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Individual choices must consider greater good

We are all living in extraordinarily difficult and dangerous times, kind of stumbling our way through this unprecedented and epic pandemic which in so many ways has turned our lives upside down. When facing challenges of this scale, Americans have typically risen to the occasion and come together to figure out what needed to be done and then to do so, with innumerable acts of courage, compassion, kindness and selflessness leading the way, and with the common good serving as the ultimate goal.

But even though we now actually have the tools for taming and getting through this pandemic, we seem to be sliding backwards as we head into yet another surge, with many choosing to not take the now readily available vaccines — for reasons often based upon misinformation (some of which falls into the category of dangerously delusional and overtly paranoid) playing upon their understandable concerns and anxieties — and some angrily refusing to engage in other simple pandemic mitigation procedures (such as wearing masks in high-risk situations) which they view as infringements upon their personal freedom. Indeed, in some cases those trying to implement such procedures in order to save lives and get us all through this pandemic as quickly as possible face threats of violence as a result of their efforts. This is insane and shameful, serving to give this malevolent virus more life and opportunities to stew and generate even more devastating variants.

It sure seems like many have forgotten that our priceless freedoms come with responsibilities. When my actions impact on you, then such actions must be tempered by an awareness of their consequences for you and others. Indeed, we demonstrate our worthiness for such freedoms only when we do our best to align our choices and actions with a realistic understanding of their short and long-term consequences for those around us. This is the essence of maturity and wisdom, reflecting an understanding that we are all connected and interdependent, traveling through this life together.

And at times we are called upon to rise above our self-centered interests and use our freedom to choose to do what is best not only for ourselves but for the sake of others, and thus to serve the greater good. This is a deeply personal but quietly heroic action, one which often takes true courage in the face of both inner fears and outer pressures to hold back. This is the wellspring of kindness and compassion, and of those “better angels of our nature” prodding us all to help each other and lift each other up when the need arises. And that need is surely here right now.

This is clearly one of those times when this better side of ourselves is most desperately needed. By tearing us apart and setting us against each other, this insidious virus furthers its own life and growth, resulting in more suffering and deaths.

Only by working together can we defeat it and free ourselves from its grip. We can do this if we freely choose to do what must be done.

May we choose wisely.

Dale E. Buonocore is a Warren resident.

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