The byproduct of a nation whose collective citizenry spending most of their focus and energy on immovable gridlock is that policy ceases to exist as the battleground. Instead of working to push for policy changes in Washington, we’ve acquiesced to wearing our virtues on our sleeves and deeming anyone with the temerity to have a different opinion than ours to be evil and un-American.
The result is that we enter the greatest crisis our nation and world have faced in at least a generation as a divided people. We don’t know how to talk to each other anymore. More importantly, we no longer know how to listen.
It is somewhat ironic that the call to action for us is to spend some time apart. We’re not asked to take up arms. We’re not asked to go overseas to defend other nations. We’re asked to sit at home, watch some movies, eat what’s left in the pantry or freezer, and otherwise minimize our contact with others.
Let’s not minimize the sacrifices this will cause. While much of the country is taking an extended snow day, many are working harder, and in more hazardous conditions, than ever before.
These range from our healthcare professionals who are actively exposing themselves to a potentially deadly virus hourly – knowing that key supplies to protect them are running low – to those that are stocking shelves as fast as toilet paper or Tylenol can hit their loading dock.
Thus far, our power companies continue to supply electricity. My broadband supplier hasn’t left me without a connection. My banks have remained open. My broker seems readily available to issue margin calls. A litany of first responders remain on the other end of a 911 call, if needed.
A lot of people remain on the job. We simply can’t, and won’t, fully shut the country down. These people, no matter how important we’ve considered their jobs in the past, are heroes.
Hopefully we’ll be reminded there is dignity in work. There remains a component of public service in a job well done, regardless of the circumstances.
There are others who won’t be working. There will be a lot of policy that comes from Washington, Atlanta, and local commissions and councils that affect these folks and their employers. It will all be moving so fast that attempting to post an opinion or suggestions in a weekly column right now would be futile.
Know that there will be things in legislation that likely will make partisan bases wince. Know that some will not let this crisis go to waste, and will feather the nest of some in the process. A nation that focuses on maintaining gridlock often gets policy changes only in crisis – when reasoned debate and time for deliberate reasoning and persuasion is absent. This is where we are.
We are also scared. Let’s not dance around that issue, but acknowledge it in a straight forward manner.
It’s not a weakness to admit it. We have fear that ourselves or loved ones will catch a potentially fatal illness. We have fear that when we all go back to work, our jobs may not be there. We want answers, but the reality is there is still too much we don’t know. Fear of the unknown is real, and warranted.
We’re not a country known to give in to fear. We may not get every decision right, but we will work through this.
There will be a time when each of us needs to respond in some way. We will need to be ready to support our small business owners AND their employees to bring our main streets back to life. We need to continue to check in on our elderly to ensure their needs are taken care of. And, above all, we need to continue to minimize our personal interactions while our medical systems and supply chains can catch up with the demand this virus is going to cause.
We have a lot to think about. We should use some of time apart from each other to think about each other as Americans, rather than with whatever tribe we’re most comfortable associating.
We need to retrain ourselves during this time to listen. If we’re able to do that, we’re much more likely to hear what our neighbors need. When we do, we will respond. Because that’s what Americans do.