October 11, 2020
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Can’t We Still Be Friends?

Can’t We Still Be Friends?

I have two buddies that are polar opposites when it comes to COVD-19.

One buddy tends to follow medical sources and argues from a perspective that the coronavirus is so dangerous that the government was right to marshal in many of its restrictions during the pandemic. The other buddy, who has a significant background in pharmaceuticals and drug development, tends to argue from a perspective that does not agree with much of the publicized notions of the pandemic and argues that the government followed poor science and should be backing away from the early models it used for virus expansion that seem to have overestimated the threat of the coronavirus. While I myself tend to agree with one of my buddies more, both have legitimate points.  However, I have noticed a bigger problem – neither wants to be in the same room with the other anymore.

Sadly, it all started with some fun bantering.  I guess it wasn’t so “fun” or at least, it surely is not now. For me, whatever path one chooses to deal with the pandemic is fine with me until (1) “stupid” comes into play or (2) that one’s choices puts my family at risk.  My work has stringent rules I must follow, and I do so not because I agree with them all but, because of the common good of following them. (i.e. my paycheck)

The “common good” for the coronavirus pandemic is not so clear.  Classical bioethics from Beauchamp and Childress would look for a balance; noting that (1)  a Utilitarian would say that the outcome of ridding society of this viral threat justifies the means, (2) a Deontological/Kantian perspective would challenge this an advocate for a reasoned approach where the features of actions other than consequences and based on reason make actions right or wrong, (3) those who advocate the Rights Theory of ethics place a substantive basis of the principle of Respect for Autonomy and (4) virtue ethics reminds us that character traits enable and dispose a person to identify and perform right actions and we should be advocating those traits.  

So, what is the common good?  It is where the convergence of these theories leads to a beneficence to everyone, as possible.  It is when “me” is replaced by “us.”  My “autonomy” cannot be produced by neglecting the Imago Dei in others.  In fact, St. Pope John Paul II taught “autonomy” is the freedom to do what is right.  Our society is defining “autonomy” as doing whatever one pleases.  Which value really has a common good in mind?

To be honest, I am guilty for my part to incite my buddies on in their disagreements.  It has gone too far.  We went from the ribbing guys normally do when bantering with each other to getting personal.  We’ve gotten to the point of Trump and Pelosi where nobody wins and America loses.  In fact, I surmise that my buddies’ predicament is indicative of how all our society is getting dragged down in this regard.

Today, I am tired of it.  America is on a path where it is not about winning anymore.  It is about making sure you lose.  After a devasting pandemic, only half the country wants the economy to recover quickly.  While this would be best for everyone, it does not suit the agenda of a political party.  It doesn’t matter who is in office, the other major party plays the obstructionist.  That is not the America I learned about as a kid.  This is supposed to be the Land where one can pick themselves up, and make tomorrow better.  Americans didn’t ask for handouts, just a fair chance.

We can’t balance a budget or fix the economy simply because one party must lose in this achievement.  It is not about “us” being better off, the focus must now be having someone take credit at the expense of another.  Seriously, it is no longer the 1800’s where the agrarian economy rules.  My profit does not have to come from your loss anymore.  You wouldn’t know it from political advertisements.  Personally, I don’t care what the CEO of the corporation I work at makes.  It doesn’t come out of my pocket, nor does it come out of the pockets of all those who complain about his salary.  Is it unfair?  Only in the politics of envy.  Did he have some breaks along the way?  Probably.  Yet, in America the opportunity to be CEO is still there for those who have the desire.  That is the America we need to get back to promoting.  The America that needs celebrating.

But wait, let us not “agree to disagree.”  One of my buddies will be proven right at some point.  There is a truth.  Not “my” truth, “your” truth but, only “the” truth.  In this case, we simply won’t get there without more data.  Which makes the argument all the dumb.  Whether it is “your truth” or not, light still travels at 299,792,458 m/s and Avogadro’s number is still 6.022 x 1023.  In the meantime, can’t we go back to congratulating each other on the effort?  Is there anything cooler than after a hard-fought Stanley Cup series, hockey players shake hands?

Besides, is our arguing really to make CNN report differently?  Perhaps.  I did recently complain that air conditioning was not allowed in Churches during the pandemic and this week the rule changed.  Even with that win, I am going to admit that arguing over politics doesn’t change most people’s mind any more than shouting about Christ on a street corner is going to increase my parish’s RCIA numbers.  The notion attributed to St. Francis about speaking “without words” still remains the path to changing hearts.  Right now, the message being broadcast to children everywhere is “hate.”  We need to recognize this and change our personal message to “love.”

To my buddies, let’s tone it down and go back to being loveable meatheads again.  Let’s keep Trump and Pelosi out of our homes and teach people real science – the one where we can argue, disagree and then go have a beer.  If it gets personal, it is not about science anymore.  

We all need to again stand up to where our society is heading today. Paraphrasing the famous proverb, rather than take one’s fish and give it to another let us go back to teaching everyone how to fish.  Let’s learn again to celebrate another’s catch and, not only when we have caught one too.

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Written by
Deacon Gregory Webster