TOM CAMPBELL COLUMN: How will we come out of this?

TOM CAMPBELL COLUMN: How will we come out of this?

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Tom Campbell

Lib, my retired Methodist pastor wife, and I have been married for 55 years and our household has always been filled with interesting, sometimes differing but generally entertaining conversations about current issues. A recent afternoon discussion on our deck raised the question as to how we will emerge from this COVID-19 pandemic. I hope you find it interesting.

Tom Campbell said:

Are Americans more willing to fight a war with bullets against a foreign nation than we are for our own health? Before answering I remembered the stories my parents told about how people willingly rationed butter, gas, sugar and other items for the war effort in World War II. Our people were willing to sacrifice to win that war.

For the first time since World War II every North Carolinian has been asked to sacrifice. But thirty days into stay-home orders — designed to reduce the spread of a highly contagious and potentially deadly disease — a growing number are rebelling by protesting, leaving our homes and disobeying crowd size limitations, face masking and cleanliness suggestions. Partisanship, rumors, anger, ugly rhetoric and blame increase daily.

Without question COVID-19 has been painful for everyone, but the anger is being fueled by those who neither believe how potent this coronavirus is nor accept the restrictions as solutions. They claim the economic damage is worse than the deaths they consider a small price to pay to earn money.

We have become skeptical, distrustful, unwilling to sacrifice and, apparently, selfish instead of selfless. We are a far different people than those in the 1940s.

We no longer trust elected officials, business leaders or much of anyone — sometimes for good reason. Leaders too frequently filibuster, pivot remarks to evade direct questions or shade the truth. Too frequently the media, which increasingly has staked out philosophical and political alliances, permits leaders’ behavior and sensationalizes stories. We follow social media, where people can say anything, true or not.

To come out of this COVID-19 pandemic we need leaders who tell us unvarnished truth, whether it benefits them, their political party or business interests. They must demonstrate they serve the common good, not just a narrow constituency. But we must be willing to follow their leadership, not just when it is convenient or serves our best interests or our affiliations. They usually see a bigger picture than do we. Untruthful and untrustworthy leaders should be turned out of office or punished in other ways.

In World War II we were united in fighting for freedom. We won’t come out of this crisis until we do the same today.

Lib Campbell said:

The 1918 deadly H1N1 flu came in three waves, killing nearly 700,000 people in the United States. Farther back in history, another pandemic changed the world. The Black Death, or Bubonic Plague, decimated Europe in the 14{sup}th{/sup} century. Millions of Europeans, including half of the population of Florence, Italy, died brutal deaths. Those who remained were shaken. Their grief and disruption of life was compounded by financial ruin that threatened their future.

History tells what happens next. The people of Florence rose up. Out of their pain a new thing was born. We know it as the Renaissance. Re-birth, re-generation, reformation, re-set, and Resurrection are the story of life that emerges beyond pain and even death.

How we come out of this pandemic as whole people depends on how we respond to what we have learned. Pandemic shutdown has exposed cracks, shortcomings and failings of our culture. Inequality, racism, hate and anger are right at the fore and we see clearly how we have failed one another. Poverty, healthcare, and education issues are exposed as serious unsolved problems. The rural divide is stark, and nobody seems to have vision or interest to solve problems for the good of all. We will come out of this if we can awaken to the truth that we are only as strong as our weakest; only as rich as the poorest among us. We will come out of this when we begin to examine our own souls. Where is empathy? Where is compassion? What is enough? Who is being left behind?

We will come out of this as we look to those who are innovating a future. Somebody told me once, “Creativity springs from a restful mind.” We, who are made in the image of God, have great capacity for creativity. The unleashing of creativity in the world will be part of coming back from the pain of the pandemic. Our time of rest and sheltering seeds creativity. God is always doing a new thing. If we see it, claim it, and work to live into it, we will come out of this. Who knows, maybe we will be better for it all.

Tom Campbell is former assistant North Carolina state treasurer and is creator/host of “N.C. SPIN,” a weekly statewide television discussion of N.C. issues that airs on UNC-TV main.

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