Ideas: Wedding brawl helps inspire question: is it possible to be kind?

Note from Ideas and Voices Editor Amelia Robinson: This guest column by Centerville writer Anne Marie Romer appeared on the Dayton Daily News Ideas and Voices page on Sunday, Aug. 23, 2020 with others on the topic of communicating with those we disagree with during politically toxic times. Other columns are linked below.

I spoke with a friend recently who attended a family wedding. Scaled back, it was meant to be COVID-appropriate with masks and social distancing. The ceremony was delayed because several wedding party guests got into an argument in the parking lot about whether coronavirus was a hoax — I kid you not. The wedding eventually proceeded, but the stain of passionate disagreement lingered.

In this day of 24-hour cable news, social media access or like-minded communication, we are tempted to saturate our minds with information that supports what we already have adopted as personal truths. Embolden by the need to be right, we tend to don an armor that insulates certainty and repels the ability to listen.

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Our personal agendas of expression are drowning out opposing voices who seek to understand. And yes, sometimes cruelty and unkind messages are given free reign. Yet, within all this loud and righteous chatter, COVID-19 permeates every aspect of our lives.

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Navigating a pandemic calls for all of us to reevaluate how we are contributing to a common goal. Most of us have no recollection of the Spanish Flu of 1918, but I wonder how neighbors navigated their unprecedented crisis together.

We are six months into our own pandemic and the current situation makes me terribly sad. Local businesses are barely hanging on to survival. Kindergartners might have been dreaming for weeks about new school shoes and class room supplies. Working through excitement jitters anticipating the first day of school will be replaced by hybrid or virtual learning for many. College students are returning to campus anticipating a fraction of the college life experience. Vacations and weddings have been hijacked. And now, we face the fall without Ohio State football. The causalities of this pandemic go on and on and on. And yet, in the midst of it all, we are having a hard time sharing the struggle together.

The chatter of argument and need to be right is exhausting, and has completely displaced the collective action necessary to triumph over COVID-19. The byproduct of this virus is real. The stories of those whose lives are lost or compromised are devastating. The testimony of grieving or worried families are heavy and difficult to reconcile.

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It’s time to remember what it means to be a good neighbor and create stories of how we tackled this pandemic that can be shared for generations to come.

Wear a mask, stay away from crowds and just do what the science people say to do. We can argue for the next 100 years about policy, politics and beliefs. But for the next 100 days, maybe we should curtail our individual need to be right with a desire to be kind and compassionate and yield to a common mission.

Halloween, University of Dayton Basketball, Thanksgiving dinners and Holiday festivals are all the next wave of cancellations unless we all put on a mask and check our anger in the parking lot.

Centerville writer Anne Marie Romer is a regular contributor.

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