By ROBERT JUMPER
ONE FEATHER EDITOR
I am not a very social person. I wasn’t when I was younger and I am surely not as I grow older. I like people and actually have a few that I love, but as far as chit-chat and “hugginess”, I have had to train myself to engage in those activities. I guess it comes from being the oldest child and from not having a totally functional family growing up. In that environment, love was more of an understanding than displays of outward affection. There is an old joke about a woman who approached her husband after many years of marriage and asked him the question “Why don’t you ever tell me that you love me?” He answers, “I told you I love you when we got married, and, if that ever changes, I will let you know.”
I am sure that I am not alone in that mentality of raising. We thought caring and providing for our loved ones was enough. Back in my day, it was about survival and when someone helped you survive, they loved you. No hug required. And no hug would be expected. We spent so much time ensuring survival that we were either working or too tired to engage in petting. Not just in my family, but in many of the families in my neighborhood.
But, our world is different now. Outward displays of affection are the mark of caring or at least the perception of caring. We care, therefore we hug. But, even that comes with caveats. Some will use outward affection as a tool to satisfy their own wants. We all know of or have a Brutus in our life. The one who outwardly supports and has affection for us, but in their hearts, they are desirous or repelled by something we have or are. They are waiting for the right moment to plunge the dagger during one of those embraces.
We see it in social media circles. A poster will put up a picture of an injured animal, a child or adult in intensive care, with the tag “if you care about this, copy and paste”. The poster will feign caring when, in reality, they have googled the picture and are using it only to boost their post rate or to attempt to lure the gullible into contributing to a cause that is usually lining their own pockets. No care for the subject of the photos. The same is true of these phone scam artists who attempt to lure our elders into divulging enough information to tap into their bank accounts or divert their social security checks to fleece them of their little bit of security.
And life in the era of COVID-19 has just made it easier for those who are more interested in self-care than they are someone else’s autumn care to access the elderly. With limited access to family, both the homebound and those in senior adult care facilities are more isolated from the protection of their loved ones than ever. And with a limited pool of people to interact with, elders are more likely to engage those friendly, seemingly caring strangers who volunteer to engage them, some with good intentions and others not so much. It is sometimes difficult to distinguish between the ones who truly care and those who are about to bury the dagger in your back.
Social distancing has made it even more challenging to figure out who has your best interests at heart. You surely do not want to live a cynical life and push everyone away. That is not our nature. We are social creatures and actually crave interaction with others. The “I said I loved you once and will let you know if I change my mind” group is not favored in today’s environment. And the current coronavirus has created the perfect storm. People who want interaction and affection are being preyed upon by those ready to fake affection long enough for a nice, easy payday.
I have mentioned elders, but they are not the only targets of the unscrupulous. Take for example, the COVID infection rate itself. High numbers of infection are being seen in the teenage to 30-year-old age category, basically because of their desire to have physical interaction with their peer group, some knowing that they are infected with the virus – reckless disregard for the health and safety of others to satisfy self-interest.
Very recently, someone vandalized the tribally-maintained decorative fountains in downtown Cherokee. They used red paint and made handprints on walls and signage and smeared paint on rocks. They had thrown beer cans in and around the fountains and vandalized the picnic area. It is not known if the culprits are members of our community, but if they are, they should know that those fountains are maintained with your tribal dollars and labor. When tribal, community property is vandalized and destroyed, each member of the community is damaged. Monies that could be used for community services for orphans, elders, physically challenged, and indigent people will be used to clean and repair the damage done by these vandals. Again, reckless disregard for the community to satisfy momentary self-interest. A little childish fun at a lot of expense for the community.
This week, I began to feel that first little chill in the air; the one that tells you that fall temperatures may be around the corner. Before we know it, fall will be upon us. Fall and early winter bring family times. October is typically a reunion month for the Qualla Boundary. No Fall Festival this year – formally. Will families meet? Almost assuredly. Then there is Thanksgiving and Christmas, the big traditional gathering times. But we are challenged this year. COVID-19 infection and governmental mandates will limit the amount of physical contact that is safe. Currently, there doesn’t seem to be an amount that is deemed safe by the medical profession. We will need to be responsible in our family activities and there will be a cost in human contact.
This may be the strangest holiday season that we’ll experience in our lifetime. Like many other life decisions, we must plan to ensure health and safety. As we have seen, reckless behavior has a cost, whether it is property or human suffering. And while a hug is warm and comforting, it may have the opposite meaning in the era of COVID-19, just like ignoring the mask mandate sends the message that you care less about your community than you do your personal preferences.
We like to put trust in friends and family. We act like our loved ones have a choice as to whether they give us the virus. We think, “So and so is okay. We love each other. No way would he give me COVID-19”. But, he doesn’t have a say in it if he is a carrier of the virus. And he would have no choice if he made physical contact with you or some particles from his body, through sneezing, coughing, or talking, got in yours.
As difficult as it may be for some, this may be a holiday season of tough love. Love that says in providing for you and caring for you, I will celebrate with you from a distance. It will be difficult so we better start thinking about how we will do it now. The heat of summer will be over sooner than we think. I am already organizing the decorations and dusting off the tree. I wonder what color Santa’s mask will be this year…