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Peper column: Quit branding each other politically based on virus precautions

mace cunningham elbow bump.jpg (copy) (copy)

Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham and Republican state Rep. Nancy Mace bump elbows at the their Oct. 6, 2020, debate at Charleston Southern University's Lightsey Chapel Auditorium. File/Grace Beahm Alford/Staff

A stranger approached with an outstretched hand. I responded with a closed fist seeking a bump. He continued with the hope of a handshake. I again countered with a fist bump.

We were both cordial enough, until he uttered, “You going all Democrat on me?” I replied, “No, just trying to say hello.”

Is that where we are now? If you’re comfortable with hugs and handshakes, then you certainly must be from one party. If you prefer a mask and a fist bump, the you most assuredly support the new president.

We love our labels in this country. I admit to looking for certain brands when it comes to clothing and shoes. But I’d like to think we’d be less likely to judge who people are by whether they bump fists or shake hands.

It feels like our culture is slowly drifting to a place where there’s little tolerance for diversity of opinion or trust in each other. Some people will never be happy unless those with whom they disagree are significantly unhappy.

Keep your distance

It was about this time, just over a year ago, that we first began to learn about a virus making its way to the U.S. from other parts of the world. Twelve months ago, none of us owned masks. I’m not even sure that toilet paper was yet in short supply this time last year.

But it didn’t take long for our circumstances to become deadly and real. Businesses closed, children stopped going to school and parents either lost jobs or worked from home.

Remember the directions placed on the grocery store floors indicating the proper 6-foot distance at the checkout line? Slowly, life began to change and we were advised to stay away from each other.

We joked about bathing in hand sanitizer. We complained about masks fogging up our glasses. We also were initially advised that once the hot weather arrived, the virus problem might lessen.

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The elderly appeared to be the most at-risk. But we also came to learn that nobody was ultimately immune. While large segments of the population spent time wringing their hands, many of us realized our best hope might be accomplished by washing our hands.

Reject or inject

These days, most conversations seem to dwell on whether or not someone has received their vaccination.

“Where did you get yours? Did you wait long? When do you get the second one? Are there any side effects?”

I’ve not gotten my first one yet, but I have an appointment. It seems that more and more vaccinations are becoming available each week in our area. In other parts of the country, the supply is dwarfed by the demand.

It’s still awkward not being free to hug somebody. Hugs and handshakes are still not recommended at the moment — regardless of your personal or political leanings.

I look forward to the days where we can see people’s smiles as we reach out and touch one another. We weren’t meant to live in isolation. We’re at our best when we can personally connect and communicate.

Maybe one day we’ll chuckle at the way we were, once upon a pandemic. But it’s nowhere close to being a laughing matter at this point.

I can handle a little persecution for preferring to fist bump. Hopefully we’ll continue to listen to the scientists and health officials.

Americans continue to occupy hospitals all across the country. Nowhere on that patient’s wristband does it indicate a political party preference. Maybe it’s time we quit branding each other, as well.

Reach Warren Peper at peperwarren@gmail.com

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