“Individuals entering into society, must give up a share of liberty to preserve the rest.” George Washington
“A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Abraham Lincoln.
George Washington was addressing the United States Congress in 1787 when he reasoned that individual sacrifice was necessary for the preservation of a free society. Abraham Lincoln’s famous “house divided” speech was delivered to the Illinois Republican State Convention in 1858 – less than three years prior to the first shots fired in America’s Civil War.
We imagine that recent events in the U.S. have the Father of Our Country and Honest Abe spinning in their respective graves.
Throughout our history, when faced with adversity, Americans have banded together to defeat a common enemy.
Today, that enemy is coronavirus.
According to statistics from John Hopkins University, the United States has more COVID-19 cases than any other country. Though the virus began in Asia, Mainland China has had less than two percent of the number of cases, and just three percent the number of deaths, recorded in the U.S.
The virus raged in Italy in March, but has largely been thwarted there. Italy has experienced 409 cases of the virus per 100,000 residents. The United States currently stands at 1,374 cases per 100,000 citizens. It is perhaps inarguable that the impact of COVID-19 has been significantly more severe in the United States than in any other advanced country on Earth.
How were other advanced nations able to deal with the crisis so much more effectively than we handled it here in the United States?
It has been said that the first step in solving a problem is acknowledging you have a problem.
Indulge us for a moment as we ponder what might have happened if the U.S. responded to the events of Dec. 7, 1941, in the same way we have dealt with COVID-19.
The Japanese Attack Pearl Harbor!
Or did they …
Do you personally know anyone who was hit by a bomb? This is just a hoax to make President Roosevelt look bad. One day, the enemy will magically disappear. You’re asking me to ration vital resources? But what about my liberty? True, if we don’t respond to the attack, some people will die, but if we shift to a wartime economy, the impact will be even worse!
As ridiculous as that scenario might seem, we would argue that responding to a worldwide pandemic by turning it into a political issue is just as ridiculous.
Where is our unification of spirit when facing a common enemy? What in the heck has happened to us? If the rest of the advanced world is currently seeing Americans as selfish, entitled, science-denying crybabies, who could blame them?
While we readily embrace technology that makes our lives easier, we reject science when it tells us we have to make even the most minor personal sacrifice.
Instead of learning about issues and entertaining different lines of thinking, we shelter in our informational echo chambers, only accepting ideas that fit our pre-conceived notions.
We could blame social media, politicians we elected, and partisan media as the root of this disfunctional culture, but at the end of the day this is OUR country and OUR responsibility.
We once appreciated the fact that we live in a free country that supposedly values the open exchange of opinion. Today, we try to out-shout and out-name call our opponents. We call for boycotts and shame those with whom we disagree.
For a society to function, we must embrace a common set of facts. As set forth in the Declaration of Independence, some truths should be “self-evident.” We can, and should, respectfully debate the best ways to solve our problems, but if vast swaths of our citizenry reject the notion that a problem even exists …`
The United States of America has reached a crossroads. We must decide what kind of country we want to leave to our children and to our children’s children. To rebound from the pandemic, and to flourish in the future, we must be willing to make personal sacrifices for the greater good. We must set aside petty political differences. We must respect other opinions and strive to better understand important issues.
We need to listen, and not shout at one another.
If we can do those things, we will emerge from the current crisis as a stronger nation. If we cannot, we will be left with the country we deserve – a country that would be unrecognizable to Washington and Lincoln.