Who could have ever imagined that our lives would so dramatically change by a virus that just a few months ago was dismissed by our leaders as a minor problem that really would not affect our lives that much? A little social distancing and we will all be back to normal in no time. How wrong they were.
I turned 80 years old this month. It seemed like my life had peaked, but I was ready for the long and relaxing ride back down. I looked forward to enjoying my later years and be on this side of troubled waters. But now, I’m not so sure.
Most of us are aware that our democracy is not the perfect form of government. But we still believe that few other countries come close to our freedoms, benefits, and opportunities. Our country is special, and we take pride in being prepared for whatever difficulties we face. America cannot and should not have to rely on any other country for help in the time of a major crisis. Churchill said it well back in 1934.
“We cannot afford to confide the safety of our country
To the passions or the panic of any foreign nation which may
Be facing some desperate crisis. We must be independent.
We must be free. We must preserve our full latitude and
Discretion of choice.”
I don’t think the blame game helps, but the fact remains that our country needs better preparation for future epidemics. But it often comes down to tax dollars. Current financial needs often are given priority over long-range planning for future catastrophes. I made the same arguments for a major federal response to a Katrina-like catastrophe when I proposed and testified in Congress for the immediate need of a National Disaster Relief program back in 1995. A similar proposal was part of my detailed Brown Papers where I outlined such a need in my race for governor back in 1987. Such suggestions were put on the back burner and never revived.
And what about all these food pantry lines? Millions of people across the country wait for hours to get a box of canned goods. Yet while so many Americans go hungry, farmers are plowing up ripe fruits and vegetables, and milk is being dumped in waste pits. There are congressional proposals for a major distribution program through the Department of Agriculture.
Why not eliminate all the bureaucracy, help our grocery stores, and just enlarge the food stamp program that is built around a private business structure already set up to distribute food? Let those in need just go to their local grocery stores. Why not let those who qualify and need food use SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) to buy groceries even online if necessary. Why abandon a workable program that makes use of the private sector?
This current pandemic is not going away soon. I know that many people are fed up with what they feel are draconian stay-at-home restrictions. But we are being naive if there is a feeling that life will return to the old normal in the not too distant future. There could well be a second wave of the virus, and a vaccine is most likely many months away.
We need to balance such caution with the realization that our economy is stuck in an induced coma, and needs to rebound so people can get back to work. And our kids need an education. Finding the right balance is the single biggest challenge facing our political leaders in Washington.
There’s a new normal yet to be determined. Many folks might not like it, but guess what? The coronavirus doesn’t give a darn. We are just going to have to face this fact.
Peace and Justice
Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears in numerous newspapers throughout the state and on websites worldwide. You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownusa.com.