Let the Healing Begin: Treating the Cause Instead of the Symptom
It has been a stressful week.
Anxiety about what would or would not happen during our "peaceful" transition has had everyone on pins and needles. Coupled with that anxiety remains the daily reality of a global pandemic, economic uncertainty, family illness worries, and trying to maintain some sort of normalcy while riding life’s rollercoaster—I say that we’re actually hanging in there, just fraying a little around the edges.
Our newly emerged hero, Amanda Gorman, put it best when she said we “are not broken, simply unfinished.”
We rush from side to side, unable to evaluate what is best for all (or most), focused instead on what we think America should be. It’s the double-sided coin of the beauty of the American ideal: the opportunity to carve out your piece and how it connects to or ignores everyone else’s needs.
It is why other nations and people either love or hate us.
Let us not immediately run to change everything back and end up perpetuating the tug of war that we have been stuck in for decades. Instead, let’s take a breath—one beat—to look at what we actually need and create those solutions
Yes, we need equity and true confidence that our systems do not keep feeding two separate societies. But what if we didn’t just treat the symptoms and instead started to take aim at the real causes?
America is not afraid, but we are living in fear. We are stoked by the idea that “they will take what is ours,” rather than ensuring we are all equipped to make the collective “us” better.
We fear socialism, but we are comforted that we can call the fire department or police when we need them and expect not to get a bill. Those services are paid for by our taxes and ensure our safety; that’s not socialist, it’s the minimum we do to make sure everyone can rest easy knowing they can get help. It only stands to reason that basic health, during a pandemic and beyond, should serve the same purpose.
I have heard that we need to reopen our schools, because it’s the only place we can be sure that every American student can have access to healthy food on a regular basis and schools allow low wage working families the relief and ability to go back to work. However, if we had living wages, kids could eat at home, parents could pay rents and buy food, and perhaps not have to choose between the two. Living wages would possibly allow them to work one job instead of 3.
The argument that prices would skyrocket just doesn’t fly; wages don’t drive markets, customers do. So yes, the free economy will drive price and some businesses will close, but free markets don’t have bailouts. If your corporate leadership drove an industry player into the ground, that is a bad business, and the market has determined it’s not sustainable. Therefore, another provider will drive the next solution. If you truly believe in free markets, don’t bail industry out. Invest that money in new industry players.
Oh, and while we are fixing things, everyone should pay their fair share. Maybe it’s time we look at a flat tax—no loop holes—just keep 25% of everything, for our collective good.
Finally, and I think most importantly, let’s not rush to make equity the focus. Let’s focus on leveling the playing field, not creating a new disparity. We cannot, and should not, avenge the injustices of the past by creating injustice for those that have inflicted it on us historically. It’s why they fear us, that unknown element of a new society where the oppressed gain the power and the oppressor is forced to survive. It might feel satisfying, but it will be short lived.
Instead, I suggest we spend a moment in their shoes (thanks Joe Biden’s mom!) and try to connect to our expectation of what this nation could be, aspires to be, claims to be. Let’s focus on leveling the playing field. Training police to talk and listen before shooting; de-militarizing, not de-funding them. Educating everyone instead of indoctrinating them. Providing for basic needs like food, health, and homes. These are the foundation that can lead to the American ideal and feed the next generation of leadership.
It’s not big government, it’s government that does what we pay for it to do: keep us all in the game.
We pay trillions for a space force that keeps us on the leading edge of technology but can’t give the technology to our kids so they can learn how to make it better. We spend billions around the world but can’t stop a child in America from going to bed hungry. We are willing to create work rules that allow companies to import technically capable workers but won’t have them train and hire the people who have the capacity to learn here.
That duality is what drives division and makes old men block progress in government and on your street corner. I’m going to take a walk today, maybe talk to a neighbor (through my mask) and ask how they are doing.
I hope that I listen better and understand what they might be going through, perhaps even provide a solution that makes us both better.