Opinion | Healthcare

Resilient Americans remain hopeful and determined to reclaim their lives

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the view of The Hill

In the depths of the Great Depression, Franklin Roosevelt rallied his countrymen by famously stating that "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself." How right he was, and how those words resonate for Americans today who, for nearly a year, have lived in a climate of fear owing to the unseen enemy of a novel coronavirus.

So, what can we say about the national state of mind as we prepare to celebrate that most American of all holidays, Thanksgiving?

Americans are an amazingly resilient and naturally optimistic people. Despite the massive social and economic damage caused by the lockdowns, most people are confident that they and their country will somehow get through this crisis. Nonetheless, there is a deep distrust of the leadership being provided at every level, from the president to governors to mayors, albeit with wide variations from state to state.        

There is great dissatisfaction about the inadequate, and often contradictory, information about the virus and how to deal with it. People understand the difference among "cases," "hospitalizations" and "deaths," but there is widespread suspicion that the media and government alike prefer focusing on "cases," which offer bigger, scarier numbers useful for supporting the lockdown narrative while the other two categories do not.

There is nearly universal anger over politicians who impose severe job-killing restrictions on ordinary citizens while exempting themselves, and also growing consciousness of how the pandemic has greatly exacerbated income inequality.

The national mood surely was not helped when, just a week before Thanksgiving, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) "strongly recommended" that Americans not travel during the Thanksgiving holiday because of recent spikes in COVID-19 cases. The same advisory said that no one who has not been part of the household for 14 days should be a dinner guest. Would this mean disinviting your grandmother or your Marine son who is home on leave?

Overall, Americans are sensing that a lockdown regime that is tougher on churches than on casinos, and quite comfortable intruding into the most private aspects of human life, is not to their liking. Civil disobedience at the grassroots level is not far-fetched.

Yet there is good reason to think that such dire scenarios need not come to pass. This writer is old enough to remember the horrific divisiveness and calamities of 1968, and to vividly recall that bleak night in Los Angeles when in the space of minutes, tears of joy turned to tears of despair as an unseeing Robert Kennedy lay in a pool of his own blood on the kitchen floor of the Ambassador Hotel. Many of us "young idealists," in that moment, felt hope for America had been extinguished. 

But we were wrong. With characteristic American resilience, we and the country pushed ahead with living. It wasn't always the mood captured in Ronald Reagan's "Morning in America," but the good days were much more numerous than the bad - and some were truly grand.

Americans never have believed, and never will, that theirs is a terrible country with a terrible past, as some suggest. We know that America is an exceptional country - not just because of its awesome beauty, vast opportunity and fundamentally decent people, but also because of our determination never to give up those liberties our forebears fought and died to attain and protect.

As I recently watched a glorious sunset slipping behind the majestic Rocky Mountains, my reverie was enhanced by the voice of the delightful Mitzi Gaynor singing "Cock-Eyed Optimist" from "South Pacific," which begins, "I hear the human race is falling on its face and hasn't very far to go," and ends, "But I'm stuck like a dope with a thing called hope, and I can't get it out of my heart, not this heart."

As Americans from all walks of life sit down for Thanksgiving dinner with those they care about, I am confident the great majority also will feel that thing called hope.

William Moloney, Ph.D., is a Fellow in Conservative Thought at Colorado Christian University's Centennial Institute who studied at Oxford and the University of London. He is a former Colorado Commissioner of Education.

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