Community is not the same as conformity. Some folks have seriously confused these two concepts, and therein lies a great deal of the difficulties we’ve recently been seeing throughout our great nation.

America, as a nation, has always been an experiment in nonconformity. The nonconforming have always been the heroes who have led us forward by challenging us when our complacency has attempted to draw us “back to the good old days,” beginning with pilgrims fleeing religious persecution and continuing with the founders of our nation rejecting obeisance to a king in England in favor of a republic representing us all.

Conformity urges us to stay the same. It may feel comfortable to some, but comfort is only good as a respite. Community is the force that makes things happen, the impetus to improve the lot of everyone.

In the age of the pandemic of 2020 we say that we want to “get back to normal” — to our jobs, to open up the economy, meet with our friends, take a vacation, send our kids to school. There are some who tell us that we can ignore the science and go back to “normal.” It’s going to be all right, they say.

It’s not going to be all right!

The saying “If you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got” has been attributed to many. Clearly, we need to do things differently. A healthy dose of community is the sole vaccine for the illness of complacency. We are being summoned to do things differently, to try another way. Working together in a spirit of community, we can move forward to achieve the common good.

So, wash your hands, gird your loins, put on your mask, give each other some space, love your planet, be respectful to each other, listen actively, work together.

And, for crying out loud, vote! It’s how you get to respectfully voice your opinion.

This is our call to arms. Send COVID-19 into the history books as a lesson for future generations. If we don’t, there won’t be any future generations. Reject racial and social bigotry; demand that those we choose to represent us do so legally, ethically and with integrity. And we must do the same, both as individuals and as a community.

Leave conformity behind. Together we will never be going “back to the good old days.” We will invent a new way that values and takes care of every one of us.

Patrick Graham lives in Yakima.