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Will Call: Let’s all mind the gap

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Whatever the creepy recorded voices at City Market say, it doesn’t feel like we’re all in this together anymore.

That’s not necessarily a criticism, just the impression that comes with seeing some people out in large groups and others still cooped up at home. And while I don’t know what precautions might be under the surface when I see a dozen people at the park or eight cars at a campsite, I do know some folks who simply haven’t seen their parents or grandchildren in months. 

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Of course, both groups are going to blame the other for this state of affairs. 

I’ve seen the disdain some of those pushing for normalcy have for the fear that keeps people socially isolating. I’ve heard the insinuation that the high risk demographics are holding everyone else — and the economy — back.

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I’m also sure that the cautious feel betrayed by the neighbors who won’t tolerate a little inconvenience to keep everyone safer. And I’m guessing that even some folks who are on the fence are sick of having to remind the recalcitrant of the rules.

Now, under most circumstances, I’d do my best to remain objective and treat these two camps equally. I take the ethics of my role seriously to an almost annoying degree.

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But there’s no staying out of a worldwide pandemic. Each and every person involved with the paper is impacted, and they all have different experiences and perspectives which hopefully helps balance our coverage. And if I can’t separate myself from my own experience, I can at least be upfront about it.

Back in March, it seemed like everyone around me was sick: my mom, my dad, even my cat. None of them ever tested positive for COVID-19, but the symptoms were uncanny and the fear was very real. For almost a week, I was the sole caregiver for my autistic brother — himself high-risk, but healthy. While trying to get a newspaper out at the same time wasn’t exactly easy, it probably distracted me from dwelling on the potential loss of all my loved ones. 

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They’re all okay. I was lucky. And by contrast, the months since have felt like smooth sailing. 

Sure, I missed my spring pilgrimages to Utah and chafed under the 10-mile rule. I wish I could shop at the Near New, dine at the Pour House and catch a movie at the Crystal Theatre. It’s incredibly awkward seeing friends at a distance and not being comfortable inviting them inside, even to use the bathroom. And while I appreciate the service, I’m not at all fond of having a stranger take the risk of going to the grocery store for me.

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But by and large, the restrictions — state and self-imposed — have been far preferable to the worry and guilt I’d experience by putting the people I care about at risk. And it’s becoming increasingly clear that the virus can have profound and lasting impacts on young people, too. I’m lucky enough to be able to work remotely, have my family at hand, and I’m not missing out on any major life events. It’s not that I can’t complain, I just probably shouldn’t.

Instead, in between bouts of anxiety, I’m trying to take Judith Ritschard’s advice and acknowledge all the good mixed in with the bad and the weird. 

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I have never been closer to my brother. I’ve reconnected with friends I’d lost touch with and built a real relationship with with someone who was previously just an acquaintance. I’ve had an unusual number of outdoor adventures, albeit close to home, and barely ever have to wear shoes (which is more than a fair trade for wearing a mask, in my book).

Meanwhile, The Sopris Sun (knock on wood) continues to enjoy the support of the community, both in donations and advertising. Watching the Post Independent cut days and distribution, I’m incredibly grateful to have 20 pages to work with this week — allowing, among other things, this column, Pages of the Past and the pieces from High Country News and Aspen Journalism.

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I appreciate all of our supporters and readers, regardless of whether I agree with them or not. And I want everyone in our community to feel represented in these pages. 

We’re actually in need of a new conservative columnist (email to apply).

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If the town or county takes a true turn toward authoritarianism — the minor inconveniences required so far are well within their legal scope —  rest assured that we’ll hold them accountable. If the police crack down on peaceful demonstrations, we’ll report it. And if those same protests become a vector for disease, we’ll report that, too.

I will also continue to accept letters that are critical of public policy, including the mask ordinance. Per established policy, however, I will not print anything that encourages readers to disregard the regulations. We’re here to build community, not foment discord — barring serious injustice or risk to public safety, anyway.

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The Long Hot Summer of ‘67 was also the Summer of Love. We’re facing a similar dichotomy, and while it seems like an obvious choice, I’m actually not eager for either digging in and clashing over our disagreements or tuning out and staying in my safe, happy bubble. Let’s think back to the semblance of unity we had back in March and look for a third option of mutual support and common solutions. I still think we can both be safe and be well.