Perseverance is a key virtue in Iowa’s recovery

In politics and society, there is a difference between perseverance and persistence, stubborn belief despite evidence to the contrary. Perseverance requires reflection, especially at Thanksgiving.

Michael Bugeja, Iowa View contributor , Des Moines Register

As winter approaches with frigid temperatures and blistering chills, Iowans will persevere even as roads and remaining businesses and schools close in the wake of blizzard and pandemic. We must call upon that virtue to endure the challenges, setbacks and uncertainties that await us.

As I write, COVID-19 hospitalizations in Polk County are at an all-time high. Democrats are angry about election losses in Congress and Republicans grieve about President-Elect Joe Biden’s win. Joblessness is expected to climb in the coming months. Farm families are coping with derecho- and drought-related crop losses that damaged 850,000 acres. Iowa’s public universities have endured tens of millions of dollars in budget cuts on top of untold future losses due to declines in enrollment.

Many of us have huddled inside since March using Facebook and Twitter as outlet for our woes, unfriending acquaintances, colleagues and relatives whose polar-opposite politics leave no room for compromise or compassion.

Until we heal the racial, economic and political divisions in our country, democracy itself may be at stake.

Iowans should be optimistic.

U.S. News and World Report lists us as one of the best states in the union. Some 41% of residents are college educated. Only New Hampshire outranks Iowa as a state of “opportunity,” chiefly because so much here is “affordable.”

Nevertheless, there are things we cannot afford now, and that is to confuse perseverance with persistence. The two words often are used interchangeably, but they are not synonymous.

Perseverance is defined as “doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.” Persistence means “obstinate continuance in a course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition.”

Of course, there are times when persistence matters, especially in the wake of injustice. Consider the 1431 trial of Joan of Arc, who persisted 22 times about her faith. Her accusers condemned her because she “obstinately persists” in wearing men’s clothing and “behaves more like a man than a woman.”Your stories live here.Fuel your hometown passion and plug into the stories that define it.Create Account

When we persist in less righteous causes, demonizing those who hold contrary political or social views, we deceive ourselves into believing our perception is reality. It is not. Perception is a product of culture, economy, experience, religion and location, as that influences us more than we realize, by way of history, opportunity and yes, weather. There are too many variables to proclaim that our perception trumps that of our neighbors.

That’s where perseverance plays a role.

Thousands of Iowans are persevering now — going to or looking for work — despite caring for loved ones. Teachers are persevering by instructing online while parents juggle responsibilities so their children can log on for those lessons. Public servants persevere delivering everything from mail to driver’s licenses. Health care workers labor around the clock in viral and overcrowded environs.

And then there are low-paid and minimum-wage earners who have labored since March at gas stations, groceries and big-box stores so that all of us had household essentials to persevere through the pandemic.

Perseverance differs from persistence in one other key ethical element: reflection. People who persevere remind themselves about why they are doing so during intense or depressing occasions.

For instance, those who lost loved ones to the coronavirus persevere for the sake of family. Those who lost crops, jobs or homes persevere for the same reason. Teachers, public servants and health care workers persevere because of belief in higher causes than their own — education, democracy, well-being.

Iowans, especially farmers, persevere because they know about the seasons, that dark days of winter eventually yield to the thaws and growths of spring. That cycle also applies to current problems. If we persevere, because we have priorities or higher purposes, we do so in the hope that better days are ahead.

And they are.

We are close to having a vaccine against COVID-19. If we follow recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control, especially at Thanksgiving — wearing masks, avoiding crowds, postponing travel — we can recite our many blessings and embrace our priorities rather than misgivings.

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