As the global pandemic of the novel coronavirus rages around the world there are copious amounts of finger-pointing and blame. There is value in considering what leadership steps were successful or failed. China should have shared information at least three weeks earlier than they did. The World Health Organization should have been more robust in alerting the world on January 5, sounding the alarms may have saved lives. President Donald Trump could have listened to expertise and taken steps to contain the virus before it spread. He could have mitigated the impact after it had spread—too little too late was effectively meaningless.
In the absence of quality leadership at the top, however, there have been shining stars. Mayors and governors across the U.S. have taken fantastic steps to save lives. Stay at home orders have limited the spread of the virus and swift action has been taken to prevent overwhelming hospitals. Where Donald Trump has lied about the threat and failed to deliver on promises, including the delivery of essential personal protective equipment, communities and organization have stepped up to help. People, young and old, started sewing facemasks for medical care providers and compromised members of their community.
At the community college where I teach in Cleveland, Ohio, there are students who have deployed to New York to assist in medical work to help the many sick victims. They send emails apologizing for being late on assignments. They outshine everyone in the White House put together.
Never before has the late Fred Rogers been more spot-on: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”
My father, while he was still alive, reminded me to keep Mother Teresa’s admonition in mind: “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”
Anne Frank was tremendously inspiring when she wrote in her diary, “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”
Treating the sick today, hiding Jews in Amsterdam in 1943, they both come with risk but no guarantees; it is all a reflection of our underlying humanity and we should stay positive—even in the hardest times—by finding hope and uplifting things that are still within our control.
As the bailout discussions take place we should revisit everything. Let us fund endeavors to save life and cut budgets that take life. If someone asks, “how do you pay for it?” tell them we cannot afford to sustain a stockpile of thousands of nuclear warheads and trillions of dollars in military operations. Let us use a bailout as investment into the future and make sure we fund education at all levels. I care about my class of 2020 graduates and I do not see how the giveaway to millionaires helps them face a job market with unemployment at 20-30 percent. My students do more to make the world a better place than the stock market ever has.
There are hopeful examples for a peaceful future. Calls for ceasefires have been made, why not make them permanent? We have been given an opportunity to see a world with cleaner air and it is beautiful. There is clear adversity and it is unjust to continue to give the most to those who suffer the least and least to those who suffer the most. The people need a bailout. They’ve been treading water—education, health care, student loan forgiveness, free daycare, infrastructure of clean and renewable energy are all the life preservers they need, not guns, not bombs, and certainly not the deregulation of environmental protections, which are just another gratuitous threat to human health.