You may not have heard: America is going through an awful lot of trials and tribulations right now – ones of historic and perhaps biblical proportions.
Homicides and shootings are up in cities such as Detroit by over 30%. The COVID-19 curve was flattened (and so was the national economy, including a record dip in national GDP). Afterward, a new wave of cases rose from Texas to California. Race tensions remain inflamed, even as the nameless federal forces of “Operation Legend” leave Portland and head to Detroit. Some schools will do online-only teaching to begin the school year. Districts such as the Philadelphia School District will teach online exclusively through the first quarter of this school year, all while hoping not to fail the students in the same manner as they did during the final quarter last spring. After March 13, most Philadelphia-based students did not receive instruction for roughly two months.
If you listen to some commercials, President Donald Trump owns all this mess. To some, Trump is working to “…forever and fundamentally alter the character of this nation…”, a tone the Biden camp has ramped up throughout 2020. If you listen to other ads, the tribulation journey that is 2020 is but a preview of “Joe Biden’s America” should the Democrat’s nominee win in November.
What you see in ads, the tone of banter on social media, the clips from mainstream media, and press releases all seem to be the same. Everyone wants to project leadership during these troubling times and cast their political foe as devoid of such ability. Yet, few seem to have the combination of the answers, the patience, the perspective, the policies, and the persona to lead.
Trump seems to have the strength of personality and focus on “law and order”.
LAW & ORDER!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 31, 2020
This pursuit of quelling the violence that has spiked in many cities may yield stillness in the streets. Yet, the failure of tact and tone has exacerbated tensions, meaning that the violence will temper momentarily before another moment or instance prompts tempers to flare up in cities once again.
Biden seems to have more of a willingness to bring Americans together in a way that Secretary Clinton neglected during her “deplorables” declaration of 2016. Yet, his scattershot policy history – throughout this campaign season, let alone throughout his lengthy time as a career politician – coupled with the lack of confidence he prompts even in the most ardent Democrats (i.e., “…not being Trump is not enough to get our support…”) signifies that even with all of the political winds in his sails, the Biden ship still may sink.
The Black Lives Matter Movement would seem to have the moral authority for equality – aside from the fact that it leans towards ideologies that snuffed out human equality over the years, from the extinct Soviet Union to the ever-oppressive nations of North Korea and Cuba. The “law and order” crowd would seem to have the upper hand in our nation of laws – aside from the fact that we continue to have an issue with ensuring “constitutional law and order” for American citizens across our diversity, thus rendering our claims of justice subjective and empty at times.
“Political animals”, ratings-driven pundits, and a polarizing populace will not save this nation from itself. It will take innovators – ones that are creative with solutions without radically altering what America’s finest traits are. It will take pragmatists – ones that craft and employ solutions that remain true to wholesome principles while finding mutual benefits with non-traditional allies alike. It will take great communicators – ones that intuitively understand and comfortably enact the notion that words do matter, tone does matter, and rhetoric also matters.
It will also take someone claiming all of the woes and miscreants that have made 2020 such a trying year. The truth is: they did not just “get here” in January.
The troubles of race in America were not created with the death of George Floyd. Charlottesville happened in 2017, but the racial tensions propagated there were not originated by President Trump. The controversial deaths from Walter Scott’s murder in South Carolina to Ezell Ford’s shooting in Los Angeles occurred on the Obama Watch, but were not sparked by the election of 2008. The issues of race rocking America in 2020 have roots stretching before our lifetimes. Tough tone, symbolic measures, and marching will not heal the divide. It is going to take leaders that are willing to embrace the uncomfortable, the unknown, and the “unrelatable American” (from urban centers to rural America) in order to understand problems and hone functional policies.
Healing that divide will include cultural understanding. Yet it must also include economic reforms that get people back to work during the pandemic, not just after a vaccine is affirmed as safe and readily available. That point of time will be too late economically, academically, and emotionally for many Americans. Practical approaches that get our nation back to work must immediately rise above the politics of medicine during COVID-19, the culture wars over masks, and the selection of “winners-and-losers” that have shut down small businesses while allowing giants such as Amazon to increase market share. These gaps in economic vitality were not created in 2020, yet the pandemic threatens to usher in a permanent underclass without proper policy leadership now.
The primary obligation for each leader within America to her or his constituents is a pragmatic and workable set of solutions that will ensure liberty and facilitate self-sufficiency. No other lofty goal – from trying to ensure that citizens will not get sick to locking down communities to keep them safe from gun violence – trumps this obligation, nor should it be acceptable to the American people as a timely equivalent.
The proper education of the youngest generations ensures the national security and sovereignty of future generations. The gaps that lead to decades-long setbacks for impoverished and disadvantaged schoolchildren were not created by the pandemic. However, continued failures of education innovation and planning only extend the academic divide. Direction from Washington on funding for academic innovation and “Back on Track” ESAs (Education Saving Accounts) are good starts to heal the wounds, but this moment must elicit change during the pandemic and acceleration towards successes beyond the current crisis. If Rahm is right and “…one should never let a serious crisis go to waste…”, then it is imperative that we see the pandemic as a moment for innovation, aspiration, and readjustment. We must seek to reclaim the lost potential of Americans that has been overlooked for generations. Our economy, national security, and domestic tranquility depend on it.
In the realm of modern American politics, it is too easy to win through making someone else lose, even if that means that Americans collectively continue to lose in the process. Too much is in the balance in our times – not just in 2020, but over the past two decades. Embracing the win – both now and for the future – must include tackling in the truest sense what has caused us to be lost for years now. Anything else merely continues unfilled promises past the pandemic and unclaimed potential in all corners of America.