With a desire for normalcy in the air, perhaps it’s best we stop and reflect on what we’ve learned during the pandemic. Anand Giridharadas does just that in the stirring and thoughtful Plague and renaissance: The case for transformation on The Ink.*
As always, this Weekly Reader features links to recent articles that grabbed my interest or tickled my fancy.
Giridharadas takes us to the final days of March “in the crushing year of 2020.”
We knew by then that a plague was upon us. Like me, maybe you had had your first meetings canceled. Maybe your kids were home, climbing on your lap during a novel thing called Zoom meetings. Maybe you were watching those handwashing videos — the ones that made me realize I had never done it right ever before. Maybe you were discovering that, despite getting no respect at work, you were suddenly now something called “essential.” Maybe you were among the early ones to fall ill with Covid, or you knew someone close who did, or you once dated a guy whose sister knew someone who works with a lady whose chiropractor got it.
It was March. It was early. It was the beginning of the beginning.“
After 423 days of agony and loss, the United States had reached — on May 29, 2021 — the point where the Covid death count had fallen below where it stood at the beginning, on the last day of that fateful month of March 2020.
As talk intensifies about a return to normal, Giridharadas asks his readers to consider themselves as runners who begin and end at the same point after a grueling race. Think about where we really stand and what we’ve learned from this experience. We have changed.
“You are stronger and more broken. Those who were running beside you may no longer be there. You are shaped and redefined by their absence. And, along the way, you saw things, thought of things, realized things, and these you now carry.“
The plague year was not only a killer, a terrorizer, and a “thief of dreams and work and fellowship and time.” It was also a teacher. We learned:
- How much harder it is to work, how much harder women in particular have it, how much female brilliance we sideline, when we make childcare a luxury product.
- There are no great equalizers, not even viruses — that inequity is a preexisting condition, and viruses, like so many other disasters on record, hit people according to their position in the caste hierarchy.
- When we allow monopolies to corner every market, we become vulnerable to shortages and supply issues we usually associate with the Soviet Union — even as the owners of those monopolies profit from crisis.
And so many of us learned that what we’ve learned our whole lives about America is wrong.
“We learned that we in America so often fixate on a childish understanding of freedom — of negative freedom from government power, from masks, from being told what to do — that we often deprive ourselves of the no less valuable freedom to remain alive.
We learned, with apologies to Ronald Reagan, that government is not, in fact, the problem.“
Consider his full list and then think, “what will we do next?”
“(E)very so often in history, ‘the zeitgeist moment hits and persistent voices can finally be heard.‘”
Maybe this is the time those voices for meaningful change will be heard.
*Also available on the video below.
Sally Jenkins, writing in The Washington Post, speaks to another reason why transformation is needed in Dan Crenshaw wants Gwen Berry kicked off the Olympic team. How un-American.
“‘The bare minimum requirement’ of competing in the Olympics should be ‘that you believe in the country you’re representing,’ Crenshaw (R-TX) told Fox….As if Berry, a 32-year-old native of Ferguson, Mo., the daughter of an Iraq War veteran, and a college graduate with a minor in criminal justice, must be some kind of liberty-loathing infiltrator….
Compulsory patriotism is not at all an American value; it is its own form of treachery. In fact, it’s hard to identify a braver American impulse than the one to speak freely from a platform in the face of pressure.”
Just another reason to take this moment as a prime time for transformation.
Enjoy your summer of reading.
More to come…