As we ushered in 2020, the first year of the second decade of the new millennium, a perfect storm was brewing in the background.
At the beginning of the year, a strange new virus was rearing its ugly head in Wuhan Province in China. The United States was gearing up for an election year, one for the ages. The discussion and debate surrounding the choices the country would face in November was centered around who and what we are as a country. The election was being touted as a referendum on the soul of America.
So not much attention was being paid in the US to this novel coronavirus and the death and destruction brought on by the disease that it caused - COVID-19.
Soon enough, that virus and disease would create a perfect storm that would bare the soul of these United States of America to its citizens and the rest of the world.
Three things this perfect storm has uncovered:
1) We are truly a global village
The crisis has shown, whether we realize it or not, we are all interconnected. The economies of all countries are linked. Raw materials, supply chains, manufacturing, sales and customer service for any given finished product often takes place in multiple countries on multiple continents. When something goes wrong along that continuum, it can throw the whole process into chaos.
That’s exactly what we have seen with the world’s economy in this crisis. This interconnectedness and interdependence is not going away. In other words, we’re all in this together, for better or for worse.
2) What is really important
The crisis has disrupted the regular routines and threatened the economic livelihoods of governments, corporations, organizations, small businesses and individuals all over the planet. With the world on lockdown, individuals and groups have had plenty of time to think about what is really important. Hard choices have had to be made by all. And at the heart of those choices, we begin to understand what is most important. We come to grips with what are life's priorities.
One clear priority that has emerged from this crisis is that health is more important than wealth. Many of the choices that have been made for better or for worse is to protect human life and health no matter what the cost.
3) What is done in the dark will come out in the light
This crisis has brought every group of people in this country to the breaking point. Regardless of gender, race, orientation or socioeconomic status, people are frustrated, angry, depressed, sad, confused or some combination thereof.
With everyone on lockdown with limited resources or distractions, all we’ve really had to focus on consistently are one another and the news. In our 24/7 media world, news and social media are the only consistent source of new content these days.
When you couple this fact with the sentiments of people, individual events in the news can have a more significant impact on our attitudes and psyches. We are tuned in without much to distract us. The news is literally the only game in town.
With the recent rash of race-related events in the news, the perfect storm has stripped away the topsoil of the landscape of our country and exposed what has always been underneath.
In the book American Exceptionalism and American Innocence, the authors make the point that “violence, empire, genocide [of the indigenous people], slavery, dispossession, and white supremacy are not aberrations of the U.S. nation-state but central to its very identity and structure.”
The country has been trying to reckon with this reality of its foundation since its inception. To be clear, tremendous strides have been made, yet we still find ourselves where we are today - frustrated, angry, disappointed, sad and confused.
With the recent peaceful protests and rioting, people of this country are trying their best to make sense of what is staring us all in the face. There’s nowhere to hide. It’s out in the open, out in the light, for all to see, for better or for worse.
So what now?
As Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King said in 1968, “Where Do We Go From Here?”
Where do we go when all the distractions come back, when malls are fully open, when sports are back on, when entertainment is back in full effect?
Will we heed the lessons of our interconnectedness, understand our true priorities and the importance of life and health? Or will we continue wrestling and reckoning with the grim reality of the sins from our dark past?
Or will we go back to business as usual as fast as it is available to us?
Will we continue to grapple with those skeletons that have come to light?
Or will we do our best to kick the topsoil over the exposed trauma of our country’s existence?
No matter what, one thing is for sure: Whether we like it or not, we are all in this together, for better or for worse.