Many of us have learned that the Chinese word for crisis consists of two Chinese characters that mean “danger” and “opportunity.” (Siri tells me that this is true, by the way.)
Could that be what we see in the COVID-19 pandemic currently facing our planet?
We are clearly in a real emergency, not a “fake news” conspiracy created by the “deep state,” the Clintons or George Soros. And even Newt Gingrich and Donald Trump now realize this, as they apparently did not a month ago.
So now we must take seriously what Ronald Reagan once called our enemy, the federal government, is telling us to do. Wash your hands, drink water, don’t shake hands, stay out of crowds, and keep your “social distance.” And, from what I can see from here, many of us in the Divided States of America are actually following this advice.
So we have a mixture of good and bad news, the opportunities given by Mother Nature’s “time-out” as well as a warning about the damage global climate change will do to us if we don’t take similarly strong measures to mitigate and adjust to it quickly.
Our current “time-out” may release more virtuous behavior as well as reminding us of the value of government. Perhaps some of those “better angels of our nature” that Abraham Lincoln spoke of in his first inaugural address are floating around the edges of this corona crisis.
I have heard recently that some grocery stores are scheduling special hours for only elderly people to shop, and I know for a fact that some young people (for me anyone under 60) are shopping for their older friends and neighbors.
And even more remarkable things are happening. Donald Trump began listening to Dr. Tony Fauci instead of firing him, even if he had to be convinced by Tucker Carlson at Fox News to do so. Republicans are supporting paid sick leave and act as if they are genuinely worried about people as well as businesses and stock dividends. The Trump administration is working with “nervous Nancy” Pelosi.
Will wonders never cease!
It was even more intriguing for me to discover in a recent poll that 74% of all Americans actually trust their local government. This figure is far higher number than the percentage of those who trust Congress or the president. This is understandable since state and local governments have stepped up to address the crisis while the feds are still looking for test kits.
But it is good when people show any sign of trusting elected officials. Could there be an aftershock of trust in government even after the virus subsides? I have even heard some rumors that paid sick leave could continue beyond the crisis. Will a million deaths by this time next year cause us to rethink our rugged individualism and inordinate love of money?
Now, although I know that some of my readers think that all liberals are “secular humanists” and that liberal views and religion mix about as well as oil and water, I acknowledge that I am one of those strange “liberal Christians,” and as such, I firmly believe that faith is better than fear.
The words “fear not” or “Be not afraid,” occurs over 100 times in the King James Bible. And physicians tell us that fear weakens our immune system, not something we want to do just now, when God might be giving us a “heads-up.”
Do we need trust even more than toilet paper? Is compassion more important than corporate earnings? Without denying the failures of the Trump administration to better prepare for the current emergency, it is also true that this is not a Democratic or Republican problem as much as it is an opportunity for us to transcend our political differences.
Once again, we have a chance to understand that the phrase “common good” does not imply socialism but only means what it says, and reminds us of our Founders’ commitment to the “commonwealth”—common welfare. Let’s help the sick, lonely, hungry, frightened and unemployed. We might even surprise ourselves with the country that emerges.
Ken Wolf is a Democrat and a retired Murray State University history professor. He speaks here as an individual and not as a representative of either of these organizations. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor’s Note: Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the editorial opinion of the Murray Ledger & Times.