I just don't get the sense we have fully grasped the profundity of what is happening all around us. History is being wrenched in a new direction. But we seemed numbed, caught in the news cycle,, trapped by old vocabulary and ways of thinking about the world.
So much will never be the same--but we have yet to have any idea about what from our recent past is permanently gone, what from this new reality will endure and what will filter in that is unexpected but demanded by where we are and where are going.
Our elected and appointed leaders are certainly blind to this, reacting to the consequences of their own deep failings and inadequacies and external forces they have been as unable to comprehend as they were to respond to them with wisdom or compassion or foresight or competence.
Those who will lead us out of this may be among us but they have yet to be identified in the context of their future role. How we & our families & friends & colleagues will adapt is unknown to us as we live day-to-day & have only the vaguest sense of what is happening to us.
It is possible the U.S. may seize this moment to reinvent itself and, through great discipline and effort and creativity, rise again from our knees. But let's not deny that we are on our knees as have never been since we asserted in the wake of WWII the idea of a Pax Americana.
But we may not. This may be in stark contrast to the slogans offered up by the souvenir hats worn by our corrupt and unfit president. This may be the moment that assured that America will never again be as great as we once were.
The decline has been decades in the making as greed & short-sightedness & corporatism got the best of us & inequality grew alongside complacency & a misguided notion that what set the US apart made us so exceptional that basic rules of society & economics no longer applied to us.
If we are to recover we must recognize that & understand the errors we have made in building a society that was made so fragile by inequity & the failure to care for the majority within society as other nations did that we made ourselves vulnerable to this unparalleled disaster.
We created the vulnerabilities that made this disaster possible when we failed to build a healthcare system for all, to prioritize healthcare planning & preparedness, to create adequate social safety nets, to value science & leaders who spoke truth & understood public service.
We invited disaster when we empowered the corrupt & the short-sighted & we betrayed our allies, embraced our enemies & undermined & came to distrust the international institutions & alliances that we began to build 75 years ago, at the end of WWII, in our great moment of victory.
Is what we are facing a greater creative challenge or challenge for our national character than was the American Revolution or its aftermath, the Civil War and Reconstruction, WWI and the Great Depression or WWII? No. There is precedent for rising up to meet history's demands.
But we must also acknowledge that as such challenges came in the wake of Vietnam, the Cold War, the Climate Crisis or the Information Revolution we failed to rise to them. We chose short-sightedness, me-me-me-ism, now-now-now-ism, and more and more for fewer and fewer of us.
Our national character and the clarity of our vision, our discipline and our willingness to sacrifice are all rightly in doubt. An entire generation, the one of which I am member, has largely failed to truly strengthen and reinvent America as we should have.
While we all must rise to this challenge together, it is the generations that came after the Baby Boomers who now will be called upon to lead--because make no mistake, this is not a reinvention that will take a few months.
It will be many years before we know the identity of the new America that will rise or continue to decline in the wake of this unprecedented public health, economic, social, geopolitical and leadership crisis. But the choices we make now, especially those we make in November...
...are where all that change will begin. And if we make the wrong choices, if we leave those who have weakened us and led us into this catastrophe in power, we will quickly assure that what comes next will be a greatly diminished nation.
History seems distant when you are worried for a sick relative or worried about paying the rent. But it is vital we understand the stakes, that we take step back & try to put it into context or we'll surely make countless small, damaging choices in the days & months to come.
This is one of those moments. Like the Depression. Like Pearl Harbor. Like the Fall of the Berlin Wall. It will define us & our legacy or generations to come. Let's reach within us and summon our best selves rather than surrounding to this calamity summoned by the worst among us.
You can follow @djrothkopf.
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