Our opinion: Crisis proves the importance of community

Shaftsbury Elementary School teachers held a car parade and waved to their students on March 27.

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We are learning quite a bit about ourselves and each other in these difficult times.

And while we sit in our houses, isolating ourselves from exposure to the COVID-19 virus and waiting for the worst of the danger to pass, one thing becomes more clear than anything else: We need each other.

This week brings religious holidays that are usually celebrated with family gatherings — Passover and Easter. It's hard to be apart from family and faith communities at a time such as this.

The absence of those in-person gatherings underscores how important they are, while the religious underpinnings of those holidays remind us to keep faith in uncertain times.

In sharp contrast to those communal holiday gatherings, there's a persistent mythology in this country that anyone can pull themselves up by their bootstraps and, by force of sheer will, become wealthy and comfortable. It's not that it never happens; sometimes, it does.

But there's a dark side to this fairy tale; the one that conflates wealth, success and fame with goodness or intelligence, and equates poverty or a lack of success with some personal failing or deficiency. It's been used to justify letting the rich get richer at the expense of basic services for the poor. Some would say it's playing out in the way medical resources are being allocated or denied to people in need right now.

That vulgar strain of Darwinism is a lie. It took a microscopic virus, which respects neither birth nor wealth in its harm to people of all ages and walks of life, to remind us of the truth: we are all human, and interconnected.

So when your federal government chooses "Alone Together" as its hashtag slogan for social distancing through this crisis? Reject "alone" for the bald-faced lie that it is, and embrace the word "together," which has been proven a self-evident truth these past few weeks.

None of us can make it alone, not through this crisis and not in life. We all need a family we can call our own — if not by birth, then by choice. We all need mentors and teachers who can help us set goals and learn how to achieve them, friends we can confide in when things go wrong, and neighbors who can lend a helping hand when we're in need.

We're seeing every day how even the most simple gesture of caring among each other makes a significant difference in our ability to weather this storm. Whether it's neighbors delivering groceries for each other or donations to a food pantry, we're seeing how those simple human connections make such a big difference.

It can be as simple as a parade of police vehicles honoring Brattleboro's first responders, or Manchester residents ringing bells at 8 p.m. every night, or Bennington residents organizing a car parade past the Vermont Veterans Home, so the men and women who live and work there could see and hear and know that they are remembered and valued.

As the weeks have stretched on, we have all, at one point or another, wished for the day to come when we can go "back to normal." But if normal is anything like the system that created this disaster, we must recognize it for what it is and resolve to do better.

We cannot go back to a nation where you're on your own. Not when we've seen it proven conclusively that we're all in this together — and stronger together.


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