BENNWS-04-21-20 SUNDAY EDITORIAL_GRAPHIC

It’s not often we find ourselves moved by a graphic on Facebook, but the image accompanied here — the origin of which is difficult to trace — is especially poignant and timely.

It poses a simple question: “Who do I want to be during COVID-19?” It’s a question we’d all do well to reflect upon.

Two of the zones depicted, “Growth” and “Learning,” reflect the values of what most would acknowledge makes up a stable, mature, involved, well-rounded person, a good citizen.

The fear zone, not so much.

This pandemic has brought out the best in many in our community.

Local organizations are doing much to help us through this difficult time. Many of our neighbors find themselves needing help for the first time in their lives.

The list of people in our area that have become “the helpers,” as Mr. Rogers might say, would fill this entire page. The “helpers” Mr. Rogers referred to are first responders — police, fire and rescue, EMTs, dispatchers, the list goes on.

COVID-19 has expanded the definition of “helpers.” In today’s climate, it now includes janitors, grocery store workers, farmers, bankers, clerks, CPAs, cooks, truck drivers, delivery drivers, doctors, nurses, home medical staff, security guards and journalists.

But that’s just the top of a far longer list. These helpers are putting their lives on the line every day for hourly wages that come nowhere near the real value of what they do. The pandemic shines a bright light on their contributions, and their pay inequity.

Unfortunately, the pandemic has also exposed some less flattering behavior.

We are saddened to see in recent days the ratcheting up of impolite, uncivil and rude behavior, both at the national level and at our Kentucky Capitol. It is inappropriate at a time when people are suffering and dying.

The foolish and ignorant demonstration last week in Frankfort was designed to drown out Gov. Andy Beshear during his daily pandemic update. It did. As the governor was sharing the tragic news of how many of our neighbors have died on a television broadcast airing everywhere in the commonwealth, the din of horns and raucous, angry shouts of irrelevant slogans competed with the solemn news he was sharing.

The jubilant social media posts that followed were an obscenity, emphasizing the foolishness and ignorance of the participants.

We weren’t raised that way. That is not Kentucky. That is not who we are.

In McCracken County, someone thought now would be a good time to paint a large Confederate battle flag across a highway. Already overworked county employees had to waste valuable time cleaning it up.

In Marshall County, elected officials thought it was a good time to hang a Confederate flag at the county courthouse in Benton.

Spreading ideological propaganda isn’t what public officials are elected to do. Fixing potholes, building new roads, making sure we have clean water, safe schools, well equipped officers and recruiting new employers is a better agenda and more appropriate use of time and public resources.

Now is the time to focus on the health, safety and well-being of residents, particularly the disadvantaged and most vulnerable. Now is the time to think of the future, when COVID-19 has passed and the crisis has receded, and how our economies, from local to national to global, will be rebuilt.

This leads us to another important question we hope you take seriously on this first Sunday following Easter. Honest self-examination is required.

“After COVID-19, who do I want to be?”

Today, we are reminded of the words that appear at the top of the editorial page of a publication in Arkansas, the Paragould Daily Press. For decades, beginning nearly 60 years ago, the page reads, “Oh Lord, let us be doers, not merely complainers.”

When answering the two questions we posed here today — who do I want to be during and after this crisis? — those wise words are a good place to start.