Sometimes, I feel like I need to stop ruminating on the “deep cleavages in American society,” as this piece from the Bush Institute refers to them. I wonder if it would be helpful to remember the turbulence of the sixties, just to have some frame of reference for comparison, but it doesn’t seem to be doing much good for my mom’s outlook. She’s just as exasperated with our current climate as the rest of us.
While he doesn’t offer much in the way of solutions, David Brooks presents the problems in a clear light, in this appropriately frighteningly titled piece America is Falling Apart at the Seams. He talks about the anger, the selfishness, the violence and the despair that are increasing in measurable ways. Perhaps most of us have heard this too much, lately. I wouldn’t be bringing this up, though, if I wasn’t comforted by reading an alternate perspective. There are actually those who, despite frustration, are trying to create a more virtuous cycle in a fractured environment.
Jamie Santa Cruz writes for Plough magazine about how she came to terms with the different perspectives of her friends on virus prevention and maintained close relationships that were threatened by strain. She relates the difficulty of reconciling herself to the beliefs of one of her friends.
Maddening, this gap between us. Symbolic of many other gaps between her and me – on politics, on faith, and on all things touched by those two. Gaps that didn’t exist last time I saw her but that have become far more obvious these last two fraught years.
It’s hard for me to justify bending to the consciences of people who object so strenuously to basic public health measures. Should I submit my moral scruples to hers? But my friendship with Eliza goes back almost twenty years, and it has run deep. I didn’t really want to throw it out and suffer yet another Covid loss.
So many prize being right over relationships.1 Ultimately, Santa Cruz chose a different path while on a vacation. She was to meet up with her old friend during her travels. When her friend “Eliza” didn’t want to go caving in a place they required masks, she gave in and agreed to meet at alternate location. It was not without resentment that she changed plans, though. Then, Santa Cruz came down with Covid and Eliza was there to take care of her needs, saying nothing of the irony that her cautious friend was the one who ended up getting sick. She picked up groceries and refused to be reimbursed. Santa Cruz spent the rest of her vacation thinking about her friend’s generosity.
The Covid story doesn’t end at the kind deeds done by Eliza, though. After her own bought with Covid, Santa Cruz had another friend who was immunocompromised yet still refused to get the Covid vaccine contract the virus. Her first reaction was feeling like her friend had made her bed and needed to lie in it, but then she remembered how she was treated when she was sick and decided instead of gloating or frustration, she was going to take the giving path. She asked her friend if she could get groceries to help out. There, in the midst of deep divisions, was a way to pay it forward.
📸 Image source: Wikimedia Commons
I count myself among them. ↩︎