It’s Time We Get Started

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I saw a post that suggested that if we just turned off the media for thirty days and went about our business we would soon find that everything would suddenly get better. Sadly like anyone else I would surely love for the problems facing our nation with regard to Covid-19 and race relations to evaporate just by not thinking about them, but experience has taught me that ignoring difficulties does not eliminate them. In fact doing so tends to only make them worse.

We will be facing a number of issues in the coming weeks and months that will require our attention. All of them are complex and won’t be solved with quick fixes or wishful thinking. We can’t just run to the beaches or out to the malls and think that our economy will suddenly begin operating at full throttle or the the virus will go away as mysteriously as it appeared. We won’t cure the racism that we’ve recently seen by insisting that it isn’t there either. We’ve got work to do and we will get the best results by facing the pain and the hardships that our country has endured. We are far from being ready to pat ourselves on the back because if anything is somewhat certain it is that we have been far too complacent in thinking that the status quo has been as good as we need to be.

All of us should be insisting that we be better prepared for future national emergencies. The honest truth is that we were blindsided and forced to move without a real plan or sufficient supplies. It matter less who or what caused the virus to enter our country than to determine why we spent so many precious days and weeks fumbling to identify and address the issues. Certainly this virus and its impact on the world seems to be unprecedented, but in truth such pandemics have occurred before and we have been warned about the possibility of such a thing happening again many times. In fact, when George W. Bush was president he decided to form a commission to design a framework for addressing possible emergencies like the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918. Unfortunately a Republican Congress bent on lowering taxes reduced funding for the program during the Obama administration leaving a major hole in the nation’s safety net.

Since we can’t relive the past our only option is to proceed from this day forward to create a well funded pandemic plan that is run by experts in infectious disease and virology, The group should also include supply chain specialists, representatives from medical manufacturing and pharmacists. There should be generous and permanent funding from Congress that cannot be randomly taken away in political power struggles. We must treat it as the national security issue that it is.

We also need to look at how to coordinate responses to pandemics across states and within cities so that the confusion that occurred during the past few months will not be repeated. We know that there are countries with populations as dense or even denser than ours that had fewer cases and deaths from Covid 19. We need to study the behaviors and operations that they followed to get such favorable results. We might learn from them if we are able to determine what decisions elicited the better outcomes. We can’t be too proud to learn from other countries because in this case we were not number one or even in the top ten.

It is imperative that we have ongoing discussions about how to best serve our students during emergency situations. When the new school year rolls around there will be multiple problems to face. We would do well to gather teachers across the nation right now to brainstorm ideas regarding how to keep our faculties and students safe while also providing the best possible educations. We may have to think out of the box and be willing to try methods that are untested. The efforts will demand flexibility and a willingness to react quickly to changes as they arrive. At the same time we owe it to parents and students to be as honest as possible about what to expect so that they will not be surprised at the last moment. It’s not fair to anyone to make promises that may never be kept so if there is a chance that school life as we have known it is impossible, then we need to tell people the facts. Then we must prepare them for what they will experience. 

We have millions of unemployed persons. I would like to submit that we urge large corporations and smaller businesses to come up with ideas that might get the men and women without jobs back on a payroll quickly. Perhaps there might be a job sharing program or even a temporary lowering of salaries across the board to allow businesses to hire new workers. I think that sharing the sacrifices rather than putting them on the shoulders of only those unfortunate enough to be left out in the cold is a humane and very American thing to do. I know that if each person lost a few thousand dollars so that others might be hired it would be a grand show of support for those who are fearful of losing their homes and their self respect. The government can only help so much. Ultimately it will be each employer finding ways to get people back on the payroll that will help to turn the economy back around.

Finally, and most importantly, we must quit pretending that racism does not exist. If we are not minorities who have experienced such things we have to admit that we don’t know how it feels to be continually targeted simply because of the color of our skin or other features that have nothing to do with who we are. The fact is that if we have not walked in that other person’s shoes all we can do is believe them when they describe what their lives are like. A good beginning for fixing the race relation problem that seem to be enduring  should begin with better training for our police officers and public servants, and most especially with those who make our laws.

No, we can’t just turn off the news and pretend that all is well, because it is not. Our best bet is to move past finger pointing and recriminations and begin a process of fixing what is broken. We have much work to do. It’s time we get started.