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Lab rats at the center of God’s petri dish


The heavens rattled our senses this past week, as though to unshackle us from the doldrums of what has seemed an endless trudge through maladies beyond our control.

If it was an alarm, it was forecast with heat which painted itself on our skin and cloud-fronts that darkened the skies and smothered the horizon — and it arrived with shimmers of lightning, jarring thunder and the rain tromping on our rooftops.

All the storms that intruded upon this summer of our discontent lacked was Loretta Castorini whacking Ronny Cammareri across the pass and demanding “Snap out of it!”

And if it were a message from above, it would be apropos — for with this toxic mixture of relentless drought, wildfires scorching hundreds of thousands of acres to our east, north and south, and the re-emergence of the coronavirus, it often feels as though Jackson County is the lab rat at the center of God’s petri dish.

We’re not alone, of course … it just that way. A recent Gallup poll found that nearly 40% of Earth’s passengers experienced stress during much of yesterday, while the National Alliance on Mental Health has found that nearly 20% of us in the Divided States of America were dealing with some level of anxiety disorder.

Mental Health Awareness Week is still two months away — but, let’s say we beat the holiday rush and take a look around at what we’re doing to make our situation worse.

The most decorated Olympic gymnast in American history reveals her inner battles with human frailty … and gets chastised by society’s knee-jerk reactionaries with access to “Like” buttons on social media.

Law enforcement personnel go before Congress and detail what they were up against as an incited mob stormed the halls of the hub of our government … and are ridiculed by the carny barkers of ignorance and hate to an audience willing to surrender their money, their votes and their eyeballs.

And those still on the front lines of trying to keep us from infecting each other with a generational virus are subjected to the outbursts of airline travelers and restaurant customers with an undeveloped concern for their fellow humanoid.

It’s enough to make you wonder — as we sit in traffic in front of an agitated tailgaiter, or receive the smug smirks of the unvaccinated hacking up a lung — what these folks would agree to have us do unto them.

Compassion fails us, to quote Nanci Griffith, meanness in the air and while we might indeed be living in an age of inconvenience it not true that there’s nothing that can be done about these issues that stymied our ability to summon rational thought.

The Intensive Care Units at hospitals in Jackson and Josephine counties are all but full — predominantly with those suffering from the presence of COVID-19 and its equally unwelcome Delta variant.

Jackson County continues to have one of the lowest percentages of vaccinated residents in the state and initial, incremental steps toward a resumption of public restrictions are starting to be felt.

This crisis isn’t going away because you don’t believe in it, or no one you know has been afflicted, or — worst of all — some carny barker has convinced you it has been blown out of proportion.

Consider, for a moment, these recent words from the governor:

"Folks are supposed to have common sense," she said, “but it's time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks, not the regular folks. It's the unvaccinated folks that are letting us down.

“These folks are choosing a horrible lifestyle of self-inflicted pain.”

That doesn’t come, by the way, from the governor of Oregon. Those are the word of Kay Ivey, the governor of redder-than-red Alabama.

The temptation is ever-present to just let those who have made the decision to risk the health of themselves and those around them have their way. If they get sick, maybe it’ll teach them something.

Lord knows, those of us on the other side of this fence have done all we can think of to try to get the message across — at least without adopting the megaphone stylings of the carny barkers.

But there’s something wrong with that stance, too; and the frustration and anxiety over the direction we’re headed while trudging in place lulls us to restless sleep.

The heavens rattled our senses this week, momentarily shaking us from what we had come to consider as our lot in life.

Maybe it was a passing string of storms. Maybe it was a wake-up call from above.

Mail Tribune news editor Robert Galvin can be reached at rgalvin@rosebudmedia.com