We’re all exhausted by Gov. Tim Walz’s use of executive power to keep us all “safe.” Since September, he’s used that privilege nearly one dozen times. He must have writer’s cramp just from the signatures alone.
Why does he seem so eager to rob us of our normal freedoms? Well, we’ve entered a new phase of the COVID-19 pandemic as positive cases have numbered more than 3,500 a day since the election and the number of people testing positive as a percentage of all those being tested now exceeds 15%. Remember when we were nervous about our percentage creeping above 5%?
It has taken us eight months to get to 3,150 COVID deaths in Minnesota. That’s a far cry from the 22,000 possible deaths some models had suggested could occur by this time. Yea for us, unless you are one of the dead or the family members left behind.
It’s also worth noting that nearly 6% of the total 3,150 deaths through Nov. 20 came in the last three days of reports. That is not a good trend.
So his announcement on Nov. 18 that he would need to invoke the privilege again was like another Walz left hook.
This time he trampled all over our holiday plans. Now we’re not supposed to get together with any family or friends outside of our own home for Thanksgiving? Is he serious? This is the most family-oriented gathering of the year. We’re supposed to just phone it in, literally, with Zoom and FaceTime calls?
We’ve all had it, Mr. Walz. You’re just asking far too much.
But before we raise our pitchforks and torches for a sensibly-distanced and masked assembly at 1006 Summit Avenue, we may want to take a trip back to the origin of Thanksgiving.
Oddly there are striking similarities to what Pilgrims encountered in their first year in the New World and what we are facing today.
In 1620 a variety of people looking for a place to exercise their faiths freely set forth on a 66-day voyage from Plymouth, England to the tip of Cape Cod. It took them another month to get to their intended destination, present-day Plymouth, Massachusetts. In that first winter in the New World, many of the colonists stayed aboard the ship known as the Mayflower. They suffered from exposure, scurvy, and, yes, outbreaks of contagious disease. Nearly half of the 102 passengers perished in that winter.
It was only through the generosity of Native Americans, who taught the Pilgrims how to successfully grow corn, catch fish in rivers, tap maple trees and stay clear of poisonous plants, that the colonists were able to survive and eventually flourish. As a celebration of all that had been achieved in that first year, a three-day feast was held and Native Americans and colonists celebrated together. It was our nation’s first Thanksgiving. It did not happen without a tremendous price being paid by those 102 colonists, many of whom never had the chance to enjoy the feast.
Four centuries later, our voyage has lasted more than eight months and the toll has been significant, both – in lives lost, physical and mental illness, and economic turmoil. Yet, it could be worse and most certainly will be if we continue to gather in groups that have now become a COVID breeding ground.
Thanksgiving will certainly be less joyful without our family and friends to hug, share a meal and enjoy their company. But these sacrifices are not being offered in vain. They do make a difference as it will prevent explosive spread, which simply cannot be accommodated by our hospitals and health care workers.
We wish more than anything that we could simply end this pandemic and get back to normal. But like the colonists, there are some aspects to this journey that are out of our control.
Our best approach now is to make these sacrifices, knowing that one day we will gather. We will hug. We will enjoy meals together.
And when that happens, maybe Mr. Walz won’t be our enemy anymore, but somebody who used his authority to guide the state through its most difficult journey of this century. And like the colonists in the winter of 1621, maybe when we get through our winter we’ll all have the chance to be thankful for what we have and the hope of what is yet to come.
Happy Thanksgiving to you all.
Keith Anderson is director of news for APG of East Central Minnesota