On the one-year anniversary of school shutdowns from Philadelphia to Portland, it is obvious that America has changed in many ways.
The way we handshake – if we shake hands – has changed from embraces to elbow and fist bumps. The commodities we coveted changed at one point, as spring outfits and St. Patrick’s Day accessories were cast aside for toilet paper and Lysol spray.
Government changed a lot. We saw the fulfillment of the infamous quote: “A government big enough to give you everything you want, is a government big enough to take away everything that you have.” That was because just as some things changed because we had to shift with the times, others tried to needlessly shift because of the times.
Yet, the more things change, the more they stay the same – or at least they should.
One of the biggest things that we have seen over the course of the past year – something that believers in free markets should never forget – is that the American Way of life works best for our society.
Diversity matters. When the governments of many states picked winners and losers in the workforce as they shut down businesses during the initial stages of the pandemic, not only were millions of Americans forced into unemployment, but millions more were forced into a reality where scarcity of resources had many parts of the nation living a nightmare akin to the Soviet-era. Over this year, we have learned that when free markets cannot work together, America does not work very well at all.
Ingenuity matters. When governments allowed teachers’ unions to dictate the timelines and terms of re-opening schools even as the science noted otherwise, millions of American children suffered everything from mental health crises to academic regression – even as millions of kids in non-traditional schools were back in school for in-person instruction as early as August. Over this past year, we have learned that the monopolized approach to education simply does not work in a nation of over 331 million residents.
Interconnected balance matters. Despite the complaints of Americans based on politics, region, and socioeconomics, our common march towards re-opening our locked-down society in the early summer of 2020 had much to do with the interrelated actions of many leaders that simply did not (and still do not) like each other. Trump’s Operation Warp Speed made having a vaccine available by the end of 2020 much more likely. States such as Florida, Georgia, and Texas leading the way on reopening restaurants, shopping venues, and schools sooner than states including California, Pennsylvania, and New York ended up having an influence on moving state leaders in a common direction. The politics of philosophy never lined up, but the politics of not being too far behind the curve with one’s peers eventually kicked in. Over the past year, we have learned that even our political foes are still Americans, and in that intertwined fate, we help each other despite any ill-intended resistance.
Looking at our unemployment numbers, our children still not enjoying full-time in-person instruction, the common shock that our society remains in, it’s clear: there was much that our leaders simply whiffed on during the earliest stages of the pandemic. People died needlessly (and some of that reality was politically covered up) – and yet, so did some businesses, some life opportunities, and some of our common esteem as Americans. And, further, once we look at the aftermath of it all, it’s clearer still: modeling America after the socialistic-styled governments of Europe to merely “flatten the curve for a few weeks” simply does not work here. In fact, people continue to come to America to avoid that line of thinking. Americans are expected to be thinkers, risk-takers, and “doers” that win the day through their minds, their hearts, and their tough spirits, especially during rough times. In many regards, leaders refused to act in that capacity over this past year. It was un-American do to so, and as a result, we have suffered un-American-like losses of life, status, esteem, geo-economic, and geo-political standing.
Once again, our proof of concept as “The Great Experiment”, even in our trying times, has been shown. We must cleave to our rudimentary essence as we climb out of the abyss of the pandemic and the roller coaster year of 2020 and remember: through our diversity, ingenuity, and interconnectedness, we are Americans and, thus, uniquely equipped to lead during times of prosperity and persevere during times of adversity. Our approach to the next crisis – and subsequent ones in the future – must never deviate from that reality again.
We have yet another year of proof that convinces us to always stay our unique course as Americans.