A Short Bridge Between Us

I’m standing in line for my second dose of Pfizer vaccine in a bustling CVS. Everyone waiting joins in a jovial camaraderie. The man wearing a United Steelworkers t-shirt says he can’t wait to get the shot. “I’m retired,” he says. “I spend my time traveling to see my five grandchildren, that’s what I do. Until Covid. I haven’t seen them in a year. That includes a three-month-old granddaughter I haven’t held.” He shakes his head. “You can’t have a relationship with a baby on a screen.”

A woman with a soft accent takes off her coat and folds it over her arm. “I am so happy to get my second shot,” she says. “I feel so lucky.”

A man with a ponytail in his curly gray hair says, “I don’t know who I’m going to be seeing of my family, what with everyone divided over politics. I’ll keep quiet if that’s what it takes to sit down at the same table.” He doesn’t say what “side” he’s on. It doesn’t matter. We’re in this together.

I think about a report I recently read. It’s based on a national survey taken in late January of this year. Its focus is what Americans prioritize and what they think others prioritize for this country’s long-term future. The survey included Trump voters and Biden voters. Instead of asking only direct question about support or opposition to various positions, they also asked choice-based questions to get beyond what respondents believe they should say or think most people would say.

The results? Americans share long-term goals to a remarkable degree. Here’s a summary of their findings.

Across race, gender, income, education, generational cohorts, and 2020 presidential vote, there is stunning agreement on the long-term national values and priorities that Americans believe should characterize the country moving forward. Chief among them: high quality healthcare as a necessity, not a privilege; an overwhelming commitment to individual rights; and upholding equal treatment for all, but not necessarily equal outcomes.

Where significant differences in aspirations do emerge, they are almost entirely political in nature. The evidence suggests Americans mistake intensity of partisan disagreement on a small number of issues (e.g., immigration) for breadth of partisan disagreement across a far-ranging number of issues.

Collective illusions — significant gaps between personal and perceived societal aspirations for the nation — as an obstacle to progress. For example, there is a surprising level of support for action on climate change and conservation. However, Americans don’t recognize it. Climate action privately ranks as the third highest personally-held national aspiration out of 55 possibilities; yet, Americans believe that ‘most others’ would rank climate action as a much lower priority (#33).

Biden voters and Trump voters share a sense of urgency around 5 policy objectives. Voters from both political camps want improvement in the near-term on healthcare, keeping communities safe, helping the middle class, modernizing infrastructure, and criminal justice reform.

It’s the retired steelworker’s turn. Before sitting in the chair for his shot, he turns to us. “I’m leaving two weeks from today,” he says with a grin, “driving across Ohio to hold the baby girl I’ve been missing.”

The dark-haired woman is next. She says “I hope I don’t cry. This has me all emotional.”

Then it’s my turn. I find it hard to contain my exuberance. “I expected trumpet fanfares with each shot!” I say to the pharmacist. What does she do? She bursts into song.

10 thoughts on “A Short Bridge Between Us

  1. Please, everyone, do your own RESEARCH on this vaccine. For starters, why not go to the most natural, least intrusive means available? Eg., hydroxychloroquine and other suggested antidotes. Please QUESTION all behaviors mandated or suggested in response to the virus. Do your OWN research and check in with your gut. The answers are always within you. Giving responsibility for knowing to somebody else, as adults, NEVER works out in the long run, and may have immediate, serious, harmful consequences.

    As parents and caregivers, we are meant to be examples of being centered in our own soul, connected to the spirit of life within, and drawing our knowledge and inspiration from that connection. Living that example is the most powerful truth you can teach a child. Living that truth is essential to strong people and healthy communities.

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    • I agree it’s important to do one’s own research, relying on peer-reviewed science and the experts in immunology, infectious disease, and epidemiology who can best advise on the science. Science tells us the least intrusive ways to stop the spread of Covid-19 and its variants are masks, hand-washing, social distancing, and yes, vaccines. People have been inoculating against disease for hundreds of years or longer. There’s some evidence the technique stretches back to India and China over 1000 years ago. (Hydroxychloroquine is a pharmaceutical drug and not remotely “natural.”) That said, I totally believe it is your right to refuse vaccination.

      I agree it’s important to question. I operate with a healthy dose of skepticism and take action where I can. I’ve made natural remedies for my family for decades, grow as much of our food as I can, cook every meal from scratch, avoid coercive situations in education, and otherwise claim my own authority. That said, I can’t agree that “giving responsibility for knowing to somebody else, as adults, NEVER works out.” For example, I entirely give over the responsibility to design and install the electrical system in my house to experts rather than checking in with my gut on how it should be done. I gratefully give over the responsibility to experts in nearly every field where I am not an expert. (Pretty much every field…)

      I agree entirely with your last paragraph. We are indeed living examples of our beliefs. I strongly believe it is my responsibility to my loved ones as well as to every other beautiful soul in this planet to prevent the spread of a disease that has killed nearly three million people around the world. This disease and many like it stem (according to science) from our destruction of natural habitat, allowing zoonotic diseases to spread from animals to humans. I hope we can be living examples to children that we care about by not only stopping the spread of Covid-19 but also reversing our destruction of the natural world.

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  2. America is a nation of decent, kind, rational people, divided by their politicians. Exceptions merely prove the rule. I’m glad that people who wish to be vaccinated are able to access it, and that people who don’t are not being compelled to do so by a screaming, weapon-brandishing mob. If only everyone was as wise as your grey-haired fellow-vaccinee. Silence is sometimes golden, and he who shouts loudest is not necessarily right. We have a bit of a spike going on here (nothing serious, 10 cases) of the UK variant, and Queensland is back in masks for the duration. We’re all crossing fingers we’ll be cleared before Easter.

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  3. Laura,
    I had my second dose this week as well at a CVS. It was neither bustling nor interactive, but I do thank you for sharing your thoughts–I think you are indeed correct about the greater similarities and differences amongst us not matter our political leanings. I hope this pandemic reminds us all of what is important in this life we live. I wore my “Wonder Woman” tank top and decided to splurge on a snack I used to love when a teenager: Diet Coke and potato chips for my LONG ride home (~70 miles each way). I do feel a sense of liberation—it brings new meaning to the Passover (hence my selecting potato chips) celebration of “freedom”. Stay well!

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