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No, that’s not a typo in the headline.
Yes, we Americans love our independence, both as individuals and as a nation, and we’re right to celebrate it on July 4 and every other day.
We are, however, both as individuals and as a nation, also quite interdependent, and that’s a good thing.
The global pandemic has ripped the curtain off of many of our routines, revealing in many cases how interdependent we truly are, often in ways we didn’t even realize or care to admit. Here are some examples.
OUR CHILDREN. We’ve heard the African saying for years: “It takes a village to raise a child.” But when our schools and daycares are suddenly shut down, we realize the degree to which we rely on others to help us with our children. We also realize how much those institutions enable us to do our own jobs and earn a living. A big shout-out goes to all those families, and especially single parents, who have juggled their work and small children these past few months. And another big shout-out to the teachers and daycare workers, some of society’s hardest and most improperly compensated workers. And with distance learning, teachers have had to re-structure their whole jobs in a short time, working even harder than before.
OUR PARENTS. One of the worst aspects of the Coronavirus has been the inability to be with our elder loved ones in familiar ways. Whether they are living with us, in an assisted living facility, a hospital or even dying, our time and experience with our elders have been greatly modified. While it’s heartbreaking not to be able to surround a suffering relative with loving company, it’s important to acknowledge the efforts facilities have taken to protect our society’s most vulnerable. Doctors, nurses, caregivers and funeral directors have worked harder than ever while maintaining empathy, decorum and safety with families.
ENTERTAINMENT. A lot of Americans like to curl up alone with a good book or play a rousing game of solitaire on the computer. But most Americans don’t like it when those are the only options. The pandemic has shown even the most introverted of us how much we rely on others for our entertainment and companionship. In some cases, they are people we don’t know personally, such as movie stars, rock bands or pro athletes. In other cases, they are people we know, such as local musicians, friends acting in plays or just joining our pals for dinner out. We Americans LOVE to eat out. I appreciate all the take-out opportunities, but I miss sitting down with friends and family and the simple pleasure of having someone wait on you.
BUSINESS BUILDING. The American business ideal often conjures an image of the single-minded individualist. People such as Henry Ford, Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey or Joy Mangano. Of course, no great business tycoon ever did it alone, but in this time of the Coronavirus, every business operator is relying on the ingenuity and determination of every employee, customer and trial-and-error advice from industry cohorts all over the country. The results have been some wonderfully creative new practices that will likely last post-pandemic. There have also been some less fun trends that, with luck, will quickly go by the wayside. (I, for one, will not miss the finger condoms some stores provide before you punch in your debit card PIN.) But you gotta try, right? Some of America’s greatest success stories were born in times of great crisis, and feature a lot of failure, especially in the early chapters.
America has a great history of rising to a challenge in the face of adversity, and we’re doing it again.
At least as long as we don’t get into a Civil War about wearing masks.