How can America come together and win the war against COVID-19?
In the early stages of the global pandemic, we tried and succeeded when we agreed that staying apart from one another would allow us to come together again when the crisis passed.
Yet, COVID-19 had other ideas, and the failure of local, state, and national political leaders to come together with a uniform plan of attack doomed our collective willing participation.
In the early stages of the pandemic, we were treated with conflicting recommendations about how to protect ourselves from the disease.
The “Fog of War” of a global pandemic has a way of doing that in the era of instantaneous information.
In America, immediately after the 9/11 attacks, a steady stream of information, sometimes disguised as news, was disseminated that drove our anxiety and fear in real-time.
We went from sheer terror to relief in a matter of minutes and ultimately to a sense of national exhaustion.
There’s not been much difference in where we stand now with COVID-19 than where we stood nearly a year after the attacks of 9/11.
We generally agreed with directives from our institutions on how to protect ourselves from terrorists and the assumption that they were preparing to attack again in the days, weeks, and months after 9/11.
However, America, and Americans, being accustomed to the freedom and liberty of being Americans, began to chafe at the restrictions and slowly, but certainly, began to rebel against the limitations on our freedom as the cost of being safe.
The reality is no different today.
Americans, accustomed to the freedom and liberty of being Americans, have begun to chafe, nearly uncontrollably, at the limitations on our freedom as the cost of being safe from COVID-19.
The parallel impact of rejecting those limitations are decidedly different.
The evidence is clear and compelling that these limitations can, and have, reduced the spread of COVID-19.
Likewise, the evidence is clear and compelling that these restrictions have cost us dearly in terms of lost businesses, jobs, and social and cultural comity and cohesion.
It cannot be easy to be a leader in government today, nor can it be easy to be a business owner, as the pressure mounts on each to “Do the right thing.”
Whatever the right thing might be.
But, there is something we can, and should, do as a nation to perhaps find common ground and get us closer to restoring what each of us will ultimately define as normal.
We can look at one another as Americans who have a common goal and a common enemy and work together to defeat the enemy and win the war against COVID-19.
Our national political leaders can help lead this effort by declaring a national holiday dedicated to providing any American seeking to be vaccinated against COVID-19 the ability to have the vaccination.
Not a national day mandating Americans get the vaccine.
But a day in which Americans who find themselves willing to receive the vaccine the ability to do so.
A day that is recognized by our local, state, and national political institutions.
A day in which Americans who wish to have a vaccination are given the time and space, they need from work to get vaccinated.
A day in which the lead-up is not guided by threats or intimidation by those who believe Americans should get the vaccine or those who think they shouldn’t is informed by data, science, and medical expertise.
I have long believed that America should declare Election Day as a national holiday. A date on which every American who wishes to vote may do so without being restrained in any way.
Our democracy is that important that we should invite every American access to vote in whatever way they can and are able to vote.
I believe our nation’s public health is no less important than the health of its democracy.
We should identify a day to galvanize around a common goal and purpose to protect it.
Call it “V Day” or “Defeat COVID-19 Day” or whatever it is that someone more creative than I can come up with to grab our attention and keep it.
Make it important, loud and clear enough that Americans will hear about it and listen.
As with every common goal, not every American will choose to participate.
Not every American agrees with the celebration of Marin Luther King, Jr. Day, or Christmas, or any number of nationally recognized holidays and dates.
Yet, America isn’t great because all of us agree with one another all the time.
We are great because even when we don’t, we still manage to find a way to move forward, together, as a nation.
Now is one of those times.
And, a national day of vaccination against COVID-19 is an opportunity to allow us to gather again in person, and move forward into the future, together.