Meredith C. Carroll: If you’re happy not being in charge, raise your hand

Meredith C. Carroll
Muck Off
Meredith Carroll
Courtesy photo

In sixth grade I threw my hat into the ring of a mock-presidential election contest held between two of the four elementary schools in the district where we lived. Despite prepared remarks carefully handwritten on the index cards that I clutched tightly, I spent my two allotted minutes for an opening statement during the final debate staring wordlessly at a couple hundred other 11-year-olds staring at me. The final vote count determined that my place in line would be toward the back.

Several decades later, I’m still grateful for the malignant stage fright that immediately preceded my crushing defeat. Lately it’s about all I can do to ensure my kids remember (and actually wear and not put down somewhere and then forget and subsequently lose) a mask each time they exit the house (and yes, my family keeps masks next to the front door and in our bags and car). While I’m hip to the allure of power, I may even have sensed back then what time and experience have come to prove: the spoils of victory are seldom enough to overcome the emotional burden of shouldering the responsibilities necessarily contained therein (for me, anyway).

My admiration runs deep for those who elect to be in charge, and even deeper are my sympathies for those upon whom being in charge has been thrust. Ever since COVID-19 hit land in the United States earlier this year, the head of Gunnison County’s public health department has required a police escort home from work. “References to Nazism. Calling me Mrs. Hitler,” Joni Reynolds told The Colorado Sun this week about hate mail she’s received.

“Calling me vile names — curse words. Threatening harm to me, my family, my home. Assuring they would remove me from my job and take ‘all my worldly possessions.’”

The Denver TV station 9News also reported that state lawmaker Mark Baisley (R-Roxborough Park) tried summoning criminal charges against Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment chief Jill Ryan for unproven allegations that she altered death certificates in the state to falsely inflate COVID-19 numbers.

“Vitriol is a symptom of the pandemic,” was the conclusion of public health officials who spoke to The Colorado Sun. That’s an apt description for a lot of how I’ve felt over the past 11,404,800 consecutive minutes since remaining safer at home. My ire isn’t directed at any one particular person not named Trump, Pence or McConnell, or even all the people who still really think they have an inalienable right to knowingly spread a deadly virus because they don’t like being told what to do.

Take Monday, for instance: Colorado health and education officials issued statewide coronavirus reopening strategy recommendations for public schools, and even though the Aspen School District’s plans are still to be determined, I already stand in opposition to them — not the people, but the plan. Yes, the one that doesn’t yet exist.

As I do hourly for Ruth Bader Ginsburg, I pray to God (any and all who will listen) for the health and well-being of Aspen’s school board and new superintendent leadership team who are among those with the terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad task of determining how to keep my kids alive, plus all the other ones, and also the teachers and staff come the first day of school on Aug. 26. Except with the local COVID infection rate at its highest since the onset of the pandemic, how is there even a chance that five weeks from today, with local infection numbers continuing to rise, it’ll be safe to return to campus? On the flip side, if everyone’s at home, what happens to the critical social and emotional development, especially of younger children? Oh, yeah — then there’s the economy, stupid.

When there are no answers to unknowable questions, the easiest thing to do is blame the people in charge. And let there be no mistake that it is but by the grace of God (or whomever) that so many of them go, those with the insight, sticktoitiveness and training to tune out the noise, politics, whiners (ahem), and despite the overwhelming uncertainty and panic that can accompany the responsibility of being in charge, still do what’s right, or what’s best when there is no right.

If you’re happy not being in charge, raise your hand. Also: sit down. The seat next to mine is open while we wait to see what happens while the professionals get back to work.

More at and on Twitter @MCCarroll.


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