Before this global pandemic reshaped society, I did not understand my country nearly as well as I thought. I placed faith in common sense, expecting the leaders of our nation would have our priorities in line. If the frantic 24/7 hospital coverage splashed on networks around the United States coupled with the escalating infection and mortality rates of COVID-19 told you nothing else, it should at least tell you where our priorities have always been. I still do believe we are the greatest democracy on the face of this planet and an undoubtable global leader as a result, but we have always been a capitalist state first, and for too long we have foolishly believed that we are a democratic republic before anything else.
I do not detest capitalism, nor am I an advocate for its global demise. I do, however, understand its implications for society, especially amidst a global health crisis such as this one. Nearly every major service in this country exists within a for-profit business model, a blueprint that has set America apart from other nations in terms of wealth. Be that as it may, our system is a narrow one intended for one sole purpose: To get rich. If it is not related to the economy, the American dogma indicates that our policies and laws, which often are heavily influenced by corporations, are not preventative. There is no glass to break in case of emergencies. There is clearly no preemptive plan or course of action that we have in our back pocket. The coronavirus has shown us this.
The burden of our sluggish response to COVID-19 has been placed squarely on the shoulders of our politicized economic system and on the government as a whole. If our economic system favored citizens over large businesses, we would not be in the place we now are. Nonetheless, we make do with what we have in front of us. What we have are our elected officials who in these times of strife, are tasked with representing collective interests with effort and direction.
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” This quote has been emblazoned in the minds of Americans, young and old, for the past half a century. A quote that has never before in my lifetime been as fitting. Even in his own era of controversy and discomfort, Dr. King so clearly perceived this. We are seeing the crisis management and risk mitigation skills of our public officials, and where exactly they stand at this particular juncture.
As President Trump affirmed, this is a time of war. At no other point in time is rational leadership more crucial than in wartime, whether it be biological or otherwise. The clear goal now is to manage the crisis as best we can. That includes a heavy supply of desperately needed medical equipment to assist our heroes in the hospitals across the nation, consistent and transparent information regarding the coronavirus, and prioritizing necessities over desires.
It is clear who in public office is a rational leader. Andrew Cuomo’s ratings in the past few weeks have soared for a reason. Crisis management through transparent information and social distancing policies is working because it has been prioritized. To men such as President Trump and Gov. Ron Desantis of Florida, keeping America running like a well oiled money making machine is the concern. Desantis only recently issued a statewide stay at home order after weeks of criticism due to the influx of people at beaches and other public locations while Trump has been counterintuitive to effective government response to the virus. Declaring war on Mexican Drug Cartels and not allowing Dr. Stephen Fauci to answer medical questions should have alluded to that.
Leaders who continue to prioritize the economy over major crises will attribute to our decline. Our system will not overcome catastrophes if our leaders do not place lives above currency. Those in public office have a choice to make that will have a part in determining how many people die to COVID-19. Lives depend on our leaders, and where they stand matters.
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Mason Holland is a contributor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.