aefenglommung (aefenglommung) wrote,

A lesson to be learned

One of the things that most disturbed me about the early days of our current pandemic is how the sick and the elderly were shut away from contact with family (and clergy). So many died alone, without the presence of loved ones or the comforts of religion. And, at least in New York, the decision to keep the elderly locked down -- and the witless housing of victims in nursing home complexes with the (as yet) uninfected -- spread the disease, and the distress. (And don't get me started on the cruelty of unattended or canceled funerals.)

Now, this is not a rant about wearing masks or other protective gear. Not at all. But I was a pastor for over forty years. I have been in and out of all kinds of hospital units, including isolation wards. I have routinely donned mask, gown, and gloves to visit parishioners. Sometimes, that was to keep whatever they had from being carried out with me; sometimes, it was to protect their fragile immune systems from whatever I might be carrying in with me. But we followed the drill, and I could still visit, and pray with them, and hold their hand (usually). Likewise, family learned to follow the drill when they visited. So except for a few really unusual situations, even those in isolation were never truly isolated. It was a far healthier alternative to what we did this year.

We know how to do this. We can protect ourselves and others and still go on with life. But there's a certain kind of person in charge who freaks out at the coming of bad things and assumes that telling everybody what to do (based on their own limited understanding and fears) is what will make us safer. It looks like decisive action, but it's just their freak-out talking. They don't make us safer by telling us what we MUST do (often, changing directions from week to week). Good leadership trusts the people it leads, while allowing for the inevitable profusion of jerks here and there. I particularly note that Kristi Noem of SD has led that State through the crisis admirably without hammering people with executive orders. She has talked to her fellow South Dakotans, enlisted their help, trusted their judgment. SD has one of the lowest infection rates for COVID-19 around.

"Everybody shut up and do what I say" is actually very poor leadership. It might work for a day or so, like when a tornado is in sight or a flood imminent. Beyond that, though, it doesn't do much more than annoy people. What I hope we learn from this is that we shouldn't put power in the hands of people whose first reaction to anything is to suspend legal safeguards and hammer people with dictates.

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