Summary: The responses to my posts about the COVID-19 epidemic and my discussions with people (neighbors, fellow workers) reveal that a horrifying epidemic has spread across America. It can destroy America unless each of us fights back.
Many factors helped America has become a great and powerful nation despite our many weaknesses. High among them has been our strong social cohesion, which has carried us though some difficult time. Most notably, the Civil War and its aftermath (many nations never fully recover from such a bloody internal rift). Also, the Great Depression – where we avoided a near-collapse (e.g., France) and fall into fascism. WWII, where we mobilized faster and more fully than the front-line states of Britain and Germany (Hitler declared war because his experts grossly underestimated this). Most recently, by working through the peaceful civil rights movement that led to the great civil rights laws of 1964 and 1965 (finally ending the civil war by integrating African Americans) and the violent race riots of the 1965 – 1975 (armed troops in our inner cities each summer).
The comments about COVID-19, like those about terrorism in the five years after 9/11, show a fearful and mistrustful people. People who believe rumors and fringe sources (often ones that frequently circulate lies), and reflexively disbelieve expert sources and institutional voices. People whose fears have mastered them. This is awful for two reasons.
First, it diminishes our ability to stand together in adversity and strongly respond to our leaders. This comes easily to communitarian societies, like those in East Asia (has China has demonstrated in the past two months). It is difficult for societies built on respect for individual rights. We have to choose to stand together, which requires trust in each other, in ourselves collectively, and in our elected leaders.
Without this, we are a rabble – no matter what wealth and power we command.
Second, this is an America ready for a revolution, eager to find leaders with big promises whom they can blindly follow. We are a rabble seeking to become a rabble in arms. This is how democracy ends.
Epidemics, depressions, and wars are natural aspects of life. If not today, then we will suffer them today. If we become weak, one of these ills will knock our society down. For our society to survive, each of us must stay rooted and stay connected to our communities and nation.
Fear and distrust are diseases. They can spread faster than any virus and destroy societies faster than an army of tanks
It’s easy to follow the coronavirus story
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