I think we all understand that life will change after the pandemic, but what are our priorities? What guiding principles will light our way and inform those changes? In the face of glaring inequities revealed by the crisis, I worry about this.
Perhaps I should explain where I stand. I believe that the proper role of government is to defend and work for its citizens. All of them, not just the rich and powerful. This idealistic view parallels passages in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, or, at least it does the way I was taught to read them.
Unfortunately, what we see unfolding in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic all too often reflects different priorities.
It’s a truism that we don’t really know what we’re made of till we’re tested.
For every prediction that smart investors should migrate to renewable energy, there also seems to be a view to the contrary that “We can no longer indulge the impulses of “environmental” activists. Sanitary plastic grocery bags are safer than reusables. Mass transit and densely-packed cities spread infections. Automobiles and suburban/rural living are healthier,” as Jerry Shenk put it recently.
Other decision-making whipsaws reflect just as little consensus. Whose priorities should we value? Whose should we reject as unworthy?
Varied views of future outcomes
I’ve read interesting stories about wildlife venturing into areas where traffic has dropped off. Others about historically clean air in places where traffic has dropped off. And one about ways to make cities more walking friendly and keep car traffic at lower levels after the pandemic (see a trend, there?).
I’ve seen several articles about ordinary people’s decimated savings. Others explore the disastrous effect of recent public policies. And a flood of new ways for creative people to grow their businesses continues as people discover new and old techniques.
Not only that, but there are predictions about ways our minds will change about things such as social distancing, work from home, child care, and universal health care. I’ve also read more cynical predictions about how some will spin retrospectives to skew perceptions if possible.
Our decisions reveal our priorities
Most of my fellow countrymen/women are pretty decent folks, as individuals. We’ve seen gallant examples of selflessness, self-sacrifice, and public spirit as this pandemic rolls out. These warm my heart and give me hope.
Many Americans–many people all over the world–understand the deep things. The value of honest work, the worth of a thank-you, the joy of praising admirable deeds.
But we’ve also seen a different spirit.
It reveals itself in the unseemly scramble of large, publicly-traded companies grabbing up vast sums of money meant to go to small businesses struggling to stay afloat. The rules allowed it, so they grabbed. Some of them gave it back once they were caught.
We’ve also seen banks garnish stimulus money from overdrawn customers, pre-empting what was meant to be grocery and rent money from ever reaching the desperate would-be recipients.
And we’ve seen crowds of closely-packed protestors, mostly white folk with guns, demanding that the lockdowns be ended immediately so they can get haircuts, among other things. They claim a constitutional right to liberty, plus economic insecurity, drives them. Although other motives have been noted.
What are our priorities?
Now is the moment for us to decide. Are things more important than people?
Is our convenience more important than other people’s lives? Do we even have the right to make the decision that it is?
Who gets to decide how many deaths are “acceptable losses”–and, acceptable to exactly whom?
Do we live in a country that is of, by, and most especially for the people? All of the people? And, for this question’s purposes, corporations are not people, my friend.
I very much worry how history will evaluate our true measure, based on how we order our priorities today.
How do you think we should form–and inform–the priorities that will guide us into the future? What are you doing to join that conversation?
Many thanks to QuoteFancy, for the Warren W. Wiersbe quote; to GoalCast, for the quote from James Baldwin; to DiscoverCorps, for the quote from Muhammad Ali; and to AZ Quotes, for the Mahatma Gandhi quote. I appreciate you all!