Dear Amy: My fiance and I are both doctors in a mid-sized American city. We are regularly caring for COVID patients and recognize that we are high-risk to be potential vectors. We’ve spent the last several months being absolutely horrified by this disease and shocked that some don’t seem to be taking it seriously.
My fiance’s family lives in a different state, where his sister is supposed to get married next month. Despite our frequently voiced discomfort, the current plan is for a 95-person wedding — grandparents and all! — with absolutely no COVID precautions at all in his parents’ backyard (outside, at least, but their home will be open to anyone). Masks and physical distancing are not on the table; they say they "can’t control what people do" and that things have "gone back to normal" where they are.
In a nutshell, they get their news from far more conservative sources than we do, don’t know people who have been sick, and don’t think it can happen to them.
Obviously, in an ideal world we could talk this out and end up with a wedding that would at least feel a little more responsible. The only concession has been that they’ve said they will understand if we feel like we can’t come.
At this point, it feels like any decision we make is wrong. My fiance desperately wants to be there, but it is hard to imagine spending 36 hours in a series of situations that are risky and socially negligent.
Do we go? Do we stay? If we do go, do we wear masks and attempt to physically distance despite the fact that this will be completely out of place and seen as a political statement? If we don’t go, how do we bow out gracefully? — Caught Couple
Dear Caught: You and your fiance are medical experts, but maybe it will take an amateur (me) to clarify things for you: Wake up! Wake up and smell the COVID!
As physicians on the front lines, you risk exposing others to illness. You admit as much in your question!
Please — don’t let others frame this choice as political, when it is medical.
If you as physicians lack the ability to make a clear choice, based on science, then what chance do the rest of us have?
Because you are concerned and compliant (good for you!), if you did attend the wedding, you would have to get tested, travel, (possibly) isolate, get tested again, and wear masks and maintain your distance while there.
The ethical choice is for you to stay home.
The way to bow out gracefully is to respond honestly: "We are heartbroken to miss this wedding, but we realize that we pose a risk to others, and we could not live with ourselves if someone became ill because of our presence. We hope you have a wonderful time and look forward to seeing lots of photos and videos."
These family members might be willing/able to livestream the wedding for you.
Dear Amy: I feel very much a part of our country, and have many patriotic feelings. However, I believe that for some people, flying the flag at home has become a conservative political statement.
That is not a message I wish to convey. I want to fly the Stars and Stripes on my house over the July 4 holiday.
How can I do this without sending the wrong message? — Confused in Kansas
Dear Confused: You can (and should) fly the flag without sending the "wrong message," by not caring what other people think or how they interpret your patriotism.
In fact, I believe your concern and overthinking about this contributes to the very problem you are attempting to highlight.
If you believe we are in the midst of a culture war, then be a brave warrior and exercise your own freedom and the right to fly the flag, for goodness sake.