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Is there a vaccine for cynicism?

To the editor

Sometimes I wonder what it would’ve been like to have been an American after the victory of World War II. I look at the picture of the sailor kissing the girl in New York and it seems to capture this collective pride and patriotism from a country that fought the good fight. The whole nation reveled in the victory in unified fashion. Unfortunately, I don’t think we will ever experience that as a nation again.

We should be celebrating as we make our way back to normalcy. Science and ingenuity helped mitigate the shelf life of this powerful disease, saving countless lives. Even the development and distribution of the vaccine was a political marvel, with thanks to both President Trump and President Biden for their respective roles.

But right now, I don’t have a sense of pride and patriotism. I just feel sad. Throughout the whole pandemic, the country made the choice to politicize it. Even some of our state politicians have pushed out misinformation and have pursued policies that put more people at risk of getting and spreading COVID, doing this just for donations and political gain. Every recommendation from the medical professionals has been met with cynical disdain and anger. The simple act of wearing a mask became some political line in the sand that showed your political stripes. And a vaccine that was developed under the Trump administration is now rejected by many of his supporters. Rather than work together to get through this horrible pandemic, it’s driven us farther apart. And we have missed an opportunity to come together as a nation and celebrate this great achievement.

Something has to change. This road we are traveling will not be sustainable. We have to stop seeing people who have different views as the enemy. We have to be able to listen to opposite opinions with empathy. And we have to recognize that compromise is not a sign of moral weakness or failure.

I want to conclude with some hopeful lesson I’ve learned about this county over the pandemic, but I can’t. I’m not hopeful. The only bit of solace I can take is the recognition of how needlessly political this whole pandemic has been, and the urgency in making sure that for the next national crises we face, we must keep the politics out. The survival of the American Spirit depends on it.

William Skar

New Ulm

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