An apology to those who were protesting | Letter to the editor

To the editor:

This is an open letter to the people protesting outside of Governor Jay Inslee’s home on Saturday, May, 16.

I would like to apologize to you.

I am a neighbor of Jay’s. I ran after your small parade — my mask up, of course — anxious to hand out little leaflets I’d made for just such an occasion that say, essentially: “I take full responsibility for protesting COVID-19 restrictions and/or not adhering to COVID-19 prevention guidelines by promising I will not seek medical attention should I develop any COVID-19 symptoms.”

I handed my leaflets out, made my way to the front of your crowd, stood with my arms outstretched in a position of authority, and yelled, “Don’t go to the hospital. Don’t go to the hospital.” A couple of you yelled back to me, “There’s no one in the hospital!” To which I retorted, at full volume, “Not now there isn’t,” implying of course, that the restrictions are working. And then I left, pumped full of righteous energy.

But by Sunday I was nothing but exhausted and sad. Sad that Governor Inslee is shouldering such an enormous decision-making burden; sad that he can’t even come home on a weekend and count on just a day or two of respite from the pressure he’s under. Sad that people like all of you at the protest have every right to fear you will lose your jobs, if you haven’t already; sad that fear so easily expresses itself as anger. Sad that I looked at you as “the other” and made assumptions about what “kind” of people you might be; sad that it is almost the status quo for so many of us to be so quickly and aggressively dismissive of each other.

The person I first handed my leaflet to said to me, “We come in peace.” I brushed his comment aside, and now I am very sorry I did. I do truly believe that Governor Islee wants, and is working for, the best for all Washingtonians as he, and we, muddle our way through this pandemic. And, I wish I had been kinder — in my words to you and in my thoughts about you — in the face of your fear and anger. I apologize.

JENNIFER MERRILL

Bainbridge Island

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