So it goes without saying there is nothing good about a deadly virus – irrespective of its breadth and depth (i.e. total infections, hospitalizations, deaths, etc.). Absolutely nothing good. If we start from the premise that human life is to be cherished (and all of us would do well to start from such a premise) it follows that anything which prematurely snuffs life out is bad.
More ominously, there is absolutely nothing good about the ensuing panic – which has brought the world’s largest economy to an effective standstill, causing untold and seemingly interminable hardship for millions upon millions of Americans (and millions more citizens around the world).
Perhaps most ominously, though, there is absolutely nothing good about the pervasive uncertainty and fear fueling this panic … a paralyzing anxiety stoked by every latest news article, social media post or text message received from a friend or relative.
The pervasive uncertainty and fear flowing from the 2019-2020 coronavirus pandemic represents the greatest challenge we are facing as a society right now – and the greatest challenge many of us will face in our lifetimes. And no matter whether you think this fear was warranted – or whether the “cures” this nation has implemented in response to the virus have been worse than the virus itself (we believe they very well may have been) – the fact remains that on both counts, the die has been cast.
The fear and the fallout from this virus are not only real – but both are likely to remain with us for some time.
Accordingly, we view this “cure versus the disease” argument – while valid – as something we should probably stick a pin into for the time being. There will be plenty of time for that discussion – and its many attendant scientific, economic, political and ideological conversations. But as we noted in a recent post, now is not that time. Facing the immediacy and sheer enormity of the situation confronting our nation, such a discussion is only modestly more useful than the utterly ridiculous debate taking place in some corners over what the virus should be called.
So today … as the sun sets on the second Sunday of this incredibly uncertain new reality we have suddenly stumbled into, what should we focus on?
We know the virus, the fear and the economic fallout are terrifying … but is there any good to be found?
That’s really hard to say …
We would say “yes,” but then – like many of you – we rub our eyes each morning upon awakening only to realize that yes, this is really still happening.
The Christian apostle Paul (f.k.a. Saul of Tarsus) wrote in a letter to his fellow believers in the city of Phillipi “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”
Is there really anything in the world right now fitting those descriptions?
If so, it is very hard to see it …
Regardless of how we got here, why we got here and who is to blame for bettering or worsening our predicament … to say we are in dark times is an understatement. And to say our nation entered this present darkness in a state of unprecedented divisiveness is likewise an understatement.
One nation? Under God? E pluribus unum?
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America was already coming apart at the seams, people. Meaning there is little to suggest hardship will bring us together.
“We are doing nothing but calcifying polarization – perpetually reaffirming preexisting perceptions, validating our autonomic responses to them and conforming our views to the herd-think of the new American tribalism, our founding editor Will Folks wrote in a column last summer in comparatively idyllic times. “Such is the sad construct of the ‘post-truth world’ in which we live … and unlike so many of us who appear interminably infected by it, this disease does not discriminate.”
Just like the coronavirus …
Conditioned to cast blame on others while refusing to accept even a scintilla of our own culpability, far too many of us fell into this “viral fallout” with a worldview diametrically opposed to the one we should have brought with us. Instead of helping our neighbors … we hoarded toilet paper. Instead of lifting each other up, we posted acerbic nasty-grams online for the whole world (well, the handful of people who follow us) to see. And instead of coming together in a search for truth, mindless tribalism once again ruled the day.
On all fronts, it was (and is) a failing of the first order …
And so it has now come to pass that a culture which described almost every facet of its daily mundanity as “epic” suddenly found itself confronted by something of that dimension … and totally panicked. After a solid decade-plus of posting “Keep Calm and … (insert whatever)” memes online, there was all of a sudden zero calm to be found.
And so here we are …
Now the question we all must ask ourselves is how do we navigate these uncharted waters?
1. “Be Still …”
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As individuals, communities and as a country, that is the question … where do we go from here?
