The Good Brains God Gave You

My son accuses me of being prideful when I mention I made MENSA.

Since I got in with the lowest possible score and haven’t paid dues to the organization in years, it’s not THAT much of a brag, even if I do occasionally wear my owl-themed T-shirt in public.

Becoming educated was the be all and end all to my parents who raised me (my maternal grandfather and his second wife, aka Dad and Mom to me.)

When I was a child and got my first C in math in 6th grade, my parents, who rarely attended school events, called my teacher for a parent-teacher conference! That’s how seriously education was taken in my household.

I was the first in my family to get a college degree. I obtained it by joining the Navy for the G.I. Bill then still being offered in the final years of the Vietnam War.

I didn’t go to the school of my dreams. Instead I matriculated from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, where my then husband, a computer science major, had his heart set on going.

The journalism program there was a good one, but it wasn’t Columbia or Medill. I was never going to be the Pulitzer Prize winner I dreamed of being, or so I told myself when I transitioned into a better-paying corporate PR job rather than try out for an open job at the San Francisco Chronicle as someone pushed me to do.

Besides, I was a single-working parent by then, and I couldn’t imagine putting a family life together as a reporter in a metropolitan area, when it had been so daunting at a local level while covering a national news story like the licensing and commissioning of Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant.

It’s not that my life has been a bad one; on the whole, it has been the opposite when I review it. Things I thought were bad at the time turned out to have been in my better interest in the long run.

But I am truly baffled right now at the streak of anti-intellectualism and anti-expertise that is ripping a seam apart in the fabric of American life. Since it seems to be the back seam where the zipper is located, it could ruin this Republic based in democratic ideals.

As a country, we may never be dressed again in a garment that manages to cover the different political beliefs and lifestyles we all live.

When we stop believing together as citizens in the validity of our elections just because our “team” didn’t win, we are truly lost.

When we don’t care enough about each other to wear something as simple as a mask, we no longer live by the Golden Rule, or, if you are Christian, Christ’s command to “love one another as I have loved you.”

We have become selfish, yelling about individual freedoms that will mean nothing if many of us don’t survive a pandemic where the virus is the most deadly we have yet to encounter.

And yes, there will be more, because they are intelligent about their own survival and adapt faster than we do. They don’t argue with one another. They just replicate, faster than a copy machine gone awry spits out paper.

And there are billions of them when they do. And they like living in the warm, moist crevices of our body. They literally kill us with their love to procreate.

But will we start killing each other over our differing views about science, education, media and liberty?

We will if we don’t start having a common definition of what “truth” means. And “truth” begins with our education, of which science is a part.

Ignoring well-established scientific knowledge and public health strategies to protect as many as best possible from COVID19 is to avoid using, as my Mom would say, “the good brains God gave you.” (Yeah, I heard it a fair number of times growing up.)

But I learned from my mistakes. It seems that with 250,000 people dead from coronavirus and more than 12 million infected -and those numbers rapidly rising daily – this country has not. [Data Source: the COVID Tracking Project]

I will be spending Thanksgiving alone. It’s not that there isn’t family to share it with; there is. But I am immunosuppressed and my child is a healthcare worker who sees cancer patients at his work. For my sake, for his sake, for my daughter-in-law’s sake and for the sake of his patients, we are not spending the holiday together this year, the first time in the 17 years since they met.

Does it delight me? Hardly. But I have made my own plan for the day to set up the Christmas tree and watch movies by the glow of its lights and all the candles on the hearth and coffee table. (Publix Instacart shoppers’ note: get more AA and AAA batteries.)

Here’s a similar truth we should all be able to wrap our minds around: it doesn’t have to be like this. If we all masked up when in public, stood 6-feet apart, washed/sanitized our hands often: we could slow the spread and keep the death toll from rising as sharply as currently projected.

If we heeded CDC advice, we wouldn’t wager the lives of those we love by getting on an airplane or in a car this year to see family and risk spreading the virus even further throughout the U.S.

All we need to do is use the good brains God gave us.

And be thankful for the vaccines that will soon roll out so that we will all be together at Thanksgiving this time next year.

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