Any good news today? Maybe so. You are kidding right? No, just thinking about long-term trends from this “corona event” … What do you see in your telescope eyepiece? Just this.
While the survivalist, compassionate neighbor, and decision-maker in each of us focuses near term, some long-term trends are quietly taking shape. Here are a few.
First, Americans in middle school, high school, and college, while managing remotely, are experiencing this event and comparing it to America’s jolt on 9/11, as many saw 9/11 as a modern Pearl Harbor.
Of course, 9/11 was not Pearl Harbor. Casualties resulting from 9/11 hit home and hurt. But on the numbers, they did not compare with casualties of World War II, which left 85 million dead globally. Likewise, this pandemic, while jolting, is not 9/11.
On the other hand, one result of 9/11 – like Peral Harbor – was a surge in young Americans joining the military. Suddenly, the value of military service was obvious. Many young people shifted gears, spun the wheel, and directed themselves to protecting our nation. In 2002, enlistments leapt from 74.577 to 79,585, and kept rising.
Similarly, we may see a shift in how young Americans direct their lives as a result of the pandemic. Younger Americans are witnessing how important and rewarding medicine, science and emergency response can be. Serving others as a vaccine researcher, emergency room doctor, hospital nurse or administrator, medical data analyst, emergency medical technician, first responder or ambulance driver comes with high purpose. We may see more of that ahead.
Second, increased societal preparedness for health crises will follow this one. We can expect more tailored medical research and guidance, policies, practices, protective equipment, and lessons learned.
Third, while politicians grouse and joust – and media turn the pandemic into politics – Americans are being wise. On local and individual levels, people are pulling together, rediscovering an ability to think for themselves, weighing evidence, and making good decisions.
Individuals are showing can-do, adaptivity, resourcefulness, self-reliance, and a long-hidden capacity to self-direct, within state guidance. Individuals, friends, and family are getting creative, making masks, assessing risks and rewards, and remembering how to exercise good judgment.
Concern is surfacing about age-old liberties – our sacred rights to free speech, worship, assembly, and travel, freedom to keep and bear arms, and to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.
At the same time, we are seeing new interest in federalism – that is, states’ rights and limits on federal power. Believe it or not, we are having an overdue conversation about state powers over citizens and state prerogatives against the federal government. That is good. Our Founders would like that.
To his credit, President Trump is refusing to federalize this crisis. He is allowing states and local governments – closest to the people – to be deciders of policy. Like the best presidents, he is offering support, but refusing to crush constitutional rights which belong to individuals and states.
The effect of these practical civic lessons is likely to endure. Individuals are being reminded how precious freedom is, how important that we defend it, and how easily governments can usurp it.
While a balance exists between public health and individual liberty, the Framers made clear that the presumption favors individual liberty over government control, in context of responsible citizenship.
A fifth long-term effect will be forced rethinking about federal debt. By the time this storm passes, we will have more national debt than gross domestic product in a year. While interest rates are low, they will not be forever. A nation unwilling to pay debt is shackling future generations – a moral outrage. Good news, like it or not, is we must discuss the federal debt.
Sixth, this crisis has thrown the switch on Communist China, putting them on a different track. America’s relationship with this lumbering, unaccountable, morally indefensible, and opportunistic nation has changed.
Americans have learned a hard lesson: Dependence on – and ignoring the intentions of – a communist country is dangerous. It was with the Soviet Union, and it is with Communist China.
For 40 years, we hoped China would “come around,” respect human rights, learn accountability, reduce aggression, align with Western values, become a good global citizen. We became complacent, and almost fatally dependent.
In this moment, we can see China as it is. They originated a deadly virus, then looked away. They have lied about what they did, about virus origins, transmissibility, number of infections and lethality. They politically suppressed truth-saying doctors, controlled messaging by the World Health Organization.
Worse, they threatened to withhold pharmaceuticals, as we have become 80 percent dependent. They withheld personal protective equipment (PPE) – and continue to do so. They blamed others with outlandish stories, accepted no responsibility, showed no remorse, see economic and political opportunity in the crisis – which they originated.
As the pandemic continues, they profit from selling medical supplies, placing new pressure on Taiwan and Hong Kong, taking military actions in the South China Sea, arresting Hong Kong’s freedom movement. They have unleashed a pandemic that shut down the global economy, now aim to profit. America can be naïve no more. China is a nation centered only by communist ideology and power.
Finally, we have gained insights into uniting to beat a common foe – in this case, a virus. After Pearl Harbor and 9/11, we thought we were together, again one nation. For a time, we were. Then we frayed. Perhaps we will remember this time – being one nation matters. All things considered, some good things may result from this crisis.