We are not all. We are “me”.

I call them early summer morning simmering sinner runs. Thanks to a Bermuda high anchored off the coast, the temperature, humidity, and dew point miserably conspire. From these conspirators, by the end of the run, I am soaked in perspiration. I think this is a good way to get the meanness out of my old body.

With these occasional early morning treks, my mind wanders. I don’t know about you, but I have a weariness in my noggin. I think quite a bit about America, and often, I conclude from “sea to shining sea” we are a mess.

If we really think about it, I don’t believe this is new news. Our struggles are well documented. Despite our good intentions, America has been internally wrestling with itself for a long time. 

I am no historian, but I think quite a bit about World War II and how our country responded to the challenges in Europe and the Pacific. Despite our imperfections during that time, what strikes me was our unity, sacrifice, commitment. 

I often ask myself where are those qualities now? Why don’t we want to defeat COVID-19 with the same determination?

Maybe Asbury Pruitt has some insight on those missing qualities. Mr. Pruitt was one of the Tangier Island watermen in Earl Swift’s book, Chesapeake Requiem. Mr. Pruitt perceived that the waves from the Chesapeake Bay were having an impact on the island’s shoreline.

On January 8, 1964, on the western edge of the island, Mr. Pruitt drove an iron pipe into the marshy ground. Next, he measured the distance from the pipe to where the water lapped against the shoreline.

Each year on January 8, Mr. Pruitt returned to the iron pipe and measured the distance to the waterline. For decades, he measured and recorded his findings. During the first seven years of tracking, Mr. Pruitt found an average of twelve feet of shore was eaten away by the bay. 

In 1974, ten years after the start of his research, the Chesapeake eroded away thirty-seven feet of the island. Personally, I believe a similar type of erosion has been wearing on America. Inch by inch, foot by foot, we have been slipping away from our unity, sacrifice, commitment.

Most obvious in this deterioration is the selfish, stubborn emergence of “me.” “Me” appears to thrive in creating incivility, havoc, disunion. That type of thinking erodes us further away from we and all— the good of the cause.

I try to be an optimistic person. 

But, I really struggle to understand why individuals smarter than me will not take the vaccine. I have the same question for medical personnel, police officers, teachers, firefighters—the backbone of our country who refuse to comply. My guess is that “me” has blurred their ability to reason out the facts and find the truth.

With the opening of school upon us, I do not understand the pushback for requiring students and teachers to wear masks. What doesn’t the “me” in our elected public officials and parents understand about the 647,361 Americans (NYTimes 9/4/21) who have died thanks to COVID-19? Does this mean the “me” in them wants to jeopardize the health of more individuals?

Sadly, even within the holy walls of houses of worship, “me” skirmishes occur over masks and vaccines.

I’ll be honest. There is me in me too. I’m imperfect. I can be stubborn and selfish. 

But, with COVID-19, why can’t we be we and all, not “me”? Where might America be now if “me” had been more compliant with masks and vaccines earlier? 

Before departing on my simmering sinner runs, I record the current weather data including visibility. Most mornings, the visibility is ten miles. Some rare mornings, the visibility falls below ten.

During this battle with COVID-19, I think our vision has been undermined. That makes me think about this quote from Helen Keller:  “Better to be blind and see with your heart, than to have two good eyes and see nothing.” 

In responding to COVID-19, the “me” in our current vision is not working. We can’t continue this way.

Asbury Pruitt’s vision and subsequent findings about his cherished island eroding into the Chesapeake were not grounded in “me”. His findings were grounded for the we and all on Tangier.

If we have any chance of defeating COVID-19 like we pushed back our enemies in World War II, we must change the “me” in our hearts to we and all.

A pretty church and our American flag Carpinteria, California 8/8/2018 photo Bill Pike

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