By DAVID A. COOK
Somehow, we are already past the halfway mark in the first month of 2021. I’m not sure how it’s possible for this month to have been both extraordinarily long and frighteningly short.
A few weeks ago, we lost five lives at the U.S. Capitol in one of the most shocking acts of terror many of us have ever witnessed on our soil. Since that terrifying afternoon, Congress moved to impeach President Donald Trump in his final week in office, and by the time the paper copy of this issue reaches many of you, we’ll have sworn in President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris – all of that in just the last two weeks.
This event is still fresh for many of us, and this column is being written shortly before Inauguration Day where it’s possible there could be more violence. I won’t make any predictions about the coming days and weeks, however, I will say that the entire Local 655 family was shocked, enraged and saddened by what we saw.
We have to express our condolences for the families of those that died, and we have to express our anger and shock that such a disturbing thing was even possible. Our politics have been particularly toxic lately — something we’ve discussed at length right here in this column — and too much of our language is designed to describe our opponents as enemies that must be defeated.
WHY CAN’T WE ALL GET ALONG?
We must put an end to this. UFCW Local 655 is a large organization representing thousands of men and women and those men and women disagree with each other at times, but we must find a way to disagree without being disagreeable. We also must hold our elected officials accountable for using inciting language. and, in so doing, tacitly endorsing radical actions.
Right here in Missouri, our own Sen. Josh Hawley has gotten national attention for his perceived contribution to this violence. This is a conversation we have to start having, and I urge you all to think about the language you use when you disagree with someone on their political beliefs.
Violence like what we saw on the 6th is unacceptable and must be loudly declared that way. We all must work to prevent something like that from ever happening again. If we can begin to turn back toward some kindness and civility in our disagreements, we can slowly turn back to kindness and civility in our lives. If we fail at doing this, I’m worried that we’ll only see more violence in the future.
VACCINES ON THE WAY
While stories of violence, impeachment and presidential politics have dominated headlines, there has been other news, too.
Vaccines are rolling out across the country…slowly, very slowly. The CDC and the state of Missouri both have grocery store workers on their lists of essential frontline workers who will get priority access to the vaccine.
This is good news! Sadly, the bad news is that actual vaccines are simply not being distributed and administered at the appropriate places.
Since there has been a great deal of confusion and mismanagement, I do not have the definitive answers about the vaccine’s rollout that I would like. There is no date set for when it will be available to the majority of our partners, but UFCW Local 655 is engaged in discussions both with elected officials and our largest employers to help this process roll out.
What I can tell you is that most local governments in the St. Louis area have established online portals that will let you to get in line for your vaccine. Your age and health will be a factor, but so will your employment status. As a “food worker” as it’s called in many places, you will certainly be entitled to a vaccine ahead of folks who are regularly working from home, or young and healthy.
St. Louis County, St. Louis City and St. Charles County all have portals up-and-running for anyone who wishes to pre-register to receive their vaccine. (See story at bottom of this page.) All of these links will be available on our website and our Facebook page.
Unfortunately, beyond those basics, I don’t have many more details about vaccination. I can tell you we’re actively engaged in the process and as soon as we have more information, we’ll make sure to provide it to you.
BETTER DAYS AHEAD
With our toxic politics and our uncertain public health status, it can certainly feel like an exhausting time to be alive. You might be feeling weary or just dogged with worry, and no one would blame you for saying so.
Despite the failures and challenges of the last year, I find myself oddly optimistic for our future as long as we take the right steps.
We will diligently monitor and engage in the process of making vaccine available to our members and as it becomes more widely available to the public, we’ll begin to see our new cases shrink and our mortality rates mercifully go down.
While the end is still way off, I think we are getting a glimpse of it now. The health of our partners and the general public will continue to take priority.
Finally, we should all try to consider how we talk to each other and how we act toward each other when we disagree. We just cannot allow violence to become the norm, and we can’t allow the acerbic dialogue to make us meaner. In short, we have to disagree without being disagreeable.
It’s a lot of work. There’s a long way to go, but we’re getting there, inch by inch.