People celebrate Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020, in Philadelphia, after Democrat Joe Biden won the election to become 46th president of the United States.

To every thing there is a season

and a time to every purpose under heaven.

—Ecclesiastics 3:3

The sun is shining as I write. I’m grateful for that because we’ve been through dark times. But for this moment the sky is clear and there’s no wind.

We are a nation divided. As one newscaster said post-election, every other person you pass is unhappy with the election results. We’ve had our signs up, we’ve had our signs stolen, we’ve looked with suspicion at each other in the grocery store, the post office, and on the highway. “Are they with me or against me?” And no one is 100% satisfied; you win a few, you lose a few. But for that most critical choice — the change at the top of the ticket — Americans have spoken.

I won’t be coy about my feelings. I’m relieved that our country will be in the hands of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris — people who’ve dedicated their lives to serving our nation; politicians who are skilled in the art of policy making and negotiation; who understand our Constitution and the process of governance; who’ve brought hope back to Americans and to our allies abroad. These are two leaders who are already building a coalition to help us tame the virus that has killed over a quarter million of our friends, family members, and neighbors.

We can’t heal the folks who were taken from us. But perhaps we can heal ourselves, perhaps we can work together to fight the virus instead of fighting each other. Perhaps the members of our House and Senate can also commit to healing, to working together to deliver much needed aid to those of us who are struggling to pay the rent, feed and take care of our kids, and get the medical help we need. Perhaps we can keep people from being thrown out of their homes on the cusp of winter.

Toward a more perfect union

There’s so much work to be done, and no one is more sanguine about how to accomplish it than Joe Biden. As he said Saturday evening in Wilmington, Delaware as president-elect: “Now that the campaign is over, what is the people’s will? What is our mandate? I believe it is this: Americans have called on us to marshal the forces of decency and fairness. To marshal the forces of science and the forces of hope in the great battles of our time. The battle to control the virus, to build prosperity, to secure your family’s health care. The battle to achieve racial justice and root out systemic racism in this country. The battle to save the climate.”

That’s an enormous to-do list, possibly the biggest set of tasks any president has faced. Joe will certainly need our help. If we work together we can take care of each other — we’ve proven that time and time again in our own Peninsula community. True, “perfecting our union” has a jig-jaggedy history in the United States — it’s two steps forward, one step back. And I admit I haven’t always felt the love. Earlier this year I wrote about new neighbors I’d suddenly felt differently about when their Trump sign went up. So how can we reconcile now? I truly don’t understand the world view of Trump and those who’ve supported him. How can that be the man we want our children to admire, to look up to and emulate? (As another pundit said, “My job as a parent just got easier.”)

The way ahead is not yet clear, but we need to find it together. I know it’s easier for me to say — my guy/gal won. But we gave the other fellow a four-year chance at running our country and this is where we find ourselves: exhausted, divided, and confused, amidst a raging murderous pandemic. We’ve got to forge another way.

Healing from the virus

Addressing the pandemic must be first. Katie Lindstrom, director of Pacific County Health and Human Services (HHS) department, talks about covid and our testing capacity:

“The county is still conducting drive-through covid testing in Long Beach, Tuesdays and Fridays. Call the EOC at 360-642-9407 to review your symptoms and schedule an appointment. That test result will take three days; but the county is also working on making rapid testing more available (though note: that this test can have more false positives).”

As this was being written, we’ve had only 124 cases in the county (and, gratefully, only three deaths), due to county policies, a robust contract tracing program, and (mostly) compliance with mask wearing. We can’t let up now.

The vaccine is tricky: two doses will probably be needed, and doses must be transported and stored at extremely cold temperatures. Past HHS director Mary Goelz is working on a vaccine distribution process. As she says, “There are so many unknowns that planning is really tough. We think there might be a vaccine sometime after the first of the year, but we know that even when it’s approved we’re not going to have the billions of doses we’ll need right away — we’ll maybe have 150,000-200,000 doses. Healthcare workers and first responders will be the first to get it, then anyone else in the high risk group, and then all who want it. The CDC will roll out the plan to the states and then to the counties. It will take months — getting everyone the vaccine could take until the end of next year.”

“One of the concerns is the high number of people who say they don’t want the vaccine in the first rounds — it’s around 45%.” If too many people decline to take the vaccine that decreases its efficacy, as the point is to create an immunity in a large enough percentage of the population that the virus can’t keep jumping from person to person.

Mary continues, “The state has been very clear that Washington is not going to start distribution until the vaccine is shown to be safe. There will probably be a big social campaign coming out in the next few months to explain our approach. We’ve got a really good team working on this.”

To lead these efforts nationally, Joe Biden is forming a pandemic response team on Nov. 9. (One true thing Donald Trump said is that “Biden will listen to the scientists.”)

Wind of hope

And perhaps there is no more worthy group of citizens to support than our Veterans, the men and woman who’ve protected our democracy wherever they were called to serve. The fourth annual Vet Luncheon will take place at the Moose Lodge, on “U” Street, Nov. 23. This lunch-to-go pick-up, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. includes beef stew, homemade roll, and apple crisp. Every Vet will also receive a Blankie Gram, donated by Shelly Pollock. To be part of the head count call Cliff Pederson at 360-244-0086. (The Moose Lodge is really in need of donations this year to help defray costs. Give if you can.)

Meanwhile, there is no better metaphor for healing than the cycle of seasons. Our glorious fall has become a chilly winter, but we know spring will come. And though we’re used to the emotional light of holidays as we gather with friends and family, this year we’ll need safer ways to keep ourselves hopeful about the future.

Our country has gone through a divisive and exhausting four years. Joe offered his favorite hymn as respite, “He will raise you up on eagle’s wings, Bear you on the breath of dawn, Make you to shine like the sun, And hold you in the palm of His Hand.” Or as dear friend Reverend Carol Estes says, “We need to feel the healing wind of hope beneath our wings.”

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