History will be the final judge of how we, as Americans, handle the Coronavirus pandemic. The assassination of JFK and 9/11 are forever burned into our collective consciousness, and COVID-19 will have a place on that list.
As in any battle, there are heroes and villains in the tale history will tell. The heroes will undoubtedly be the health care workers on the front lines of this battle. These men and women are risking their lives and making personal sacrifices to try to save those they can.
The essential workers across various industries that keep showing up to make sure food, medical supplies, electricity, and fuel are available for our needs are the unsung heroes. Let’s not forget the truck drivers who are the very backbone of a supply chain. Without them, all the goods we depend on to survive wouldn’t be in the hospitals or on the grocery store shelves.
We should have a new appreciation for those who stock the shelves, unload the trucks, and ring up our purchases. From warehouse workers to police officers who still answer every call, we will have a new appreciation for those who are “essential” in times such as these.
There will be other heroes that do miraculous things. Some will never be widely noticed, and others will have their stories told for generations to come. Some people are checking on their older neighbors and offering to do the grocery shopping for them.
Teachers are checking on their students and going above and beyond to find creative ways to keep them learning online because schools closed to combat the spread of the virus. Companies and individuals are donating goods and services everywhere there is a need.
Most things that once mattered are irrelevant. The coronavirus pays no attention to race, political affiliations, nor does it care who is rich or poor. In answer, for a time, neither do we.
In every tale of history, there are villains as well as heroes. Some villains we can already identify. The most glaring failure is a government that failed to take the threat seriously and offered false reassurances instead of a feasible plan to deal with the threat. Every pandemic “war game strategy” depended on the assumption of early and rapid testing. Despite plenty of warning, the failure on that front was epic.
Testing is the launching point for any cohesive response to a pandemic. There can be no doubt we have the brilliant scientific minds to create a test that is accurate and can be administered quickly. Not having one in the early days of the pandemic left us virtually defenseless in the face of this enemy.
Our economy is in ruins. I am sure there will be a large pool or villains for history to point the finger at when the smoke clears. The audacity to stuff an emergency stimulus fund with pork that has nothing to do with economic recovery is shameful.
After all, this will play a significant part in the legacy of debt we will pass on to our children and grandchildren. There was no time to fight this out between the parties as the American people needed help quickly — shame on those who took advantage of the urgency of the situation to pad pet programs.
The American people are not blameless either. While the government issued shelter in place and stay at home orders, far too many people failed to take it seriously. People continued to meet in large groups, or head to the beach for spring break.
Many use the grocery stores and Wal-Mart as an excuse to spend time out of their homes, exposing hard-working employees to even more unnecessary risk. There are stories of those who are price-gouging, and people who have refused to comply with quarantines.
As time goes on, there will be a large number of heroes and villains who will continue to emerge. We hope the first group far exceeds the latter. I believe in an America where, regardless of the media’s agenda, the stories of goodwill eventually surpass the stories of selfishness and greed.
We have never faced a situation like this before. We can study the models and listen to experts espouse their predictions, but the truth is, we don’t know. We could be left with hundreds of thousands dead from COVID-19, or we could dodge this bullet and “only” lose several thousand American lives.
Our president says the economy will bounce back strong. I wish I trusted his magic eight ball, but reality has proven he is just offering his best guess. The economic toll from this virus could push us into a depression unlike anything we have seen before, or we could rally and have an economic boom when this is over. The truth is probably, as it often is, somewhere between the direst and most optimistic predictions.
When history writes the story of this time, I hope it is gracious. I hope it shows that Americans remained strong in the days of darkness and fear. I hope it will tell of how our ingenuity and spirit saved lives. I hope it shows that we came together, at a time when we had never been more divided, against a common enemy.
Families are re-learning what it means to spend time together without the busyness of everyday life. Errands, sports, practices, and recitals no longer fill the evenings. Board games and lingering conversations around the dinner table have found their way back into our lives. Adult children find themselves fiercely protective of their parents and COVID-19 has served as a brutal reminder to value the older generation.
When we emerge from this chaos, I hope political differences matter less, and character matters more. I hope the story that hasn’t been written yet will find that despite tragedy, we prevailed and helped each other heal.
I hope our economy proves even more resilient than the most hopeful projections. Yet, I hope we focus less on consumerism and more on the things that matter.
I hope. We hope.