A Changing World
A global pandemic that keeps us contained in our homes is already re-orientating our relationship to the government, to the outside world, and even to each other. Have you ever wondered where we will be next year let alone in 5 years? Will the nation stay closed? Will touch become taboo? What will be come of restaurants and bars?
Will interaction with people become scarce?
We are learning now that touching things, being around other people, and breathing the air in an enclosed space can be risky. How quickly that awareness recedes will be different for different people, but the insecurity will probably never vanish completely for those of us that lived through this year. It could become second nature to recoil from shaking hands - and we might all find we can't stop being germophobic. The comfort of being in the presence of others might be replaced by a greater comfort with absence, especially with those we do not know intimately. Instead of asking, "Is there a reason to do this online?" we will be asking, "Is there any good reason to do this in person?" - and mind need to be reminded and convinced that there is. The paradox of online communication will be ratcheted up: It created more distance, yes, but also more connection, as we communicate more often with people who physically further and farther away and who feel safer to us because of that distance.
What happened to patriotism? Are we adapting?
America has long equated patriotism with the armed forces; but you can't gun down a virus. Those on the front lines are no longer mercenaries or enlisted men; but doctors, nurses, pharmacists, lab technicians, construction workers, law enforcement, guards, teachers, store clerks, bank tellers, caregivers, small business owners, and employees. Many are suddenly saddled with unfathomable tasks, compounded by an increased risk of contamination, and or death they never signed up for. When all is said and done, perhaps we will recognize their sacrifice as true patriotism, saluting our doctors and nurses, telling them how thankful we are for their service, as we do now do for military personnel and veterans. Perhaps with this newfound gratitude, we will finally start to understand patriotism more as cultivating the health and life of ones community, rather than destroying someone else's community.
Are our fates linked?
In this pandemic, I do not think we will become less communal, but instead we will be better able to see how our fates are linked. The cheap burger I eat from a restaurant that denies paid sick leave to its staff makes me more vulnerable to illness, as does the neighbor who refuses to stay home in a pandemic because our public schools failed to teach him science or critical thinking skills. The economy and the social order it helps support will collapse if the government does not guarantee income for the millions of workers who will lose their jobs in a major recession or depression. Young adults will fail to launch if government doesn't help reduce their student debt. The corona-virus pandemic is going to cause immense pain and suffering; but it will force us to reconsider who we are and what we value.
Religious worship will look different.
All faiths have dealt with the challenge of keeping faith alive under the adverse conditions of war or persecution - but never all the faiths at the same time. Religion in the time of quarantine will challenge conceptions of what it means to minister and to fellowship. How do Christians, and or Jews celebrate the deliverance from bondage when Passover and or Easter sermons must take place on Zoom, with in-laws left to wonder if the pastor forgot his transcript or the internet connection merely froze? Can Muslim families celebrate Ramadan if they cannot visit local mosques for Tarawih prayers or gather with loves ones to break the fast? Contemplative practices may gain popularity. And maybe something good will come out of this, that may ease amid the very present reminder of our interconnected humanity.
Becoming more virtually aware.
This pandemic is sweeping away many of the artificial barriers to moving more of our lives online. Not everything can become virtual, of course. But in many areas of or lives, uptake on genuinely useful online tools has been slowed by powerful legacy players, often working in collaboration with overcautious bureaucrats. Medical allowing billing for tele-medicine and tele-docs was a long-overdue change. The resistance - led by teachers' unions and the politicians beholden to them to allow partial home schools or online learning for K-12 kids has been swept away by necessity. It will be near impossible to put that genie back in the bottle in the fall, with many families finding that they prefer full or partial homeschooling or online homework. For many college students, returning to an expensive dorm room on a depopulated campus will not be appealing, forcing massive changes in a sector that has been ripe for innovation for a long time. And while not every job can be done remotely, many people are learning the difference between having to put on a tie and commute for an hour or working effieciently at home was always just the ability to download a couple of apps plus permission from their boss. Once companies sort out their remote work steps, it will be harder and more expensive to deny employees those options. [I hope.] In other words, an awful lot of meetings really could have been an email and now they will be.
Rebirth of patriotic honor creating a new civic federalism.
Just as the trauma of fighting World War II laid the foundations for a stronger American government and national solidarity, the corona virus pandemic might sow the seeds of a new civic federalism, in which states and localities become centers of injustice, solidarity and far sighted problem solving. Many Americans now bemoan the failure of national leadership in the face of this unprecedented challenge. When we look back, we will see that some communities handled this crisis much better than others. We might well find that success came in states where government, civic, and private sector leaders joined their strengths together in a spirit of self sacrifice for the common good.
Some governors, mayors, education authorities and employers have led the way by enforcing social distancing, closing campuses and other places, and channeling resources to support the most vulnerable. And the civic fabric of some communities has fostered the responsibility and altruism of millions of ordinary citizens who have stayed home, lost income, kept their kids inside, self-quarantined, refrained from hoarding, supported each other, and even pooled medical supplies and other resources to bolster health workers.
The corona virus is this century's most urgent challenge to humanity. Harnessing a new sense of solidarity, citizen of states and cities will rise to face the challenges ahead such as climate change and transforming our era of historic inequality into one economic inclusion.
I mean overall if you think about it, the rules we have lived by in the past, does not seem like they will apply to our future. So what will our children grow up in? I mean, the idea of what you are to be learning in schools is changing too - no history class?!