America: Adversity Reveals Character
(Author's Note: Normally I write here about football but there are times that transcend sports--this is one of those times)
These are trying times in America and adversity has a way of exposing character as it drives our true soul to the surface. So in these times mark the words you’re seeing and saying now and remember the true values of our nation are on display.
So America, what do we see mirrored in our actions these days?
There has been so much good, so much to be proud of but……
An ugly side has emerged. People are saying aloud that getting the economy going again is most important. They argue that we’ll have to just accept people getting sick or dying as the cost for economic progress. The argument is being made that damaging our economy is destroying our country.
If the only value you see in our country is what the market is doing, or an upward GDP growth chart then your idea of American values and commitment to one another is warped. You have no idea what America was ever all about.
On my mother’s wall hangs a framed drawing her father sent home from a World War in Europe and a set of ration stamps from that era. Ration stamps. Could we even bear to have our government send us ration stamps to be sure that we didn’t hoard things from one another?
But this new political argument of the cost of social distancing and quarantine is no longer a fringe argument. More and more people are buying into it. It is a way to deflect and distract blame. More and more people are buying that there is some broad conspiracy with the media over-hyping this disease for political gain.
Some have even gone so far as to accuse Dr. Fauci and his belief in “social distancing” of being part of a conspiracy to undermine the President. I would be willing to wager that some of the social media accounts promoting that theory are “bots” and accounts cooked up in foreign troll farms. Divide and conquer in an election year.
Educated people who have done well and who will not starve are complaining about what it’s done to them. Celebrities post photos of how they're "suffering" in quarantine. We have people more concerned about business than they are about the health and welfare of their fellow Americans.
Here are the questions for the cold-blooded casting themselves as the “clear-eyed realists”: How many deaths would tip your cost/benefit analysis towards supporting behavior to save lives? How many deaths are you willing to shoulder? If Covid-19 enters your house will you still feel the same?
There is no lamb’s blood on the door post that will make this plague pass over your family and your house. But there is a stubborn Pharaoh who believes he can will this disease away with some alternate politically expedient reality rooted in the wishful misinformation of his mind. The misinformation being broadcast daily and believed by millions often poisons the well of information from true medical experts who can save us.
But this overwhelming desire to restart the economy on the lives of “expendable” fellow citizens reveals an indelible stain on our soul. People considered serious leaders are making these arguments.
And what are they really saying? Money matters more than all else.
They value money over the health of medical professionals risking their lives every day. If we can't or won't pull our weight in this fight then we don't deserve the service of front-line warriors in hospitals all over this country.
We owe them more than we can ever repay. And while they’re battling to save every life, others are essentially advocating that the rest of us surrender our part of the fight so we can rev up the economy now.
In some minds people are essentially advocating a cost/benefit analysis model that is willing to sacrifice a certain number of people on the altar of economic expediency born of an adolescent impatience. But serious times require serious leadership.
And what have we become when we view people's lives as lines on a balance sheet ledger?
And look what else is happening across the country. People proudly display the toilet paper or hand sanitizer they’ve hoarded. People are buying up guns and ammunition for a conflict they see coming—a conflict not with a foreign adversary but rather against their fellow citizens.
Is "everyone for themselves" the mantra that makes America great? How did we get here?
It comes from fears stoked for political gain to divide us against each other. It comes from an idea that everything is financial or political and must be won no matter the cost. That has played out in devastating ways the past few weeks. Fears breed contempt and mistrust. The example of “2020 leadership” now is a win at all costs, take care of you and yours before all others. Grab what you can and let everyone else fend for themselves.
America just listen to what we are saying, look at what we are typing onto social media. Take a good hard look and see the words revealing our souls.
We’ll get what we deserve if we’ve become a nation where wealth is more valuable than the lives of other people. But should we be surprised? Huge corporations make and market products from drugs to cars to planes that they know are risky. If people die, they write checks and no one goes to jail.
But still, it’s hard to believe we’d ever have these conversations in America, a nation whose military takes great pride in the idea that we leave no man behind.
Make no mistake, there are great stories all around the country about people helping one another in these times. Small acts of kindness and great acts of generosity abound.
But those selfless acts are threatened by the growing self-centered chorus of “economic nationalism.” Get yours and the hell with everyone else.
But what they have forgotten amid a statistical barrage is that there are actual human lives on the other end of those numbers. Family members are dying, people are suffering. And we can do something about it.
On July 7, 1863 in the Gettysburg Compiler it was written of the wounded and killed from the previous days’ fighting “Every name….is a lightning stroke to some heart, and breaks like thunder over some home, and falls a long black shadow over some hearthstone.”
Compare that with the words of Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani who tweeted this on March 26th.“Approximately 7500 people die every day in the United States. That’s approximately 645,000 people so far this year. Coronavirus has killed about 1,000 Americans this year. Just a little perspective.”
Which begs this question of Giuliani: is he also implying that 3,000 deaths on 9/11 should be put “in perspective” as well?
In 2020 have we lost our ability to process empathy, to understand that every statistic is a face, a name whose illness or death strikes at some heart? It seems that the “clear-eyed realists” among us are all okay having others bear that pain, as long as Providence sees fit to pass over their homes.
But make no mistake, if this is the “Greatness of America” to which we aspire then we have lost our way. And if we shed our truest values and sell our soul for money, our Nation faces even darker days ahead.