Before addressing such an ocean of open-endedness, we believe there is an urgent need to rediscover some of the aforementioned calm we seem to have collectively lost as a culture. So … to those of you blessed with health and breath right now, take a few deep ones.
Settle down. Slow your roll. And yes, when it comes to some of the more strident voices among us, kindly STFU for just a second.
You can be insufferable again soon. Just not today.
Seriously. We can (and should) vigorously debate which leaders dropped what balls … and how. And we obviously have to discuss sooner rather than later what policies must be implemented if we are to pick those balls back up again.
But let’s begin that process by finding a starting point of peace … so that these discussions might bear fruit that benefits us all.
“Be still, and know that I am God,” the Koharite psalmists wrote, citing the words of the Jewish creator.
Written as a call to end the very sort of tribalism currently that is currently plaguing our nation, Psalm 46 reminds those of us who subscribe to the notion of an eternal creator that this creator remains in charge through times like these – and has safety and strength readily available to us in our time of need.
No matter how great it may be …
God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.
In other words, even in the midst of an apocalypse (or a coronapocalypse), we can “be still.”
Regardless of which God you worship or what creation narrative you believe (or even if you worship anything at all), you can still “be still.” Because while we may disagree on religion and politics, we should all be able to agree that there is nothing we are facing – real or imagined – which is going to get one iota better because we panicked.
In fact, panic will only make it worse.
Also, we would humbly submit that those who know there is a creator – and who enjoy a personal relationship with them (again, irrespective of your faith tradition) – are finding it easier to maintain the “peace at the center” so necessary to navigating these present times.
2. “Be Smart …”
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This applies on multiple levels – from the individual level all the way up to the national and global response.
Starting with ourselves, it seems crazy that something all of us should have learned in three-year-old kindergarten – “wash your hands” – has suddenly become one of the most important things we can do right now. But it is.
So wash your hands. Often. Especially if you plan on going out and about pretty much anywhere in the world right now.
Other good manners we should have learned at an early age – including covering our mouths when we cough or sneeze and keeping our hands away from our faces – are similarly integral to limiting exposure to coronavirus as well as flu and other illnesses.
The same thing applies to giving people their space (a.k.a. “social distancing”).
So … remember your manners. You should know them already, but …
And who knows: Maybe the coronavirus isn’t as bad as we have been led to believe it is … or, maybe it is worse. Either way, following these simple steps (again, manners) can help prevent it from spreading.
Looking bigger picture, our nation’s leaders (and elected officials at the state and local level) must be smart in tackling the economic and societal fallout from this virus – which is going to be nothing short of catastrophic. America is already more than $23.5 trillion in debt – which is more than its annual $21.4 trillion gross domestic product. Now government is about to dramatically escalate “stimulus” efforts – at a time when revenue to the government is drying up.
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You can see the looming disconnect … and it is happening at a time when U.S. president Donald Trump (who vowed to balance the budget and eliminate the debt as a candidate four years ago) has instead pushed the same fiscally unsustainable course as his predecessor, Barack Obama.
To be clear: We are not saying we unilaterally oppose such stimulus efforts, but as we have previously opined such proposals “cannot take the form of more bureaucratic bailouts and corporate cronyism … instead, (they) must come in the form of widespread relief for millions of middle-income and lower-income Americans who were already struggling to make ends meet before the virus hit.”
In other words, all relief must be targeted to the individual income earners and small businesses that drive – or rather, were driving the economy before this crisis hit.
Finally, when the dust settles from all of this, a long-overdue reassessment of what American taxpayers should – and should not – be responsible for subsidizing must be undertaken. Same goes for the delivery methods responsible for administering core functions (i.e. broken bureaucracies versus market-based methods). Because necessary functions are clearly being shortchanged and unnecessary functions are clearly being funded exorbitantly – not to mention the rampant incompetence and inefficiency in how both are administered out of Washington D.C.
The subsidization of non-core functions – and inefficiency in administering core functions – was already unfortunate. But in the trying days, months and years to come, it simply can no longer be tolerated.
