begonia. Chrysanthemum.
We spend our childhood learning
to separate one thing from another.
Daffodil. Edelweiss. Fern. We learn
which have five petals, which have six.
We say, “This is a gladiolus, this hyacinth.”
And we fracture the world into separate
identities. Iris. Jasmine. Lavender.
Divorcing the world into singular bits.
And then, when we know how to tell
one thing from another, perhaps
at last we feel the tug to see not
what makes things different, but
what makes things the same. Perhaps
we feel the pleasure that comes
when we start to blur the lines—
and once again everything
is flower, and by everything,
I mean everything.