Yarin: Maybe we’ll get it right this year

This article was published 1 year(s) and 8 month(s) ago.

“Whatever decision you make will be the right one.” 

When I was younger, my parents would offer me this simple phrase whenever a real, grown-up problem had me languishing in indecision. It’s a beautiful piece of advice, so utterly American in its encouragement of the advisee to roll the dice and go forth boldly. It belongs on the shelf next to “he who hesitates is lost” and “fortune favors the bold,” and it stuck with me particularly because of its ability to both soothe and empower.

In a life full of unknowns, sometimes small stakes can feel paralyzingly high. The absence of a clear path can perplex anyone and make the difference between right and wrong as imperceptible as a landmine ― one wrong move and everything blows up. 

But the reality is that we have to be decisive and, yes, a little bold if we want to survive. 

The phrase “whatever decision you make will be the right one” reminds us that if it wasn’t for the choices you’ve made in the past, you wouldn’t be faced with the choice you must make today. Maybe it was irresponsible of my parents to tell me I’d make the right decision no matter what, but I think it actually encouraged me to be thoughtful and responsible. Besides, choice alone won’t kill you, right? 

Then this year happened. If nothing else, 2021 made it clear that some decisions are really and truly wrong. Some people are really and truly irresponsible. 

Oh, 2021. The year of the “pandemic of the unvaccinated.”

After almost two years of living in a liminal quarantine, it feels reckless to ever resume telling people that their decisions are correct based solely on the fact that they’re the ones making them. The constant state of pandemic uncertainty Americans live in is caused in part by a deformed sense of empowerment ― a 21st-century Manifest Destiny ― where personal freedom mistranslates into the ability to destroy oneself and one’s fellows at will. 

Yes, in the sense that nobody is holding a literal gun to your head, wearing a mask and getting the vaccine is a choice. But to choose not to help to stop the spread of COVID, to expose people to sickness and death, to keep the economy in peril, to distort public health into partisan politics, to force the country into shutdown after shutdown, and to traumatize a generation all for the sake of the “freedom to decide” doesn’t feel like the best use of one’s responsibility.

2021 was characterized by the damage done by COVID deniers. Their refusal to let the nation heal portends a 2022 rife with tough decisions and hard truths. We will find ourselves in between jobs and homes and family politics as the pandemic holding pattern continues. Nothing is getting easier, but we’re getting a bit tougher ― and hopefully a bit smarter. 

We’re an uncertain nation and, frankly, we’ve been at a crossroads for a while before the pandemic so, in 2022, may the agony we spend improve our character. May we learn that our neighbors’ well-being is more valuable than our personal entitlement. May our freedom to choose empower us to do the right thing. 

Then, in 2023, may whatever decision we make be the right one.

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