Lessons from a Pandemic

7 04 2021

With the passing of the one year anniversary of the ‘closing down of America’ due to COVID-19, it would do us well consider all that we have learned over the past 13 months. Because sadly, much of it is not good!

First, in case anyone didn’t already know this, we Americans are a selfish people! Not everyone of course; but far too many. Whiners everywhere like to proclaim that they’re all about freedom, but the freedom they espouse is little more than the freedom to do what’s good for them. Everything from refusing to wear a mask, to demanding that schools open up sooner rather than later, and before appropriate safety protocols have been put in place . . . such attitudes are all about what’s best for them. And over time, their selfish rants have become tiring and offensive. No one enjoys physical distancing. We all want to be able to go out to dinner again. And no one is enjoys living in a society that has closed down. But we make the sacrifice because we care about one another, and people’s refusal to acknowledge this is nothing less than selfish!

A second thing we’ve learned is that we are far too opinionated. And even when our ‘opinions’ are proved wrong, we refuse to capitulate! Who would have thought that Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Forest Gump operated on the same wave length! “Stupidity is a more dangerous enemy of the good than malice . . . (because) stupid is as stupid does!” We all have a right to think and believe whatever we chose. But facts are facts, regardless of our opinions! And so Carl Sagan adds his voice to the voices of all those who would remind us that our opinions must always be tempered by reality. “The truth may be puzzling. It may take some work to grapple with. It may be counterintuitive. It may contradict deeply held prejudices. It may not be consonant with what we desperately want to be true. But our preferences do not determine what’s true.”

Third, the pandemic has taught us that slowing down can allow us to take a more critical look at our world, so that we might see things that we’ve overlooked for way too long. The eyes of a growing number of White people have been opened to the White Supremacy and racism that have plagued our nation for generations. The economic disparities inherent in capitalism are suddenly glowing in the light of COVID-19, and the lack of opportunity for those living in poverty is being magnified for all to see. And American Exceptionalism and Christian Nationalism are exposing an arrogance to which far too many of us have closed our eyes for far too long. More and more, the label ‘ugly American’ is looking acutely accurate.

And finally, the pandemic has forced all of us to accept what has been true for decades — and that is that the world has changed. Technology is here to stay; and rather than resisting it, we need to learn how to better harness it and employ it for the greater good. Institutions, particularly the Church, must redefine themselves in order to better meet the changing needs of our society. And businesses and organizations must refrain from providing services that are no longer wanted, and stop answering questions that are no longer being asked. It would do us well to carefully, and non-defensively, find ways to address the sins of our republic, but in ways that will rebuild it without completely destroying it.

As has been said in countless setting these days — the world will never return to the way things used to be. We will never go back to what was, and there will be no return to normal. Rather, we will create ‘new’ normal, guided not by a desire to recreate our memories of the world that was, but by a vision of the world as it should be. Let’s build a nation that is truly committed to the common good, where liberty and justice for ALL is not just a motto but a mandate, and where we all have the courage to unlearn all the wrongs that we have held onto for so long. Let’s learn the lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic; and in the spirit of this Easter season, discover again that the old is finished and gone and now is the time to build something new.


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