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  • Last modified 195 days ago (May 14, 2020)

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Don’t leave it to others to find the cure

As we begin the slow process of emerging from our COVID-19 cocoons, it’s time to begin practicing a new form of distancing.

If we as a community are to survive what are likely to become the most challenging times since the Great Depression, we need to start distancing ourselves from blame games.

We don’t have the luxury of wasting our energy pretending to be Goldilocks, announcing at the top of our lungs whether various emergency actions were too hard, too soft, or just right.

Many of those inclined to play the blame game arrived at their answers even before questions were posed. Those who hate government think governors did too much. Those who hate the president think he did too little. Those who think before they hate realize this situation was and is a great unknown and everyone deserves to be supported for trying to do what’s right in the face of unprecedented uncertainty.

But that was then. This is now.

What emerges from our COVID-19 cocoon could be the first of many beautiful but delicate butterflies, brightening our lives and leading us on a pleasant but meandering journey back to health and prosperity.

Or it could be a flock of dusty moths, aimlessly fussing and fluttering around, smashing headlong into anything and everything that has even the slightest potential of shedding light on our future.

Playing the blame game leaves us with a moth-eaten community. Taking a long view —in which togetherness replaces distancing — is how we give birth to butterflies.

The challenges aren’t trivial. And protecting ourselves from catching or spreading COVID-19 is only the first of many.

Agriculture is dangerously depressed, largely by supply-chain problems. Fortunately, those problems are likely to improve at least somewhat once the current novel coronavirus no longer is so novel.

More lasting impact is likely for our community’s second biggest industry, government. Bailouts, stimulus payments, and delayed tax collections soon will begin crashing down on local budgets.

Frivolous spending now on feel-good measures with no long-term impact will eat up reserves necessary to present massive spending cuts or massive tax increases when bills for COVID-19 begin coming due.

All of us must be vigilant and not allow government at any level — city, school, county — to regard temporarily unused money as if it were burning holes in pockets that soon will need serious mending.

Unnecessary spending may make us feel good for a few days, but the long-term price is too high.

Frugality is the necessary medicine for this particular ailment. Bureaucrats and elected officials heading into this summer’s governmental budgeting season might be well advised to assume as a starting point across-the-board cuts of 10% or greater. A moratorium now on everything but the most essential initiatives could prevent deadly crises in the future.

Still, that’s not something most people can control. What drives our economy beyond largely uncontrollable segments of agriculture and government is business, which in turn depends largely on the host of recreational and cultural activities our communities long have been known for.

Alas, we’re starting our recovery from COVID-19 even before we have fully recovered from almost unprecedented flood damage last year.

As we head into this summer’s tourism season, we are without most of one of the county’s biggest lures, recreational facilities at Marion Reservoir, even as COVID-19 has deprived us of events like Chingawassa Days and Symphony in the Flint Hills. The list of cancellations grows with each passing week without a cure.

Never has there been a greater need for coordination and leadership regarding the scheduling of summer activities and the adoption of a central calendar of events that merges elements of our normal activities into a coherent plan that salvages features of various events and repositions them into new, COVID-safe packages.

While it may not be feasible to stage a full Chingawassa Days or even a normal Father Kapaun pilgrimage, for example, some elements of each could be preserved and repackaged into an outdoor Mass and choir concert, with pilgrims camping in Central Park and various small-scale recreational activities and historical presentations nearby.

What could firefighters or libraries or schools or downtown businesses or farmers markets or hospital charities contribute to such a new event or others — preserving what we can of our summer slate of activities and reassembling it into less ambitious, but always present, weekly series of events portraying our region as a prime destination for safe travel, weekend or permanent residence, or future business development?

Brainstorming ideas and coordinating efforts with unprecedented levels of cooperation and willingness to adapt to others’ needs as well as the exigencies of COVID-19 are essential. Every resident, organization, and institution in the area can and must become an eager participant if we are to find the butterflies that will guide us back to physical, emotional, spiritual, and economic health.

Everyone can help by volunteering an hour of our time to show up and be willing to consider new ideas and new partnerships at a special meeting planned for 8 a.m. Monday at the Historic Elgin Hotel.

The fledgling Marion Merchants Association, which is sponsoring the event, is hoping this can be a gathering of all the groups, businesses, institutions, and individuals concerned about our community’s recovery. Though sitting six feet apart, participants hopefully will be able to eliminate distance between their ideas.

Every civic, school, fraternal, religious, and commercial organization needs to be represented and be willing to cooperate in crafting a summer filled with safe and productive events that pull us together rather than keep us apart.

We’ve spent the last two months in our cocoons. Now is the time to emerge — not as individual groups but as a united community of butterflies guiding us into the future.

— ERIC MEYER

Last modified May 14, 2020

 

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