It is a curious feeling to know that you are living through something that will no doubt be read about in a textbook by future generations. Prior to this week, the only other times I had experienced something like that were when the housing market collapsed, when the first black president was elected and when Osama Bin Laden was killed. We all experienced that unique sensation this week when the chaotic Coronavirus spread beyond the shores of Italy and infected hundreds of Americans. What remains to be determined is whether this case will be recorded in a history book, or a sociology text.
Panic that makes the typical bread and eggs blizzard runs look like a routine grocery trip gripped grocers and pharmacies across the country. Most perplexingly is the national run on toilet paper, considering the very limited digestive side effects of Coronavirus. A wide array of experts have offered an even wider array of opinions on the matter. Some have said to expect 1/3 Americans to be infected, and that mass casualties are inevitable. Others argue that it is little more than a flu virus. The truth likely lies where it does most often, somewhere between the two extremes.
There have been negative side effects of this outbreak besides the biological. Some have gone beyond an abundance of caution and given in to full fledged hysteria, hoarding and hiding. Some leaders on Capitol Hill have seized upon the opportunity to score political points, a series of snafus that culminated in Speaker Pelosi rushing a 50 billion dollar relief bill to the floor before rank and file members had a chance to review it.
But buried beneath the headlines and the hullaballoo there are some things worthy of closer inspection. A silver lining lies beneath the monstrous storm clouds. Out of Italy, dozens of videos are emerging of the quarantined singing in unison from their respective balconies, illuminating the city streets with their songs. Italian jets are doing flyovers and releasing colorful smoke to paint the skies with their flag.
In America, neighbors are checking on neighbors. Grandchildren are delivering groceries to their grandparents door steps. As all public events are being canceled, life is slowing down. As the CEOs of the major pharmacies gathered around a podium together in the rose garden and pledged to forgo potential profits for the good of the people, I was reminded of what makes this country great. The economic engine of capitalism is revving, and we are about to see what it can do. Google has developed a free app to help those who believe they are infected find tests, and grocery stores are implementing new procedures to limit infection. A vaccine is certainly on the way.
We are doing the two things we’ve always done when faced with a challenge, innovating and coming together. It has been a long time since we had need to flex our muscles. Life has been easy and we have perhaps become complacent. This week we’ve seen just a taste of what America, of what free people are still capable of when faced with a crisis, be it real or imagined.
One of my favorite TV shows growing up was always the Andy Griffith Show. In Andy’s Mayberry, people are kind and life is black and white. Mayberry has always been my ideal world, but in this fast paced cable news dominated era we live in, it’s far from our actual one. Life is about to slow down for a lot of people. A lot of the stupid squabbles of yesterday somehow seem less important. We got a reality check. Maybe, if only for a month or two, America will feel a little bit more like Mayberry. Check on your neighbor, take care of your grandmother, say thank you to the gas station attendant, and pray for our country.