Trust is low and anxiety is high. Anxiety is low and trust is high. Either side of this apple looks to be rotten. So, how do we find our way back to a more trusting and less anxious world? Perhaps we could add a dose of Xanax to the next round of national vaccination requirements. Or we could all line up and play middle school camp-out “trust” games to get to know each other and rely on our fellow humans. Sigh, neither is especially likely to occur.
We look to public safety professionals as heroes. Our collective memories are branded with images of police and firemen running toward the collapsing towers as thousands of others hurried away. And then, we recall the hospitals filling with the masses, their ash-covered bodies punctuated with crimson spots of blood from raining debris. Medical workers embraced them, fearless of the risk, leading with training and instinct.
But have our thoughts become halcyon? Can they be our protectors, experts, dispassionate scientists, caregivers and heroes? Some respond with an emphatic no. Others, just as passionately, defend the veneration. As face mask debates continue and immunity rates lag, some health care networks and universities have required vaccination with suspensions, expulsions and firings of the recalcitrant. Even so, scores of these scientists, caregivers and heroes have paid the price rather than take the risk. Are they misinformed? Are they zealots? Are they idiots? If so, what kind of care did we get before they were flushed out? Who hired them? Who educated them? Or is it possible that science is not settled? That not all heroes are imperfect? That the minority are right and the majority mistaken? That adoration is fickle?
Can we be satisfied with good intentions and tolerate the dissenters, or are perfect heroes the only way?