The nation’s response to coronavirus has been as divided as its politics, with a majority of Republicans pushing to reopen the country and get “back to normal” while a majority of Democrats prefer to stay “Safer at Home” and follow scientific guidelines.
Without a united front or national guidelines and leadership, the states have been left to deal with a pandemic while attempting to reopen as safely as possible. Meanwhile, public health officials say one thing and Trump says something entirely different, turning the coronavirus response into a partisan election issue. And in an election year, this partisan divide could have deadly consequences.
Whereas a common enemy once helped to bind Americans together, in our deeply polarized political climate, even the pandemic is refracted through an ideological lens. We’re treating members of the opposite party as the enemy instead of the virus, all the while each “side” claiming to be more patriotic. But this isn’t patriotism! Patriotism isn’t partisan!
Patriotism is about transcending individual convictions in the name of the greater common good. And in the face of this enemy named COVID-19, the need for action is urgent. We need to set aside our egos and redefine our own interpretations of American individualism to close ranks in working to save ourselves and this country. While the dialogue will take effort and empathy, it is our path forward.
The issue with coronavirus, though, is that it’s an invisible enemy and many people don’t know who they’re protecting and who they helped save from becoming ill. When contrasting the numbers of those who have died from coronavirus against those who are now unemployed, many Americans make their decision with some capitalistic cost-benefit analysis, and making sacrifices to help a stranger becomes a hard sell. Additionally, even the benefits of a united attack on coronavirus are invisible. If the guidelines work, fewer people will become ill and then it will appear we really didn’t need to make the sacrifices.
But this battle can only be won if we unite and fight it together. A pandemic isn’t something that happens to other people, we’re in this together. If this virus continues and comes back for a second deadlier wave, the pressure will increase for Americans to coalesce and put aside their partisan ways.
True patriotism is more than waving flags and screaming at other Americans that your individual freedoms are more important than theirs. It’s about integrity and responsibility, with efforts being made for the greater good. Patriotism is a path for identifying systemic problems within our society and proposing solutions. And it’s about believing the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
“Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” JFK’s immortal words are as true today as they were then – WE are in this together.
JOIN Barb and John as they discuss Partisan Patriotism.
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