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Tucson Opinion: Pandemic experience has been like an extended Lenten season
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Tucson Opinion: Pandemic experience has been like an extended Lenten season

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The following is the opinion and analysis of the writer:

A year ago, news of a novel virus came out of China. COVID-19 has since spread through the world leading to a pandemic of epic proportions. Over a half a million people in the United States have died.

Last year, I had rotator cuff surgery on Ash Wednesday. My wife, Margaret, started teaching from home when her school returned from spring break. Like everyone, we stayed at home and didn’t go out unless we needed groceries. We went for walks around our neighborhood when Margaret finished teaching for the day.

During my lifetime there are two dates in our nation’s history which mark tragic events: Nov. 22, 1963, when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated and Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorists attacked New York City and Washington, D.C. Added now is Jan. 6, 2021, when the Capitol withstood an insurrection.

With the repercussions of the assault on the Capitol, we are once again in the season of Lent. In the Christian world Lent is the 40-day period leading up to Easter, which celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Lent is a time of reflection when we are asked to look at our lives and are often tasked to give up something. Given what the world has been through in the last year it seems as though we have been in a season of extended Lent.

On Memorial Day last year the scab torn from a lingering wound on the nation’s soul was torn off. George Floyd, an African American man, died while being taken into custody by the police in Minneapolis. His death and the video of watching him die under the knee of a policeman led to protests. The Black Lives Matter movement is personal to me as I have adopted Black nieces and nephews.

The insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6, was an attack on the place where the legislative work of the United States of America is carried out. The mob disrupted the work of the senators before they could certify the votes of the electors in the 50 states.

In the spring of 1976 I was part of a 4-H exchange group that had been selected to spend the summer in the USSR visiting and working on state and collective farms. We spent three months in Washington, D.C., studying Russian and doing cross-cultural training.

One of our field trips was to the Capitol building to see where the business of a democracy is carried out. I can remember being in committee rooms and meeting with our senators and representatives.

What does it mean to be an American today? Everything is viewed through the prism of right-wing versus left-wing politics, fanned by liberal and conservative media outlets and their various acolytes.

We have more ways of communicating than ever before in our history, but most people only listen to their own like-minded sources. People are welcome to their own opinions, but not their own facts.

We should heed the advice of the late Alex Trebek, the longtime host of the “Jeopardy!” game show. Before his death from pancreatic cancer, he was advocating for a “kinder and gentler society.”

Immunizations against the coronavirus started toward the end of the year. Three major pharmaceutical companies produced vaccines through a program called “Warp Speed.” No one can tell us when this pandemic will be over.

We can pray, as Easter approaches, that the country will recover. We can also begin to listen to each other and work toward a kinder and gentler society.

Tim Johnson is a former Peace Corps volunteer and retired agriculturist. He has lived in Tucson for over 30 years.

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