Letter to the Editor

For the wonderful citizens of Dickinson County,

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

In the summer of 2019, I had the pleasure of meeting many seniors in Dickinson County while working as an insurance company contractor completing home-based Medicare Wellness exams. I remember one woman I visited with sent me home with banana bread; another person gave me a cute little gag gift. He had crafted a small hammer that could be pushed down onto a quarter i.e., a "quarter pounder."

More than a few people gently corrected my pronunciation of Okoboji, and I think I finally got it right when I entered a home that had it spelled out phonetically on the entry mat. Mostly I remember the welcoming nature of those I met in their lovely homes.

I live in Minnesota, grew up in a small town on the Iron Range, and now live in Minneapolis. Your lovely small communities and lakes, as well as the warmth of those I met, were reminiscent of where I grew up and the also smaller Minneapolis neighborhood where I live now.

One of the better rules and principles I abide by during consultations is not to talk about politics. During many of my visits, cable news stations were playing in the background and several people asked my opinion on things. I gently let them know that I could not comment during the visit. What I did not appreciate until later that summer is how much humanity we shared and all we had in common when there wasn't a political divide. Those kinds of connections have sadly disappeared in communities, in families, in the workplace and seemingly everywhere. I blame extreme partisan politics and disinformation.

My daughter is a television journalist for a local affiliate in a larger city in a western state. Over the past several months, she has been followed, harassed and intimidated. She and her colleagues have had to stop using their station vans because of vandalism. When I asked her who the culprits are, she explained that they are extremists from both parties. This is scary and not something we had to worry about when she started her journalism education over a decade ago.

The division in our country has been weighing on me heavily this year and the misinformation, particularly regarding COVID-19 has been very concerning. My concern led me to do some research and later present at a virtual scholarly nursing conference on how to address politics and misinformation. My general conclusions were to focus on issues, not personalities; to seek first to understand then to be understood as Stephen Covey wrote about a few decades ago, and to commit to unity and not division. While compiling my presentation, I was taken back to my time in Iowa where I met such wonderful people, where we appreciated each other's humanity and treated each other with respect.

Getting back to a place of trust and understanding is going to require a change in leadership and the support of others in places of influence who are willing to speak up to turn down the division and misinformation. It's going to involve leaders who want to bring our country together for the good of all citizens while encouraging views and civil debate of issues, leaders who seek to unite and not divide us, who respect and empower scientists and systems that can address COVID-19, and leaders who will prepare for upcoming threats in a transparent way.

Dr. Carla Cerra

Nurse Practitioner