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Op-Ed from Rep. Morales: If there was ever a time to be Texan, now is that time y'all

This is not about politics; it is not about race; it is not about money; it is about being a Texan. Too many of us have died.

State Representative Eddie Morales, Jr.

The State of Texas has often been referred to as not just a state, but also a state of mind; Texas is an idea. I am proud of our beautiful state -- I am proud of its people, its culture, and its imprint on our character. Texans are strong people -- courageous people. We are a people that help others before we are even asked. We strive to protect one another and work towards a prosperous future in every endeavor. It is important now more than ever that we embody these characteristics. In the time of a global pandemic, when all of us are hurting, we should be doing everything in our power to protect each other.

At the turn of the 21st century, we looked up at the canvas of the night sky to watch as fizzles and bursts of color, mirrored our eager anticipation of the growth and prosperity which was to come. Now twenty years later, that eager anticipation we once held had withered away, leaving behind a black cloud of dread. We had found ourselves more interested in attacking our neighbors, instead of working towards that prosperous future, we all imagined twenty years ago.

In the last year and a half, we have gone through what could be described as the largest health crisis this planet has ever seen. A rampant virus, with no political agenda, no discrimination, and no warning, has taken away more than we could have ever imagined. At the beginning of the pandemic, we spent days locked away in our homes, for fear of infecting ourselves with this virus that we seemingly knew nothing about. We would chat with each other, and hear of distant relatives contracting the virus; we would let out a gasp of despair, not knowing what was to come next. Everyone around your circle would text you and check in on you to see how that relative was doing because at that time it just seemed impossible that they could have contracted it.

Now, those cases are not as distant as they once seemed. We find ourselves entering conversations by asking "Did you know that Steve caught COVID?" and the faces people make are no longer surprise and confusion. Your mind isn't racing with a thousand different outcomes for your dear friend Steve. Instead, you shrug your shoulders and go back to chatting about who recently got cut from the roster of your favorite sports team. We've changed.

Yes, this is about COVID-19. No, do not act surprised. It's time to sit down and talk about it, as scary, controversial, and political as it may seem. It all boils down to one common concept that anyone can understand. Being a neighbor.

If there is but one good thing to come out of this pandemic, is that it has redefined what it means to be a "neighbor." Someone who lives in the residence next to yours is no longer good enough to define what it means to be a neighbor. We all saw the videos, pictures, and stories of people around the country coming together to help the most vulnerable strangers. Whether it was by delivering groceries to immunocompromised citizens, or mowing their grass, or helping tutor their children after they finished their online classes. It brought a warm feeling to each of us because we knew that if someone that we knew and cared for, found themselves in that situation, someone would treat them with kindness. The people we cared for would be given all the help that could be offered. After all, is that not how we raise our children to be? Do we not teach them to say "please," "thank you," "yes, sir/ma'am?" It's not just about respect, it's about being a neighbor.

I understand the hesitancy behind getting the vaccine. A lot of people understand the hesitancy. Think about it though. As of February of this year, COVID-19 claimed 500,000 American lives. More lives than were claimed in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam wars combined (U.S. World News Report).

Half a million of us, our neighbors, have died from a virus that we have the power to stop. Me, and you, have the power to stop these deaths from continuing to mount. We need to stop treating this as an issue of personal choice. We have never been alone through this pandemic, we have always had each other.

If you thought the pandemic was not bad enough, we had one of the harshest winters that Texas has ever seen. The entire state of Texas was covered in ice this past February. Grocery stores ran out of product, supply chains were disrupted, homes were severely damaged, and families were displaced. What did we do then? Did you read any stories about how Texans did not take in their neighbor to keep warm? Did you read stories about how Texans did not get in their lifted 4x4 trucks and offer to drive for errands that others couldn't make? I guarantee you did not read a single story like that. Instead, those who were able were helping in any situation that they could.

If you find yourself trying to apply the same mindset to the pandemic, and are having a hard time understanding why we aren't doing the same thing in this situation, I am wondering the same thing. In recent months, hospitals have been running out of beds in Intensive Care Units (ICUs) across the state, and many more are nearing capacity. People are being turned away from hospitals because there is no room. . Roughly 81% of the State’s ICU beds are currently occupied. This overwhelming capacity is causing a strain on our healthcare system and our frontline personnel. This is alarming because the excessive amounts of COVID-19 cases are preventing hospitals from taking in individuals who need medical help not related to COVID-19.

Our neighbors are dying. It's time to do our part. We need to be there for them like we know they would be there for us. One of the vaccines has obtained FDA approval. If that is not enough for you to consider getting the vaccine, then talk to a doctor. Ask them what they think you should do next. If you won't get the vaccine, then do the bare minimum. Wear a mask. That simple act, does not harm you in doing so and it helps in preventing the transmission of COVID-19 should you, unfortunately, contract it.

This is not about politics; it is not about race; it is not about money; it is about being a Texan. Too many of us have died.

If there was ever a time to be Texan, now is that time y'all.

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