After a month of staying home to try and keep the coronavirus pandemic from spreading, many people are longing for the time when life can return to normal and how everything was before we started isolating at home. I don’t want to return to what normal was. I want to go someplace better.
In the past three years, I have seen a slow degradation of civility toward anyone who thinks differently from you. I have seen pettiness and a lack of critical thinking. I have seen people dig in with their concluded set of beliefs with refusals to ever think differently or change their minds. I never wanted to live in that world and I don’t want to return to it now.
My life has been spent on journey seeking calm and peacefulness as well as understanding. I seek solitude, which has kept me sane when my entire world was insane. I see many people only now learning the benefits of taking moments throughout the day to stop and breathe, and just be.
The coronavirus has forever changed the world. It has made us stop and think. It has revealed the selfish, but has brought about a sense of community, not just within a few miles of home, but around the world. We can see how our decisions affect others, even if the pandemic is an extreme example.
I do not want to return to the status quo. I want to keep moving forward to what’s next, what’s better, and what’s going to let us grow as human beings. Returning to normal is comfortable and I don’t ever want to be that kind of comfortable again.
We all want not to be quarantined, to be able to go to work and socialize and travel. But we don’t want everything to go back to business as usual, because business as usual is what led us to this crisis. COVID-19 has demonstrated how much we need federally mandated paid sick leave and universal health care, so we don’t want to return to a status quo that lacks those things. The current administration’s response ought to serve as a cautionary tale about the dangers of electing demagogues instead of real leaders, although there’s no guarantee that voters will heed it. We’re at a point where things could go in some very different ways, depending on what we learn from this experience.
For the past week, Paul and I have been rewatching Babylon 5. Over the course of its five-season run, every character changed because of a major war which affected everyone. Once the war was over, they took the time to listen, to learn, and to look for ways to be better people. When we come out of this pandemic on the other side, I hope we, too, will have learned a little more compassion and empathy.
I don’t want to return to the world of bickering, where people score imaginary points depending on what zinger can be said for a laugh or an ad hominem attack. I want people to be kind to one another. I want political debates and discussions based on merit and dialogue. I want to hear about policy and what our elected officials plan to actually do for us. I want to see people helping other people because it is the right thing to do, not because they will be rewarded for it.
Hopefully, we have all now learned the value of being kind to one another. The world we left at the beginning of March was one in which people easily looked down on others. I don’t want to go back to a world where cashiers, retail workers, sanitation workers, food servers, truck drivers, etc., are treated as sub-human by customers. I hope businesses will value their employees instead of thinking of them as an expendable expense whenever cuts come along. While we’re at it, maybe we can get rid of the racism, too.
One thing we have already learned is how many jobs can be done from home. Employers will soon have several months data showing their employees are as effective as working in the office and, in many cases, more productive. Working from home isn’t ideal for everyone, but for those who desire the quietness to focus to work better, the flexibility would be a benefit for employee and employer.
I posted the above picture to my Facebook page last week. I wrote, “I’m ready for this kind of mask.” It got a few laughs. I wasn’t joking.
I’m done with the America that existed before March 2020. Over the last three years, I have repeatedly heard, “this is who we’ve become,” in reference to the vile cesspool we all seem to be mired in thanks to an inept administration and a Senate that is willing to support it as long as their pockets continue to be lined.
The saddest part is this isn’t who we’ve become. It’s who we’ve always been. It’s just out in the light now and I’m done with it and being told I must accept it. We have spent far too much time just accepting things – airline bailouts, failing to respond to a hurricane, the Patriot Act – instead of standing up and saying enough is enough. We can’t just talk about these things, we have to actually do something other than click on “like” or retweet something.
I’m ready for the America I know today as well as grew up in to be over and gone. We can change it, but it won’t be easy. We need to change, but we must all get up and make it happen. We must change if we’re going to survive.
We have the opportunity to create a better future. The coronavirus has showed us we must care for each other because, if we don’t, who will? It certainly isn’t the government or anyone else in power. We have to raise our voices and be heard and we continually have to fit to get what should be obvious. We will find our strength by leaning on each other. I know it’s possible. I’ve seen it happen in this little part of flyover country many times before.
We can, again, look to Babylon 5 and heed the words of G’Kar, written in the opening of the Alliance’s Declaration of Principles.
The universe speaks in many languages, but only one voice.
The language is not Narn, or Human, or Centauri, or Gaim or Minbari
It speaks in the language of hope
It speaks in the language of trust
It speaks in the language of strength and the language of compassion
It is the language of the heart and the language of the soul.
But always it is the same voice
It is the voice of our ancestors, speaking through us,
And the voice of our inheritors, waiting to be born
It is the small, still voice that says
We are one
No matter the blood
No matter the skin
No matter the world
No matter the star:
We are one
No matter the pain
No matter the darkness
No matter the loss
No matter the fear
We are one
Here, gathered together in common cause, we agree to recognize this
singular truth and this singular rule:
That we must be kind to one another
Because each voice enriches us and ennobles us and each voice lost
We are the voice of the Universe, the soul of creation, the fire
that will light the way to a better future.
We are one.
That is the kind of future I’m ready to walk into. That future is where you’ll find me.