As I look at us now, I think that I see the culmination of the years of breakdown coming to full bloom. We, like the entire rest of the world, are in the midst of a pandemic that is unique to living memory. Historically there have been other pandemics like the Spanish Flu of 1918 in which it is estimated that as many as 500 million were infected and 100 million people worldwide died with over 675,000 deaths in the United States. Another pandemic was the Black Plague of the 14th century, which killed as much as 50 to 60 percent of all Europe. The present COVID-19 pandemic is a national and international crisis that, to me, rivals the outbreak of World War II in its need for action and cooperation to contain and overcome a threat to all we hold dear and to prevent a recurrence of similar tragic proportions.
Rather, what I see now in this country is a nation divided and too many events of unrepentant political grandstanding. With the attack on Pearl Harbor, or the invasion of Poland by Germany some 80 years ago, there was a wave of feeling that swept countries that basically said, “How do we put aside differences and get the job of victory done?”. After the events of 911, people united, for a time, to mourn together and mount an effort to ensure that the perpetrators were located, caught, punished, and prevented from replicating their actions.
In short, previous threats to our way of life united people in an effort to overcome and preserve our society. Today, I see too little of that. There are countless acts of selfless actions from our healthcare workers, store clerks, first responders and others. However, contrast that with armed protests; shameless political self service on both sides of the aisle; and individuals being reckless with such simple actions as social distancing and wearing masks. Too often, we read about altercations between people when simple courtesy should have prevailed. We see our leadership engaging in selfishly pushing a narrow agenda for political gain. We have blame being hurled at any opposition without including facts.
On an individual note, we see folks on one hand not wanting to return to work, because unemployment compensation is more lucrative than their wages (admittedly there are other issues such as lack of child care and school that contribute to this). Still another large group that demands to go back to work even though that very action might endanger themselves or others and possibly contribute to a resurgence of COVID-19.
In the past, I have written about the dangerous divide and lack of civility and respect I observe to be the norm now. The actions resulting from COVID-19 sadly bring proof of this division and its deadly consequences. Somehow, I can’t see my parents and grandparents, those who were The Greatest Generation, failing to put aside their differences until after the fight and coming together to engage and defeat a common enemy as a united front. Sadly I see their ethic and attitude now a small minority, rather than the norm.