There are two moments of national crisis that demonstrate how different society will react. First, after 9/11 most of us had a similar reaction. We were mad and wanted revenge, someone had to pay for what they did to us. We were all thinking about who is to blame and we can hurt them worse than they hurt us. The second instance of national emergency is the one we are currently experiencing-Covid-19. Our reaction to this pandemic is largely positive. The majority of us are taking this seriously, following instructions from qualified federal officials (excluding the White House), and doing our best to remain optimistic. We could be very pessimistic right now, but we’re not, showing a side of our society that I’m pleased to see still exists.
The 9/11 reaction of anger, and thoughts of revenge, is completely understandable. I felt the same way at first. A violent thing had been done to us, and we wanted a violent thing to be done back. This reaction was evident during the Howard Stern radio program on the morning of September 11th. When the news first began reporting a plane hit the World Trade Center, Howard and his guests had pretty much the same reaction I did-how dumb. I and they though some idiot with his personal plane hit a tower of one of the tallest buildings in the world. Because, only an idiot would miss seeing that. I didn’t think anyone had died, just an accident. Howard and others chuckled at the story until about five minutes later.
Reports began to come in that it was likely a large passenger plane and there was a hole in the building, a raging fire, and probably casualties. At that time it seemed like maybe there was a navigation and/or pilot error that lead to a tragedy. Then, a the second plane hit the other tower in the exact same way as the first, reports of hijackings were coming in, and the reality of a terrorist attack hit home. At that point Howard was yelling, “We know who they are, it’s those ******* ***** *****, bomb the hell out of ‘em!” Even Robin, Howard’s co host was calling for violent retribution, something quite out of character for her. My reaction was very similar, I wanted something violent to happen, and I knew how powerful our military was/is. In hindsight I can confidently say that neither the citizens nor the government managed that crisis correctly, but we are human, and we revert back to base instincts in critical times.
Currently, our base instincts have turned towards helping each other with kindness and support during Covid-19, well, most of us. As we know from Darwin’s theory, we wouldn’t have made it this far as a species if we didn’t possess this “for the good of the tribe” capability. As cheesy as this sounds, and I almost hate writing it, we can pull together and help each other through this crisis. And from what I can see on social media, people are doing exactly that. Traditional media is also, when possible, reporting on stories of goodwill and selflessness across the country. People are donating their time, goods, and sacrificing their health just to help others. I am seeing people on social media doing what they can to help, and that is to do nothing, in a sense. The best thing the average citizen can do right now is to stay at home and stay away from outside-the-home people. We’re doing exactly that, our part to help keep others safe, most of us. I won’t even dive into what other people are doing, they’re not worth it.
All of us who are staying home have done fairly well for a month or so, but I can sense people are getting restless. It is highly likely that we will need to stay home for two to three months longer. What toll will that take, and to what degree? I’ve asked the question on social media, “What happens when millions of people get cabin fever at the same time?” It’s a good thing we have social media, FaceTime, and Skype. Families who are separated, friends, and everyone in between can still interact live with each other, sort of face to face. I’m sure that helps many people avoid the feeling of painful isolation.
I think we are managing Covid-19 very well, regardless of the chaos and division happening in government. We’re starting to see positive results. If we can hang on through the upcoming surge of infections, we’ll look back on this as a shining moment in our country’s history. As long as we keep this up, we should be able to stop this thing from getting worse.