Empowering people through education and engagement

Course Correction 

Azher Quader

azherquader@yahoo.com

Chicago,

The  COVID 19 virus has wreaked havoc in the world in a few short months and caused powerful nations to become paralyzed. Entire countries have been shut down with their economies destroyed. With no treatment for cure and no vaccine for protection in sight, there is widespread panic as the case load rises and the death toll climbs. In US alone as of the end of April 2020, we had crossed over 1 million cases and over sixty thousand dead. 

Candidate Trump had promised on the campaign trail that if he should get elected, we will win so much that we will get tired of winning. Today he has delivered on his promise. We have won the global race for the highest case load of coronavirus cases and the largest death toll from it. We are not just tired of winning, we are sick and dying, and we are nowhere near the finish line either. 

For the president who does no wrong and to whom every challenge is a fake one,  this rendezvous with an invisible enemy has become an undeniable reality and his worst nightmare. This one he has been unable  to ban with an order from his White House desk or build a wall tall enough or wide enough to stop it from entering the country.

He made no prep while watching other countries shutting down in their struggles to fight for their people’s survival.  He kept claiming it was another  hoax.  This too will go down along with his impeachment as his legacy of lying and incompetence. Sadly, his lying and his incompetence is now costing thousands to lose their lives and unimaginable pain and suffering for their loved ones. 

While at some point we will come out of this terrible strangle hold of the virus and will breath normal again,  it will be interesting to see if when we  do so and go back  to the drawing boards again, what kind of new plans will, if at all any, we draw,  for a better world to emerge. Will it be business as usual or will there be a course correction to pursue. 

Our country has been struggling with conflicting issues for a while now and the need for course correction has always been debated.  Much is at stake for our future and many hard choices will need to be considered if our future is going to be any better.

For starters, will we continue to be the arrogant  Americans insisting that we are exceptional, that we can overcome any challenge, defeat any enemy solve any problem and never have to look beyond ourselves for answers? 

Will we recognize that in a world which is so interconnected, economically and socially as it is today,  that isolation from the rest is political naivety and  not super power diplomacy? 

 Will we continue to deny climate change and ignore the ever-increasing  evidence of science and the horrific reality   of storms, quakes and fires that are wiping out entire communities with their ever-increasing destructive power? 

Will we finally wake up from the nightmare of an inequitable healthcare  system that denies health coverage for millions and take bold corrective  action to provide universal coverage and remedy a wrong that has persisted  for far  too long? 

For years  we have relied upon the power of bombs and bans to win wars and assure security for our people. Will we let go that failed strategy and give peace a chance through becoming impartial deal makers that the world wants us to be? 

Our educational system which draws the brightest to our shores and produces the best creative minds in every field, burdens and bankrupts the financial lives of our graduates as they leave our campuses. Going forward can we make  our colleges more affordable or even tuition free?

From the founding times we have permitted racial injustice and hatred to bloody the lives of our black inhabitants. Do black lives really matter in America even today? The disproportionate death rates from COVID 19 (70 percent death toll with 30 percent representation in the community) continues to prove us wrong. Will we finally rise to overcome this curse of racial prejudice, so we can share equal pride and dignity. enjoy equal rights and benefits?

For decades we have lowered the bar on sexual morality, ignored the crimes of Wall Street offenders and watched without action the rising tide of White Supremacy. As we come out of this crisis, will we mend our ways to become more just, more moral, more humble and more compassionate?  

Our people’s democracy is no longer responsive to the needs of the people, but is beholden to the moneyed interests of a billionaire class that buys our  elections and dictates our policies.  Will our politics of greed and corporate agendas finally change course to become the politics of trust and a clearing house for the people’s interest? 

The current economic panic from lack of employment for millions who were living  from paycheck to paycheck to begin with,  reveals not only the sad reality of wages that are woefully inadequate but backup systems that are failing  to provide financial security as well when people are unemployed. 

The “Asian Man”, Andrew Yang, during the recent Democratic primaries, had proposed the idea of Universal Basic Income he called his Freedom Dividend, which would guarantee $1000/month for every citizen in the country.. Such a program if  it were in place today would have overcome a lot of anxiety for millions who have lost their jobs, have no social security protection  and fear hard times ahead. Do we need to rethink this proposal? 

 Our Electoral College  tradition which served us well for these past  two hundred years   needs a serious review now, for it has given us within our brief lifetimes, two electoral wins where the will of the majority has been side stepped. If elections don’t honor the will of our people at home can we promote the opposite around the globe?

Our disdain for the less privileged has given us the problem of the undocumented that threatens to keep them in the shadows, without any solution being offered. The present pandemic has shown us that when they die, we die with them too. Death makes no distinction between those in the shadows and those in the lime light. Should they not be given their day in the sun and enjoy a path for citizenship?

From being a united country, we have become a divided nation, content to live in echo chambers of our own,  refusing to hear the voices of our neighbors. Our love affair with individual rights and freedoms has given us identity politics, religious extremism, class conflict  and economic disparities where a few are thriving while the rest are suffering.  

For decades we have lowered the bar on sexual morality, ignored the crimes of Wall Street offenders and watched without action the rising tide of White Supremacy. As we come out of this crisis, will we mend our ways to become more just, more moral, more humble and more compassionate?  

The fault lines in our society that threaten the peace of our communities should be clearly visible for all to see : of race, religion, reproductive rights, immigration, healthcare,  environment and wages to name  a few. 

Finally, change is never easy and demands engagement.  No longer can we remain disengaged from the affairs of the nation and be content  watching sitcoms and sports at night or be absorbed in the busy routines of our jobs during the days. Even for those in our churches, our mosques, our synagogues and our temples engagement would be needed as it would be for all in the nonprofit sector as well. If change is to happen greater engagement and greater sacrifices will be needed all round.

The fall of great empires in history reminds us that when absolute power corrupts then nations self-destruct. Not because their military might weakens or their economy crumbles, but because their morality declines. When freedoms are abused, when justice is denied,  when the powerful lose touch with the needs of the powerless, or when corporate greed remains unchecked,  those are the times we must be weary of.  

Pandemics like the one we are facing today, should remind us to recognize the devotion and daring of our awesome healthcare workers who are putting their lives on the line every day across the nation to save our lives.  Pandemics like this should also force us to rethink our systems and consider changes as needed.  Whenever faced  with a national tragedy, America’s claim for exceptionalism, has laid in its capacity to reconnect with its  true core, rediscover its essential values, draw up a bold new plan and reinvent its future.  Great nations like ours always show resilience and rise with greater strength and capacity each time they are down with a tragedy. 

Let us hope that  in the aftermath of COVID 19, course correction is considered and that we come out on the other side of this crisis with greater wisdom and a better future. 

azherquader@yahoo.com

Chicago

May 10, 2020

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