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But seriously folks...
When I started writing my updates to friends and family back in March we were in the midst of having to make a choice about where to make our stand. Like the song asks “Should we stay or should we go?” The State Department had issued a warning to all US Citizens abroad to IMMEDIATELY arrange for transport back to the US or be prepared to remain in place INDEFINITELY… and yes we were totally freaked out. We decided to stay. A new acquaintance of ours decided to move up his trip back to LA and booked the last flight out through London, amidst a plane load of exchange students also scrambling home…and got infected. Thankfully his case was mild.
In the early days as we got our updates from friends in SoCal we definitely felt that we had blown it. They were hiking, playing golf and enjoying the freedom of movement that to us seemed a far off dream. We were locked down tight…and remained so for nearly 3 full months living in a City with no City life. It was brutal but it passed.
And now here we are…Life is returning and with it encouraging news not only about Spain but about all of Europe. Sacrifices were made in those days, and now people are behaving in ways that protect not only themselves but those around them. What happened? Per Thomas Boswell, one of my favorite Sportswriters in yesterdays WAPO in the language I understand best, the language of sports;
“The seven largest countries in the European Union, with a combined population around the same as our 330 million, had about 6 percent as many new coronavirus cases as the United States: 2,074 to 33,730. Texas and California had more than 5,000 new cases each.
In April, the E.U. was just as big a health disaster as America. But the E.U. still operates like a team — one that believes in science and has the discipline to fight together against a pandemic. Now the results are in.
The E.U. is considering banning Americans from going to Europe even after its restrictions on travel lift July 1 end. For the first time, a continent may be saying: “We don’t want your American tourist dollars. You’re not worth the risk.”
So now it’s getting personal. My wife and son are in the US having traveled there for family reasons with the expectation that they would be coming back. They both have Spanish residency, but…will the planes even be flying here? I’m hopeful that all of the dire predictions about EU blocking travel will be less severe than first reported for selfish reasons, but at the same time, I can’t really blame them. What is going on in much of the US is sheer madness and people around the world have taken notice. Again quoting Boswell from the WAPO Sports section:
“Right now, the United States wakes up every day ready to brawl — with itself. Good teams grasp the basic level of putting the team first: “We can’t win unless we all do this.” You either buy in or you go out. Right now, our country can’t even buy into using masks in situations in which scientists say it will cut the rate of virus transmission by up to 80 percent.”
When 9/11 happened we put aside our differences and pulled together to heal and had a sense of solidarity that sadly was betrayed by starting a war in the wrong country for the wrong reasons about the misdeeds of the wrong people. Maybe that’s a part of why it’s been so hard for us to trust and to come together again. But the sad irony is that we’re losing many more US citizens in this battle by a huge margin than we did then in that tragedy and ensuing war… and yet we’re either in denial or worse about what the challenge is and how we need to respond.
In most of my writings I have tried to stay on the half full side and believe that we are better than how we are being seen by the rest of the world, that we will come to our senses and respond with the energy and purpose that has defined our Country and our way of life. And yet…when German public health officials were questioned as to why their efforts to contain the disease were so successful their answer was that they took their cues from the scientific research that was done in the US! We had the answers before anyone…social distancing, masks, testing, contact tracing…it was all articulated in detail by US scientists and medical professionals ahead of the curve. The Germans were and are still scratching their heads about how we could have the best information and lack of will to follow it.
So, for all of us, the question is what’s it gonna be? Are we capable of putting our tribal differences aside long enough to come together to fight this? Or are we destined to prove that this time American Exceptionalism, staying in the language of sports metaphors, is a cautionary tale about a team that was too caught up in its own drama to understand that their behavior made them a bunch of losers.
Stay safe, stay strong