Political polarization, particularly since the Trump presidency, has wreaked havoc in the United States, destroying trust in our institutions and causing a vast political divide among Americans. Our divisions are so pronounced that even within some states, there are “two Americas” brought on by the decline of bipartisanship and our inability to “agree to disagree” amicably to accomplish something larger. That was how America could be described before the coronavirus pandemic swept into our lives, putting up a necessary roadblock on further decay of American greatness.
If our country doesn’t change its course quickly and drastically, I believe we will see what history will record as an era of one of our greatest declines. Tribalism has consumed not only our political landscape but also our culture, religious organizations, educational institutions and every other facet of daily life in America. We live no longer to build for a brighter future. Instead, we fight each other. But at some point, a nation becomes weary of fighting. At some point, a nation needs hope and aspiration for something better.
The Greek philosopher Aristotle wrote that “a common danger unites even the bitterest enemies.” And, to also borrow a phrase from Charles Dickens, it is a melancholy truth that it takes a deadly pandemic to unite us. Yet, like an animal up against a wall knowing that life could end at any second, life itself has become all the more clear. Perhaps the silver lining in this COVID-19 pandemic is that people are bonding together, neighbors are looking out for each other, and strangers are coming together to help one another.
The world is facing a silent but deadly enemy, the likes of which we have not faced since the Spanish flu in 1918. Though not as deadly as that pandemic at this point, the way in which COVID-19 has halted life as we know it makes it more similar to the Spanish flu than to more recent viruses such as SARS, MERS or Ebola. In many instances, the only thing linking us together right now is local television and technology — which has its limits. However, this pandemic could be the enemy that the world needs. Maybe this moment in time will remind us of the things that we really should value and, hopefully, it will curb some of the bitterness and hatred that consumes so much of our politics, culture and daily lives.
As mankind advances, so do our godlike projections. We have come to see ourselves as invincible, foolishly believing that we are exempt from many things. We have become selfish and inconsiderate of others, beyond those in our immediate circles. We’ve self-segregated ourselves to groups who share our worldly beliefs, shunning those who think differently. We laugh at the notion of having faith in God — until we’re in the midst of a crisis. It is then that we learn who we truly are, and reality reveals that only together can we overcome disaster and accomplish great things.
No matter how much we’ve advanced technologically or scientifically, none of what man does or has accomplished in terms of his genius can thwart the impacts of this virus. Science is being pushed to its limits and our once-bustling economy has come to a screeching halt. Nothing else matters during moments of life and death. To COVID-19, it doesn’t matter if you’re a Republican or Democrat, black or white, Jewish or Christian or Muslim. When it boils down to it, those things are simply adjectives to describe us; none of those things can stop us or someone we love from getting the virus and potentially dying from it.
Moments of great uncertainty and pain are some of life’s greatest lessons because they reveal our mortality. That is the lesson for us to learn during this moment. We must use this moment to not only unite but to learn to revel in that which holds great value, and to discard those things that have no value at all.
My faith teaches me that even in the darkest moments there is something to be gained. Around the corner is new life, uncorrupted by the mistakes of the past and ready to be molded into something better. It is the necessary lesson that awaits every man and woman brave enough to face it.