Marva Fisher Baldwin

September 30, 2021

One of the world’s most noted literary works begins with one of the longest opening sentences. It reads:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of  despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

That famous sentence opens the novel A Tale of Two Cities written by Charles Dickens in 1859. It is set in latter 1700’s London and Paris around the historical period known as the “Reign of Terror” in France.

For some modern day readers, that sentence could be written in present tense. It is said the simultaneous conflicting sentiment Dickens uses could easily describe today’s politics, economy, education, religion tenets, and racial climate. Covid sentiments have landed science in midst of these. 

With increasing scientific knowledge and medical advancements, many diseases and epidemics have been eradicated and lives prolonged even if assisted by faith. Today we find foolishness contradicting wisdom, darkness opposing light, despair battling hope, and incredulity fighting belief. The proliferation of misinformation and far-out theories especially via social media platforms are offered to discredit scientific-based research and discoveries, recognizing some research was conducted using cruel and inhumane techniques.

Now, however, nearing seven hundred thousand Covid related deaths in this country alone when there exists potentially life-saving science-based solution suggests we may be the best of times and the worst of times, the age of wisdom and of foolishness, the epoch of belief and of incredulity, the season of Light and of Darkness, the spring of hope and the winter of despair. We have everything before us but without a recalibration, we may end up having nothing before us. Tragically polarization is harbingering a tale of two country. 

Last Saturday morning, this reality was brought literally to my front door by two messages.  Already the week had brought sadness and grief through lives gone due to Covid, including that of a young cousin in my community. Then while getting ready for my 9AM appointment to get a Pfizer booster, I received a message that a young beautiful and loving relative needed immediate prayer. Knowing the situation, I clearly understood the urgency. In less than fifteen minutes, my son-in-law knocked on my door saying my relative was gone.  

Getting a Pfizer booster mere days after its FDA approval had been a much welcomed opportunity. With a knock on my door, the “spring” of the booster hope had been greatly tempered by the “winter” of despair by the death of this vibrant young talented but unvaccinated wife, mother, daughter, sister, niece, cousin, friend, and entrepreneur.

Later as I reflected on the irony of getting my booster shot and words of condolence simultaneously from the technician, I pondered how we challenge words written one hundred sixty-two year ago to reflect a better reality that says:

It was the worst of times overcome by the best of times, it was the age of foolishness rejected by an age of wisdom, it was the epoch of incredulity abolished by an epoch of belief, it was the season of Darkness illuminated into a season of Light, it was the winter of despair eradicated by the spring of hope, we had nothing before us but now everything before us…

This can be, and it could begin with accepting our track record, our historic precedence with previous vaccines. In times past when we were desperate for a scientific miracle, we accepted new vaccines as viable scientific solutions. Even with reservations, we united in significant numbers to defeat virus, bacteria, strains, and variants. Covid vaccines, widely administered, could save lives. Technicians should administer vaccine and not simultaneous condolences for recent death due to Covid.

Marva Fisher Baldwin is a retired educator, speaker, and writer. She was a candidate for the 2016 North Carolina House of Representatives for then District 3.

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