3. “Be Just …”
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In our years of covering politics and government in South Carolina – arguably one of the most fecund and insidious cesspools of institutional corruption found anywhere in America – we are often asked by well-meaning people why the wicked seem to prosper. Why deception is widely regarded as fact? And why does common sense hardly ever prevail over narrow self-interest?
In short, people often ask us … “why is there no justice?”
In our estimation, this question misses the mark – and misses a fundamental reality of our cosmic order.
There is justice. Circles, once drawn, must be completed. And energy – whether positive or negative – can neither be created nor destroyed.
To put it in our contemporary vernacular, karma is a bitch … and it always comes around.
Two-and-a-half years ago, on the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, our founding editor penned a lengthy post on the legacy of Martin Luther. In it, he laid out some basic underpinnings as to the role of faith in our contemporary marketplace of ideas.
“As a libertarian, I would never presume to preach against other religions – and as a proponent of the free market, I would never demonize the accumulation of wealth,” he wrote. “Diversity of perspectives and ideologies and the desire to carve out prosperous livelihoods for ourselves (and future opportunities for our children) are good things – provided we do not use our religion as a pretext for violence or our commerce as a pretext for thievery.”
But make no mistake: Those who take what is not theirs (be it a life or a liberty or a possession or another’s wealth) – especially in times such as these (and especially if they are already in a position of abundance) – will invite proportional judgment upon themselves.
“There will be an accounting for all of it,” our founding editor wrote in his Luther manifesto. “Every interaction. Every transaction. Every action. Every reaction. And all the money in the world – or all the power over the things of this world – will not save someone who falls on the wrong side of that ledger.”
Whether we know it or admit it, everything we do falls upon the scales of right or the scales of wrong. And so while there may not be perfect accountability on this side of the mortal coil … there is perfect accountability.
So do justly, love mercy and walk humbly … and know that in times of crises as well as times of calm, your actions toward your fellow human beings will be repaid unto you in kind.
To the last cent …
4. “Be Kind …”
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Just as the ultimate human toll of the coronavirus remains anyone’s guess, we have no idea at this point how bad it will wind up being for our nation’s economy (and the workers and families who depend on it for their survival). The early economic indicators are nothing short of cataclysmic … with a deep recession effectively guaranteed at this point and a full-blown depression looking increasingly likely.
The scope of deprivation created by either outcome is difficult to even comprehend … let alone address.
For starters, there are 26 million more people in our nation today than there were when the Great Recession struck in 2008. And if you are betting on whether the coming downturn is going to be harsher or less severe than the last one … our advice is to double down on depression.
We hope we are wrong, but …
And when you give, do not expect to be repaid. And do not seek or expect credit for giving. Just give. And if you have in abundance, give in abundance.
Conversely, if you need, ask. And if you receive – no matter the source – make the wisest possible use of what you have been given. And when you have been able to dig yourself out of the pit, show others the way out. And then give unto those less fortunate as help was first given to you.
It boils down to this: We can feed each other … or we can eat each other.
Our prayer is for the former … but the answer to the question starts within each one of us. And it starts now.
Just as we wrote earlier regarding the need for the federal government to fairly appropriate any coronavirus-related stimulus money it doles out (and become a far better steward of the money taxpayers entrust unto it at all levels moving forward) – so, too, each one of us must take inventory of ourselves.
This inventory obviously must be financial in light of the tough times headed down the pike … but it must also go broader, deeper than that.
Each one of us must take inventory of who we are, of how we treat others, of what we believe (our core values) and of what we want our roles to be in erecting the sort of nation we hope will emerge from all of this.
Which we hope can somehow withstand all of this …
“A Republic, if you can keep it,” founding father Benjamin Franklin told Philadelphia socialite Elizabeth Willing Powel upon emerging from Independence Hall following the Constitutional Convention of 1787.
Don’t look now but we’re about to find out, people …
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