As The Virus continues in its vicious journey around the globe, every day brings a fresh awareness of the damage it has caused, is still causing, and will continue to cause.

It seems to know our weaknesses…physical, mental, emotional, and yes, even spiritual. It attacks from all sides, and in our frustration, we respond with a mixture of that great river in Egypt, Denial, and, on good days, with hope. Some of us choose to be indifferent, falling back to the carefree advice, “Ignore it, and it’ll go away.” Others admit that it’s out there, somewhere, but they prefer to take their chances, breathing mask-free, gathering randomly with others, and avoiding all consideration of medical intervention involving a needle. And then there are the rest of us. And even with that stipulation, we seem to straddle that ominous fence, some following different versions of “the science.” (Some of this may resemble science fiction. We hesitate to scoff at that, since over the past few decades, much of what was once termed science fiction has come to be fact.)

It is sinister and invisible. It’s not like poison ivy and poison oak, which we can see and which we know to steer clear of. It’s not even like a hurricane or a tornado, where we are forewarned of the danger and can prepare accordingly. Of course, we always hear the stories afterwards of those who decided to weather the storm, even when evacuation was mandated. Not all of them survived.

A recent cartoon brought a smile in spite of the message. The very overweight, disheveled guy, showing evidence of his cigarette cough and his favorite alcohol beverage, but allowing he would not get vaccinated because no one knows what’s in it. The image was somewhat misleading, since he would represent only a portion of like-minded compatriots, from presidents of corporations to ministers, from factory workers to your next-door neighbor or your best friend.

The ground is level. We do not have to submit to the suggestions. After all, in an ordinary pre-pandemic world, if everybody did the right thing, whatever that is, there would be no need for governmental interference in any form, including advisory or mandatory. By the same token, in today’s world, we are certainly allowed to do our own research, but common sense (rare, these days) should tell us to be discerning in our choice of sources.

I think often of the many vaccines that I have had over my 87 years. While in elementary school, there was a Whitfield County health nurse, Ms. Elkins, who went to all the public schools to administer “shots,” ranging from the small pox vaccine to tuberculosis and diphtheria. (Note here that these diseases aren’t around anymore.) The inoculation was given to students whose parents had signed a form giving permission for the shot. I was always annoyed that some children didn’t have to go through the ordeal and could remain in their classroom while the rest of us went to the auditorium where we suffered through. As far as I can remember, there was no discussion in our household about the pros and cons of the different vaccines. I would discover later that my mother’s brother had been deathly ill with diphtheria a few years earlier, so that may have had some bearing on such decisions. There were two cases of polio in my family during those fateful years when we all feared its crippling consequences, and the terms “infantile paralysis” and “iron lung” entered our daily conversations. The March of Dimes became polio’s battle cry, raising needed funds for research and the development of the vaccine. I certainly had no second thoughts for my own family, including me, my husband, and our daughters, as we went on a Sunday afternoon to the local elementary school for those sugar cubes that contained a magic potion that would be our own shield against the polio nightmare.

Covid is a different animal. Some compare its symptoms with a mild stomach bug or a short-term cough, while others have seen it take the lives of loved ones. Time will tell if there are long-term consequences for those who survived, or even for those who were vaccinated. That is the great unknown. It has managed to turn our already-threatened way of life into one with new habits, new rules, and even new values.

One of my pastors spoke recently about words, and the impact, for good or bad, that words can have. She noted, of course, the Scripture from James warning us that no man can tame the tongue. I was reminded of an old saying from someone centuries later. “Speech is silver, but silence is golden.” Good advice. Perhaps I should have taken it today.

Columnist Juanita Hughes is retired head of the Woodstock public library and a local historian.

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