Even though we are currently mired in a very difficult and perilous situation, we do have the unprecedented opportunity to emerge from this crisis with a renewed focus and determination to finally acknowledge and correct the critical inequities that have permeated our national life for far too long. The threat to our health and livelihoods that this pandemic has posed has essentially unveiled the deep-seated problems that have confounded American life.
It has been over one-hundred and fifty years since the end of the devastating and debilitating Civil War and yet as a people we are still haunted and plagued by the prejudice, hatred and bigotry that propelled us into that devastating conflict in the first place. Fear and suspicion continue to dominate national life and have led to an armed and anxious people. We have not yet come to terms with our collective past. The process of rebuilding our social and economic life at the end of this pandemic may provide us with an opportunity to recognize our failings and construct an entirely different and more inclusive image of ourselves not simply for the present moment, but for future generations as well.
Many of the societal ills that have characterized ordinary life in the United States prior to this pandemic include a failed national health system, a fractured and dysfunctional national immigration policy, a seemingly perpetual crisis around the issues of homelessness, poverty and hunger, a justice system that has produced the highest per capita prison population in the world and an educational system that effectively excludes many from legitimate access. As a result of this abject failure to educate our own people, there is currently a profound fear and apparent disregard of the essential role that science does play in modern life.
Many of these failings have as their primary root cause a massive and inequitable distribution of wealth where there are but a few winners at the very top of the economic scale. Along with this tilted economic alignment comes an equivalent and devastating distribution of economic and political power and influence. As a result, important and far-reaching public policies and decisions have been and are being made not based upon the common good and sound scientifically and intellectually- derived principles but rather upon the immediate capacity to generate wealth and profit.
As this public health crisis has clearly demonstrated, this system has failed us especially with leadership that is clearly and categorically aligned with the interests of wealth and power. A society not based upon the premise of providing for the common good, regardless of its avowed political system, is essentially unsustainable.
As a people, we are thereby faced with the choice of either coming through this unprecedented situation and reverting back to failed principles or learning important lessons and fashioning a social order focused upon on creating a sane, intelligent, and sustainable future for ourselves and future generations.