Americans have for a long time had a cultural contract intended to remind you that our way of life was made possible in part because because of the service of others. Specifically, it has referred to military service, and the cost of that service is sometimes the life of our citizens. The deeper intention, I hope, is for people to understand that keeping the machine working does in fact require sacrifice and some degree of selflessness on the part of its people.
Personally, I embrace a wider view of this American history. Revolutionaries fought for independence, others fought to abolish slavery, women fought for equal rights, the civil rights fight is ongoing, healthcare workers and teachers have been putting their lives at risk for the last year, as have most people working in service industries... you could go on forever with examples like this. The freedom that we enjoy, imperfect as it is, comes on the back of a great deal of sacrifice.
I don't think that's something to shame people into believing, I think it's something that we should celebrate. And whether it's a Veteran's Day parade or people all over New York City clapping for first responders and healthcare workers, we do that.
Unfortunately, it seems there is a subset of people who do not practice what they preach. With the pandemic, we have essentially had to go to war against a faceless pathogen, and winning that war requires sacrifice. It previously meant that we had to temporarily cease business to keep it from breaking our healthcare system, and later it broke regionally anyway. It meant limits to in-person social interaction. It still means wearing masks to protect ourselves and each other. It means getting vaccinated.
And yet, an extraordinary number of people have made this a political issue where they believe that their freedom is threatened. Where is that core belief that freedom isn't free, that sometimes it requires some sacrifice? Some of what has been asked of people has had devastating results. We've lost more than a half-million people. There has been extraordinary sacrifice. But is wearing a mask, or being asked to avoid crowds, really something that has interfered with your freedom? I certainly don't care for the mitigation protocols, but they're one of the few things that I'm qualified to do to help get the world beyond this. It's not a heavy lift, and honestly, I wouldn't even qualify it as a sacrifice.
The last year has made me more aware than ever about the role that individuals play in improving our communities and the world. I have been trying to be more deliberate about charitable giving (mainly not just doing it in reaction to a need), looking for ways to improve inclusivity and equality in anything I'm involved with, and getting involved when I think my talents or time can help. We have a lot of work to do to keep that freedom flowing, or get it where it needs to be for those that don't yet truly have it.