When you survive the pandemic . . .
Remember who helped.
Remember who complained.
Remember who panicked.
Remember who lead.
Remember what is important.
Remember what you can live without.
The number of times I heard the word ‘unprecedented’ in the news today was reaching into multiples of tens. It was applied to the disease, the economy, sports seasons, bans, purchase patterns, stimulus packages, and international relations.
Some of the patterns remain the same: the ‘us’ versus ‘them’ mentality of some nations. The idea that a virus can be defeated as any other type of foe. The faith in a border wall. The blaming of someone—anyone—for these woes, as long as you blame first and blame loudest.
Hopefully, as this crisis wears on, some new patterns will arise. Prioritization of the necessary over the frivolous. Aid for those who have the least. A setting aside of politics to help the public.
However, never forget the specifics in the trends. Don’t forget who votes to deny help. Don’t forget who won’t plan ahead or lead with confidence. Don’t forget who was ruled by fear.
These are dangerous times. And not just if you are elderly or have an underlying condition.
This is a most dangerous time for our Republic. When disaster strikes, it presents a perfect time to set aside rules that have been instituted for specific reasons. It is the perfect time to rush into the first remedy presented. It is the perfect time to look ahead and (if you have the financial or political means) to set up new rules in your favor.
Naomi Klein writes in The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism that disaster for some people—such as Hurricane Katrina devastating large swaths of New Orleans and Baton Rouge—is opportunity for others. Destroyed public housing makes way for new (expensive) development. Ruined public schools present the chance to offer public money-backed vouchers for charter, for-profit schools.
These actions take place quietly, quickly, and legally with the cooperation of lobbied and campaign-funded government officials.
Watch for the pandemic of 2020 to be a point in time that restores Democracy to the People through the exertion of government for the Public good.
But also be on watch for the pandemic of 2020 to mark the end of Democracy as more and more powers are consolidated in the name of expediency and coordination.
The dismissal of experts, the rise of misinformation, and the increasingly opaque machinations of government are hallmarks of disaster capitalism and disaster politics.
Remember who did something.
Remember who was inactive.
Remember what was done, not just said. Who lead from the front and who lead from greed.
After 9/11, I had a panic attack. I thought our lives were irreparably changed. That my future was so unknowable as to not resemble anything familiar.
But life went on. For me. For most of us in the U.S.
We built monuments. And set up funds for victims’ families and first responders’ health issues.
We abdicated some freedoms and some moral high ground. The Patriot Act was passed and the Department of Homeland Security was created.
Suddenly, ‘supporting the troops’ became the measure of your patriotism. And someone made a fortune on ribbon magnets for the backs of millions of American vehicles.
Terrorists were captured and tortured. Wars were started. Policies that had directly contributed to the hatred-fueled attack that Tuesday morning were doubled- and tripled-down on.
The Middle East became a graveyard for U.S. soldiers and Iraqi civilians alike. The destabilization of the region started and the hatred for the West was stoked. ISIS arose.
But life for us in the U.S. remained largely the same.
As far as I know.
The American President
Aaron Sorkin is a master of language. His movie, which preceded the television show The West Wing, offered such nuggets of wisdom as:
“Say what you want. It’s always the guy with my job that ends up doing 18 months in Danbury Minimum Security prison.”
—which is a real prison. And,
“For reasons passing understanding, people do not relate guns to gun-related crime.”
But the lines that keep haunting me since November 9, 2016, are these:
“America isn't easy. America is advanced citizenship. You've gotta want it bad, 'cause it's gonna put up a fight.“
It’s going to put up a fight, and it requires vigilance. It requires an educated and interested populous.
But I think it also requires a society that values all members and fosters cohesion. We must care as much about people we will never meet and never know as we do about ourselves in order to achieve the real, free citizenship we aspire to.
What’s good for the many is good for the one.
So make sure you vote this year as if all of our lives depend on it.