I wonder sometimes what our adversaries think of us: One of the most scientifically advanced nations in the world, perhaps the most advanced period, and we essentially chose to let a pandemic build steam and mutate, rather than take serious measures to stop it. Paging Michael Crichton. Alas, he died in 2008, but I think even he would have been shocked by our unseriousness.
We are unable to evaluate information in even a basic way as to its truth and accuracy. No wonder our enemies are making bank at our expense.
We resist, some of us, getting a vaccine, because it’s not been tested enough or we fear its side effects or, see previous paragraph, we think it contains microchips or will make women infertile. Meanwhile, the side effect of contracting COVID-19 is death, and a gruesome one at that.
And then, in perhaps the coup de grâce, we take these distinctions and turn them into political differences such that our division only worsens, as it has now, as it is between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated, as it is between our political parties.
My father used to think that we would have had a much tougher time fighting World War II in, say, the 1990s. I think he was right. And now? It could well be impossible. ‘You want me to accept ration coupons so the soldiers have enough food? I won’t do it!’
All of these things, in fleeting ways, ran through my head on 9/11, perhaps the last time we truly had a period of national unity and purpose. In Cornerstone Park in Carmel, there were no divisions as families of the dead saluted or put their hands over their heart. There were no divisions as the Brewster High School Choir sang patriotic songs. There were again no divisions as the fire bell tolled for each of the fallen, and our Eric Gross read the names, and said, “We remember.”
The keynote speaker was retired NYPD Detective Kristen Jones. She spoke of the unity after 9/11. And, she expressed concern: “We stand today in a crossroads of our country. Politics, racism, separatism and radicalism all test the strength of our unity. We need to turn our faith in God and our fellow man to work together to overcome our fears and misconceptions and rise as one country indivisible under God.”
We are still in a serious, dangerous time. We should approach it with the seriousness it deserves.
And yet. And yet so many things are going right: We were walloped by a pandemic, but our pharmaceutical companies, with a good bit of government aid and financing, developed not one but three vaccines. Our entire educational structure was upended, but in our area, most districts figured it out, moving heaven and earth to stay connected to students and families. Huge parts of our logistics and supply chain systems faced obstacles; most are now resolved. I continue to be amazed, gratefully so, at the quality of young people entering our military or other public service. Why, as adults of some years and even decades, can we not have that sense of purpose?
Our children continue to get married, albeit with vastly smaller weddings. Our health care and hospital systems still function, but know this: This carelessness and unseriousness and science denial have nearly broken the entire health care system. Of all the societal and economic issues we face, I think that two are especially stressed. One is our health care, and the other is the political divisions and fictions that jeopardize our democracy.
We are frittering away time and money and lives by engaging in some rearguard action against science and vaccines and seriousness, all so we can fight one another. We should stop, and soon.
Until next week.
I’m Douglas Cunningham and I’m editor of the Putnam County Courier and Putnam County News and Recorder, in Cold Spring. This column is my opinion. Disagree if you want.
Reach me at 845-265-2468 or at email@example.com.