Sisters is “reopening” along with the rest of Deschutes County as restrictions imposed to slow the spread of COVID-19 are eased. We’re a long way from a return to “normal,” but it feels good to see some of the traditional vibrancy of the community return.

It’s been a long, sad couple of months, as local residents confront the lingering fear of disease, the loss of livelihoods, the cancellation of cherished events and activities. At the same time, it’s been a time of innovation: Local businesses find ways to improvise and stay in the fight; citizens find ways to support each other, even at a “social distance”; and Sisters’ key nonprofits continue to pursue their missions of community support and enhancement.

Local citizens have been magnificent in their efforts to sustain local businesses — buying gift cards and take-out meals, and supporting a GoFundMe drive to save our local independent book store. They’ve contributed to the Kiwanis Food Bank and to local nonprofits. Some citizens have made a point of donating to businesses that have not been able to stay open during the lockdown.

It seems that Sisters has generally avoided wading into the Big Muddy of politicizing a pandemic. It’s hard to believe that so many Americans have found a way to make pandemic disease a front in our ongoing Culture War; it just goes to show how deep pervasive division and discord has become.

Apparently, there’s nothing that won’t send folks running for their ideological corners these days, even a virus, which, let’s face it, doesn’t care who you voted for.

Here’s hoping that Sisters folks can continue to stay focused on simply being good neighbors to each other.

Our outlook on this terrible scourge that has wounded our lives doesn’t have to be partisan — or political at all. It is entirely possible — indeed, completely reasonable — to simultaneously fear a new and potentially devastating disease, while also caring deeply about the serious economic dislocation and the potential for authoritarian governmental overreach associated with the lockdown.

This is a complex situation, unprecedented in our lifetimes, and the path forward isn’t clear. For some, especially those at particular risk from this kind of illness, it may feel like we’re “opening up” too soon. The pandemic is far from over, and there is a risk that increased interaction will bring on a “second wave” or a spike in cases.

Others, whose livelihoods are on the line, may feel that we stayed locked down too long, especially in a region that is far from being a hot spot; that “flattening the curve” has risked flattening our future.

We should not judge each other harshly on our individual take on a situation that has offered only fraught alternatives at every turn.

People who fear COVID-19 are not cowards; people who fear economic devastation and the erosion of liberty are not heartless.

Perhaps as we move forward into a future shadowed by the lingering cloud of COVID-19, we can act with compassion, understanding and a dose humility. None of us has any answers. We can only do our best to face adversity each day, and help one another as best we can.

We can inoculate ourselves against cultural contagions spread by blackguards working agendas that have nothing at all to do with bettering our lives and everything to do with their own aggrandizement.

We can decide that we are not going to allow ourselves to be pulled into inane conflicts that turn facemasks into battle flags.

A mask need not be flaunted as a badge of civic virtue, nor scorned as emblematic of a knee bended to a tyrannical state. A mask is simply an implement, one that may have some utility in inhibiting the spread of disease. If a Sisters business encourages wearing of masks and asks their employees to do so, I’ll wear one.

It’s the neighborly thing to do.