Franke: A Light in the COVID Darkness

December 16, 2020

by Mark Franke

I have avoided writing about COVID so far and intend to continue onward along this path . . . except for today. This column isn’t so much about COVID per se but about the effect it is having on our daily lives.

First, I should admit that I neither understand nor care about the science behind it. I have lived my three score and nine years on this mortal coil without knowing anything medical and I have been quite content in my ignorance. What little I have heard or read seems confusing at best and often contradictory to what I heard last week. Worse, it has become politicized to the point that I don’t trust scientists any more than I do politicians. And I trust the reporting of the national media even less.

Since it is now part of the American ethos to be polarized on every issue, it doesn’t surprise me that COVID has its two extreme camps that attract nearly everyone I know. Here is my simplistic observation: Some people are in the Chicken Little camp. “The sky is falling and we must go and tell the king!”  I have friends and family members who react this way. The other camp has Alfred E. Neuman of Mad Magazine as its poster child. “What? Me worry?” That’s where you will find me.

Even though I am a scientific know-nothing, I do recognize that this is a dangerous environment we live in and that we have responsibility to ourselves and our neighbors to keep everyone safe. So I wear a mask whenever I am out, which is as often as I can slip my wife’s metaphorical ankle monitor, and I avoid large crowds, which I do anyway even in the best of climates.

My greatest fear is the damage being done to our liberty under the Constitution as governmental officials assume nearly unlimited power to control people’s lives. Too often this has proven arbitrary and discriminatory. Just ask someone in Michigan about that governor’s selectively punitive shutdowns. Fortunately,  the U.S. Supreme Court and other judicial entities have begun to roll back the most egregious of these usurpations but one wonders if they are merely closing the barn door behind a horse that has already stampeded away.

There is also the long-term economic disruption that may prove impossible to mend.  Favored businesses are allowed to stay open while others are closed by government fiat.  How many people have lost their jobs permanently due to the whim of their state health officials?  

Then there is the future inflation that must come from the Federal Reserve’s running its printing presses 24×7 to provide enough money to cover all the government spending. Everything I learned in Econ 101 tells me this is a train wreck waiting to happen.

Yet, we soldier on. Many families will gather for Christmas despite the pronouncements of their hypocritical governors who manage their own travel desires just fine, thank you. Workers, at least those who are back on their jobs, will show up for their shifts. Healthcare staff will continue to minister to those with the virus, all the while not knowing if today is the day they test positive. Children will attend school, if their state and local officials allow it. And the faithful will worship and pray, congregationally or separately.

Determined resourcefulness is just one facet of the diamond that is American exceptionalism. It will shine through the COVID darkness in spite of all the self-serving posturing of our governing class.

Most have heard Charles Dickens’ quote about the best and worst of times. He was writing about the horrors of the French Revolution yet told the story of some very noble-spirited people. Reading the novel’s entire first paragraph, paradoxes notwithstanding, is instructive and should be motivational.   

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

Is this our story? 

I hope America fares better than did France in Dickens’ novel. It’s up to us as a community of individuals, not our government, to make it so. 

A light shining in the darkness is one of Advent’s powerful themes. Perhaps we flawed humans can reflect that perfect light, even if imperfectly, and help make things just a little bit better for everyone. 

Mark Franke, an adjunct scholar of the Indiana Policy Review, is formerly associate vice chancellor at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne.


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