Riley Parr: Stepping up for a cause far bigger than any one of us

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Riley ParrI’m not a superstitious person, not by a long shot. But Friday the 13th of March 2020 will forever be a day that marks one of the defining moments for my generation.

That’s not the exact date the coronavirus upended our lives, but as they say, it’s close enough for government work. For those not yet in high school, unless a close family member or friend is severely affected, the impact will probably hardly register. A minor inconvenience (for the kid), but probably more of an adventure.

Even for those in high school and college, except for seniors and those involved in extracurricular activities and sports, this experience will be a temporary annoyance and maybe something that will receive a passing mention in future graduation speeches.

Yet for those in the workforce—and especially certain groups like health care workers, those with limited means, and those entering the job market—the stress is palpable. For those populations, not working or working in dangerous conditions is a ticking game of chance.

From our earliest days, to be American has meant to sacrifice: The final line of the Declaration of Independence reads, “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.” We have been called on many times over our nearly 250 years to step up and support a cause far bigger than any single one of us.

But the sacrifice we are asked to make now is altogether different; in fact, it is the exact opposite of previous exhortations. Stay at home. Don’t go anywhere. To the extent possible, do nothing that involves any interactions with anybody or anything not absolutely essential.

We’ll emerge, hopefully wiser and with a little greater appreciation for some of the fundamentals of society—the importance of family, the value of putting a little away for uncertain times, and rejuvenated appreciation for the freedoms we have and just how quickly they can evaporate. This virus managed to do what regimes have tried and failed at for generations: Shut down American society.

There are also lessons to learn. As it turns out, quite to the dismay of those who would pretend otherwise, scarcity does actually exist. Resources are not limitless and must be prioritized.

When all is said and done, life will begin to play again after having been paused for some number of months. The fallout and consequences, though, will reverberate far beyond when we can again gather together at concerts, bars and graduation ceremonies.

For instance, how will we pay for the massive $2.2 trillion (with a “T”) stimulus package? Since that assuredly will not be the only one, what about those that follow? What will result from the Federal Reserve’s (still) artificially low rates? How many people will end up in bankruptcy because of the economy’s standstill?

How will this affect international relations? Just today, I read an article about Russia dispatching troops and supplies to Italy. The likes of China and Russia, no doubt, view this as an opportunity to assert, or reassert, their dominance.

In the past, when confronted with a national crisis, political gamesmanship and interests took a back seat, or at least pretended that was the case. Unfortunately, that has not yet happened today. It is times like these that test our resolve. It is also times like these that provide an opportunity for the best in us, individually and collectively, to shine.•

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