I am hopeful that Spring 2020 will be looked back upon as a watershed time for America. Winter ended with the outbreak of Covid-19. We were introduced to social distancing and a concept called flattening the curve.
Spring began, and it was a weird time for us. We were acting like a tale of two countries, those that believed in the need to socially distance and those who didn’t. It did not help that our president continuously played politics while our countrymen died, despite selfless, life sacrificing efforts by our health care and other essential workers.
As Spring wore on, we learned just how critical our governors and local leaders were to the running of America, something many of us, including me, took for granted or, frankly, seriously underestimated. This was hammered home when our president, in a cowardly display of political posturing, correctly informed us that our governors had the power to implement our Covid-19 response and that the federal government was not a shipping clerk.
When it became clear that our economy could not survive the carnage imposed upon it by the lock-down and social distancing, the brunt of the leadership again fell to our governors and local leaders, with our president continuing to show an utter absence of leadership and, even worse, using social media to undermine governors with whom he disagreed.
Then Minneapolis happened.
At first the response was predictable and justified. Shock and rage were rightfully expressed. As the days wore on, the heinous nature of the crime did not diminish. Nor did the heinousness of the local lack of response.
At first the outrage was localized, but that did not last long. It soon began to spread to major cities. In Los Angeles last weekend, I went to sleep to the sound of sirens. I woke up to the same sounds. Walking around my neighborhood, I saw the negative aspects of protests, the shattered windows, the boarded windows, the graffiti, and the stores stripped of goods. On TV I watched the organized looters make a mockery of the Santa Monica and the Los Angeles police, using diversion to attract attention in one area while looting in another.
Then our president spoke and acted. He threatened to send our military against us. He dangerously disrupted a peaceful demonstration for a corny photo op. He proved yet again how useless and misguided he was as a leader.
Frankly, I was mad. And I was scared. Having said that, I was also hopeful. I was hopeful because across America, and to my utter amazement, many other parts of the world, began to protest the actions of the few, to call attention to the systematic, structural issues plaguing the less fortunate in America.
This week, the protests changed. The protesters came from all walks of life. All races. All sexes. All orientations. All ages. The looting stopped. Knees were bent. Hands were clasped. The message was heard. For now.
The protests have achieved their initial goal, opening eyes and calling attention to real issues. Questions remain about how real change will be made, and if it is, how sustainable it will be. Will it be like a rip tide which starts strong and generally peters out after a few hundred yards? Or will it be like a tidal wave that wreaks some destruction in a local area but subsides after a few months or a year? Or will it be a sea change, which generates long-term results? I hope we can achieve a sea change.
The one-two punch of Covid-19 and George Floyd have hammered our faults as a nation home. Too many of us are a week away from economic ruin, and too many of us are an institutionalized act away from losing our lives. The only way to create and sustain change is by voting, voting in every election and in every race. Countless Americans have died to protect our right to vote. Sadly, many of us do not deserve to have that right, as we consistently eschew the voting booths.
It is a sad fact that less than 60% of eligible voters vote in presidential elections and around 50% of eligible voters vote in mid-term elections. On the surface that is bad enough, but a deeper dive into the statistics shows that the majority of those who vote are those trying to hold on to what they have as opposed to those who vote to engender change.
As Americans, we have the ability to mold our world, to create the structure under which we live. To some degree those rights are being attacked, either by preventing voting by mail or making it more difficult to vote due to a reduction in the number of polling places or the economic cost of taking time off to vote.
As Spring winds down and Summer begins, we need to change the dialog with our leaders. We have a window of time in which to act. We need to speak to them, loudly, about how serious we are about voting in the Fall.