Millie LaFontaine: Through the lens of a pandemic

For the Monitor
Published: 4/18/2021 3:00:06 PM

There are daffodils in full bloom outside my door. I planted them there last fall and most of me is thrilled to see them come up, sturdy harbingers of warm months to come, but part of me is alarmed.

I have been planting daffodils for years, and each year I’ve noticed they come out earlier and earlier. Years ago they would be barely peeking out of the ground until the third week in April. Patriot’s Day, that Boston holiday also known as Marathon Monday, typically coincided with those first brave blooms.

It’s hard to complain about daffodils, but this year I see their early appearance for something else. To me they are harbingers of the climate crisis, as surely as raging wildfires in Oregon, which caused weeks of zero visibility there last summer, or freezing temperatures in Texas, which caused a ruined power grid this winter.

That is a bleak take on an early spring, I freely admit, but that’s where my mind goes. I think that the pandemic has given me a lot of time to look at the world differently. Recognizing the darker implications of phenomena I observe has become practically an occupational hazard this year.

For instance, when our emboldened New Hampshire House is trying to pass legislation like HB 544, “relative to the propagation of divisive concepts,” I can’t help but see it as a thinly veiled attempt to paper over the tragic but very real history of racism and sexism in our nation. I can’t help but see that it suppresses healthy discourse about our past history and how it relates to our present. I’m not sure of its sponsors’ intentions, but in my new frame of mind they appear sinister.

I see the current wave of voter suppression legislation in Georgia and other states, including our own, as dangerous threats to our fragile democracy by making it harder to vote instead of easier, thus disenfranchising millions of voters who deserve a say as much as anyone else.

Similarly, gerrymandering of voting districts is, to me, antidemocratic. Instead of leveling the playing field, it gives even more power to politicians whose views are not necessarily representative of the majority of those in their state, let alone the majority of Americans.

I see the politicization of mask-wearing as one of a number of unfortunate roadblocks in our efforts to get this pandemic behind us. Why would our political affiliation matter in an issue like this? While there are many ways that people choose to frame this issue, I honestly find it hard not to attribute malicious motives to those who promote mask refusal.

And that male members of one political party should have a corner on the market of vaccine skeptics, what’s all that about? It’s one thing to be hesitant but open to persuasion by a trusted source of information. It’s another entirely to claim this is about personal liberty. What about the liberty of the rest of us to be healthy?

On brighter notes, I am extremely gratified that our new president and Congress have done what’s needed to be done to enact a COVID relief bill aimed at all Americans, not just those at the top. I am relieved that the vaccine rollout is finally proceeding apace. I am hopeful that the end of the pandemic is in sight. Personally, I am doing everything I can, including volunteering as a vaccinator, to push that effort along.

And I have to admit, I do love daffodils. They might be early, but they are more welcome than ever this year.

(Millie LaFontaine lives in Concord.)

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