Bertha Cooper

Think About It: Taking inventory

I hope by the time you read this column I will have sent some sort of holiday greeting which at this writing has become a “Happy New Year” greeting. Realistically, I won’t make it by Christmas. I wonder if you are as surprised as I am at how busy one can become while in relative isolation.

Surely, it’s not all the time spent sanitizing my hands, locating a fresh mask, sorting and spraying mail and waiting until the meat counter is clear. After all there are other things I’m not doing, such as driving to and from meetings or lunch dates.

Maybe it’s something else, something different, something besides appointments to solve a medical problem and something besides working a book through the publishing process. Could it be the unrelenting uncertainty and occurrences of misfires, distortions, disinformation, hollow victories, humans at best wishing for harm and at worst threatening the safety of others?

All of these things call upon my moral strength nearly daily to hold my values close and embrace my fundamental belief in human goodness. No doubt some of the precious energy left at my age is being spent on worry, contemplation and sorting through it all to find hope.

I believe in hope and optimism as catalysts to action. We live in an age of tremendous scientific knowledge and technology to drive solutions and change. The emergence of vaccines in a relatively short time is a demonstration.

We also live in an age in which many people are willing to help others in need, a number that’s grown as businesses closed or went on hiatus leaving many without employment and the means to provide for basic needs.

Why are people not in the streets?

Yes, we have an enormous counterweight of darkness and vulnerability that stress our strengths as a country and our spirits as people. Since I last wrote, Russia successfully invaded and occupies and, in some cases, could control essential government cyberspace programs. The sitting president is mulling appointing a known QAnon follower as a special counsel to prove election fraud.

We are also having a strange economic recovery now termed a “K” recovery meaning some of us have done well and some of us have done poorly. People who enjoyed relative financial security but little savings — young families and those starting out — are seen in recent car models that are snaking in long curving lines to obtain food. People are suffering not only the anxiety of a pandemic but the enormous anxiety and insecurity of losing homes or not having adequate food on the table.

Congress just passed a bill to provide some relief but insufficient to help states through major shortfalls which if not solved will result in cutting positions in public safety, health care and education.

At what point will we throw open our windows and say “I’m not going to take it anymore!” Or, as the commentator bemoaned,” Why aren’t people in the streets?!” from the comfort of her news desk.

People have been in the streets, including large groups on each “side” of BLM, white supremacy groups, health care worker supporters, who also opened windows to clap support and the angry mask-less citizens.

So far the streets and a general election turnout greater than any before it have not moved these “sides” closer to each other. We are still on guard, some waiting to be called to fight by the outgoing president and some waiting for someone to call this dangerous foolishness out and take action to stop the threats to our country, our constitution and its people during this terrible anxious time.

So far the party that could make the call stands silently except for a very few lonely voices that say “stop” and reportedly a larger group gathering around the president to offer support.

We have enough to worry about. How can this be?

The NW corner of the USA

We inhabit one of the most remote areas of our country. Water on outside boundaries and mountains on the inside boundary with one long road that brings people in, through and out. Our landscape is stunning and our weather is moderate with occasional treats of snow. We have lovely and useful small shops and Costco and Walmart.

COVID-19, although present, has been contained mostly because of a low population density and high level of compliance with safety precautions that prevent spread. Our relatively low incidence may have spawned denial and complacency by some but most of us are practicing masked shoppers. We’ve have our share of heated mask vs no mask debates but stayed low on Thanksgiving.

Yet, we are not without issues that require community solutions. The things that mar our community are the same things that mar others.

Our community is representative of national issues outside of COVID-19. We have the very wealthy and the very poor. We lack affordable housing. We don’t support our school district in its need to update facilities. We are beginning to see more evidence of inequality and exclusion.

We’re not without conspiracy theorists who see themselves as saviors of our very goodness. Remember the paranoid locals further west who stalked visiting campers or the gun-toting men attending a BLM demonstration in Sequim because they believed a terrorist group was coming to cause violence. We have at least one elected official who is an admitted QAnon follower.

The opposition to the medicine-assisted treatment (MAT) clinic proposed by the Jamestown S’Klallam tribe continues to be tainted by challenges to the tribe’s motives and broad unfavorable characterizations of the tribe and people with Opioid Use Disorder.

None of this is news. We are not special. It’s human inventory and like most inventories, we have too much of some things and not enough of others. And like inventories, we can do something about it. We’ve shown support through food banks, homeless shelters, charitable giving, kind words and caring. We know we can always use more giving, kindness, caring.

We can expect our elected official and community leaders to be accountable in removing barriers to opportunity.

We can be wise and carefully assess those who are not smart enough to make their point without deception and dehumanizing others because they are proving they are not smart enough to do any job.

We will manage our inventory for the best if we are clear on our values and honest in their application to our expectations and actions.

And, when we see each other again without our masks, we will be feeling success in managing the best and worst inventory left from the long dark 2020 and we will be smiling in our small corner of the world.

Bertha Cooper, featured columnist in the Sequim Gazette, spent her career years in health care administration, program development and consultation. Cooper and her husband have lived in Sequim more than 20 years. Reach her at

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