The past few days, as the fourth of July—Independence Day in the U.S.A.—approached, my thoughts went to the term “interdependence.” We all talk of freedom and individual rights and independence at this time of year, and especially in this perilous time of a deadly and pervasive infectious disease that has struck not only our country, but every country on this planet.
While we have a right to freedom speech, we do not have a right to incite unlawful acts; nor do we have the right to endanger the lives others, such as driving while under the influence of alcohol or other substances that impair one’s ability to drive safely. I could go on and on about the rational and logical limits to our freedoms and independence, but the upshot remains that where one individual’s “right” crosses paths with another’s, in a civil society that calls for compromise, if not courtesy, politeness, empathy, or acts of kindness.
That concept triggered the thought of interdependence, and that while we may tout our personal independence, there are few, if any, truly independent people. In this modern, materialistic world of ours we all depend on others, to one degree or another, with regard to most facets of our daily lives. Even the iconoclastic loner living in a remote wilderness is likely to have a few manufactured tools, goods, and weapons procured from civilization, and therefore is not truly independent.
Like it or not, we depend on others—we need others—in order to fully enjoy the freedoms, the extensive individual rights, the relative safety and security, and the vast quantity and quality of material possessions this country offers. Like it or not, we are interdependent, and no more so than during this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, as 2.5 million of our fellow citizens have contracted the disease and 130,000 have died—with no end in sight. If physical distancing and wearing a mask in public, or private, helps stem the tide of this highly infectious disease, so be it.
So imagine my joyful surprise when I picked up the LA Times this morning and saw this headline: “A call for interdependence,” written by columnist Nita Lelyveld. It merits reading.
(The title in the digital version is different from the print version: Want to exercise your freedom? Join in to stem the spread of coronavirus)
Lelyveld writes: On this Independence Day, I’d rather focus on our extreme interdependence, on how our future on so many fronts depends on our acting as one to help stem a global pandemic. . . .
While perusing the paper, I also ran across this news article: Truck driver posts regrets about party a day before dying of coronavirus
After months of diligently isolating, truck driver Tommy Macias, 51, made one error that cost him his life. He went to a barbecue party with some friends. [And presumably they were not wearing masks.]
He didn’t know that someone who had tested positive for COVID-19, but showed no symptoms, also was there.
Macias’s path followed a familiar scenario: At first, Macias seemed to be recovering during the week after he suddenly fell ill, which gave his family hope. But by that Sunday morning, he had taken a turn for the worse.
He was hospitalized and after 10 hours put on a ventilator to try to raise his oxygen intake. He died that night.
More than 10 others who attended that barbecue party—who then went home and probably back to work the next day—have also tested positive for the coronavirus.
In a final message to his loved ones, Tommy Macias voiced his regret in a Facebook post: “Because of my stupidity I put my mom and sisters and my family’s health in jeopardy. Don’t be a … idiot like me.”
Happy In(ter)dependence Day.