By Brian M. Arrigo
During the recent months we have experienced two dramatic events that undoubtedly will be forever characterized as pivotal moments of modern history: the Covid-19 pandemic, and the demonstrations that have been staged across the nation in reaction to the death of a Black man in police custody in Minneapolis.
Though the two events are unrelated, each can impart lessons about unity, and its value to our community’s well-being and to society as a whole.
Human nature drives us to react to a common sense of threat or injustice. And when we channel our reactions toward a unified objective, we can witness beneficial results.
When Covid-19 crawled into our consciousness, we quickly perceived the menace as it frightened us, sickened our families and claimed the lives of so many of our most vulnerable people.
In response, the public acted together for the good of others. The proverb “Unity is Strength” was personified as the people of our widely diverse city merged as volunteers and essential workers to maintain the community’s foundation and minister to those in need. It took courage and stamina, but the universal objective of caring for each other was the ultimate motivation.
The collective power of all our efforts staved off a greater health catastrophe. Today, cautiously and still working together, our lives have taken a step toward recovery. Our constant awareness of Covid-19, linked with our continued spirit to care for each other, will help us dodge its peril.
Injustice, in the form of racism, violence and exclusion, is an analogous menace. It tears at our fundamental existence as human beings living in one environment. It endangers the innocent and the vulnerable and seeds despair and fear.
Against this threat, also, we must act together, unified against that which sickens us and claims the life of too many.
We mourn the sad truth that it took George Floyd’s death to spur the unified social activism that we pray will symbolize the value of life and lead to the reforms that will strengthen us as a nation. This is our societal crucible, and while we tremble at the pain and havoc that erupts from injustice, we are fully conscious of the good that can grow from unity and action. Without unified action, we risk societal catastrophe.
Former President Barack Obama, commenting on the demonstrators last week, commented that “the overwhelming majority of participants have been peaceful, courageous, responsible, and inspiring [and] deserve our respect and support.”
Fighting injustice, the demonstrators have taken the same tactic as their friends and neighbors who fought against that other insidious disease afflicting our nation. Every one of them has acted in unity, determined as ever to protect their brothers and sisters from danger.
Against disease, against injustice, against any anguish, Unity is strength, and it is also our greatest hope.
Brian Arrigo is Mayor of the City of Revere.