Of course, we’re in the eye of the storm of the Coronavirus at the moment. But this will eventually pass, duration of which is undetermined. We can be guaranteed of one thing at least: the earth will somehow keep rotating on its axis.
But what happens after COVID-19? Life returning to “normal?” Normal being back to anger, shouting at and above each other? Nobody listening? Back to tribalism? Nationalism? My way or no way?
You recall the aftermath of 9/11? How everybody saw that as a wake-up call? That maybe even the world was coming to an end? Suddenly, previously empty churches were full. People prayed and invoked God’s mercy and forgiveness. But shortly thereafter, people feeling safe and comfortable again, and following George H. Bush’s edict to the American public to return to its way of consumer life by re-frequenting shopping malls and retail establishments, life returned to normal. People did resume consuming. Church attendance fell back to pre-9/11 levels. Nothing changed, except a lingering fear of another terrorist attack, which piqued governmental tightening of certain regulations to help prevent another surprise attack. And, oh yes, we went to war with Iraq under false pretenses. Vietnam? We seem to never learn our lessons.
So, after Coronavirus? What lessons do we learn from this dilemma? Even now, before it’s over?
Just this morning, the UN announced this pandemic as being the worst crisis the world has faced since WW11. Worse than the AIDs epidemic. Worse than the refugee crisis. Worse than the threat of nuclear warfare with North Korea. Than Russia’s unrelenting expansionism. Than so-called alt-right or populist movements throughout the world. Than growing anti-semitism. Than African and Middle Eastern genocide. Than the increasing divide between the haves and the have-nots. Than out-of-control gun oriented deaths. Than global warming. Than America’s ever-growing trillion dollar debt, much of it owned by China.
COVID-19…worse than all of the above?
I’m a Christian, but I don’t believe God has sent us this plague to “get our attention.” Any more than He sent Hurricane Katrina to New Orleans to teach that city a lesson about its debauchery. Or hurricanes to punish Haiti for its “paganism.” Or cancer to a child. Or dementia to an elderly person. I can’t even begin to venture forth a reasonable guess as to WHY this Coronavirus is afflicting us, other than it’s simply a byproduct of being an earthling. It’s just life. It’s another in a long line of global crises.
So, what next? What if there’s a COVID-20 or 22 or 25? Do we learn anything?
Here’s something to consider. Not in my lifetime of 72 years have I witnessed the world pulling together in such a collaborative effort to forestall and defeat this influenza monster. Since it’s a global epidemic, scientists and politicians from most every one of the 150+ countries affected are racing to stop the spread of and find a cure for this malady. Necessity is indeed the mother of invention and solution. And unification. Not since WWII has there been such universal cooperation. No nation against nation or clan against clan. No me. Just a global we. That’s good.
There’s a curious irony to this “social distancing” mandate from health professionals. What we’re learning per force from this is just how much we need each other. And, as often happens during a crisis, we see both the best that humanity has to offer along with the worst. Of course, there’s the inexplicable hoarding and gouging. How can we make sense of that, even considering eminent theologian Walter Brueggemann’s “scarcity syndrome” explanation? On the other hand, we see individuals and entities pitching in to serve meals and goods to the unfortunate “left-behinds,” even at the risk to their own health. We see health care professionals working non-stop shifts to meet the needs of the afflicted, again at great risk to their own well-being. We see employers retaining employees at full pay and benefits, even though business has slowed precipitously. We see neighbors gathering periodically on front lawns with dogs and children while taking precautionary measures. We’ve discovered we really do need each other. Again, ironically, even when we meet in person at a cautionary distance, our immune systems receive an uptick of immunoglobulin, which is our body’s natural defense to disease. After COVID-19 passes, maybe this rediscovered need for community will last, and divisive tribalism and shouting at and over each other will cease.
I close with a plea offered by the late George H. W. Bush in his 1988 presidential nomination acceptance speech, when he called for a kinder and gentler nation. Why not? Why not heed Jackie Deshannon’s “what the world needs now is love, sweet love; it’s the only thing there’s just too little of”? Why not Jesus’ Golden Rule of doing to others as you want them to do to you? Or Biblical Peter’s love covers a multitude of evils? Or perhaps America’s greatest president, Abraham Lincoln, pleading with a divided nation: “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have been strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”
Why not allow this pandemic to invoke the better angels of our nature? If not you and me, who? If not now, when?
G. Turner Howard III