Baby Boomers: Crucial Conversations

By Wayne Clark and Woodrow Clark

“With the quarantine exiting our daily lives, politics that remains divisive, plenty of blame to pass around, feelings of helplessness and hopelessness lingering, isolation for some, too much closeness for others, we all welcome a cooling off period. What is there to do? Take a deep breath, remember the good things, reminisce about good times, do not dwell on the bad times, always look on the brighter side of life. Stop thinking only about yourself, think about others, the best way to help ourselves is to help others!”

The previous paragraph was drafted in early June, just two months ago, spirits were starting to pick up, many were saying “this too will pass”, we were opening bars, traffic was getting back on the roads, people were talking in person to each other. Now, less than two months later, we are at a daily death rate approaching 1,000 per day. And more cases identified than any other country in the world. Along with that we have conflicts in the streets, in courts, in state capitals.

We have written about denial, isolation, trauma, lack of social interaction, confusion, uncertainty, fear, anxiety, inconvenience, selfishness, stubbornness, and other emotional states brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic. However, we have not discussed anger. The anger that seeps into our daily conversations in the home, at work, and with our leaders. What do we do with it? Some of the emotional states touch on how anger can build up and who it can be directed or miss directed.

Now with the recurrence of “hotspots” here in the USA and around the world, we are frustrated with the mixed messages, erroneous claims and especially outright lies. For those of us living in fire prone areas, the use of the term hotspots is especially troublesome. We know the damage that fire storms can wreak when they get out of control and desecrate human and other life forms. The coronavirus is less and less a series of hotspots and more of a firestorm blanketing our country. In fact, the analogy to fires brings up the relationship between climate and the pandemic. We also have written before about climate and the pandemic, mostly from the viewpoint of what challenges we face in the 21st century, how we should combat these challenges, and the kind of world we want in the new next normal. In both cases we have two sides, which means we have a disagreement. We have serious differences of opinion which can lead to anger between two or more parties.

I (Wayne) would also add that in managing firestorms, there has been considerable improvement to minimize damage and save lives. My daughter and her family live in a fire prone community. Her mother in law’s house was burned to the ground three years ago, she had twenty minutes to get out of her house. Two years ago the nearby town of Paradise was leveled to the ground by a firestorm. Then last year my daughter’s family was evacuated from their house, fortunately two days before the fire approached. How different that situation was to other recent fires. History teaches all of us lessons. In this instance, there were no significant traffic delays. Instead there was an orderly exit. Neighbors helped get to safety well before there was a tragedy like the Paradise fire the year before.

In a pandemic there are lessons learned from these experiences. Number one: you do not deny there is a problem, it’s real, there is danger, people could die; (2) all citizens obey the rules of the expert authorities; and (3) act responsibly not only for the sake of your own safety, but for your families, and your community. My (Wayne) daughter and her neighbors returned to their houses within a week after the fire was contained. The fire came within a half mile of their house, a fire line was created. The result was that fire fighters were able to prevent the fire from reaching the thousands of homes that were threatened. The fire fighter experts could focus on halting the fire, not on arguing with citizens about whether they are in danger, instead the citizens understood and collectively acted to orderly obey the expert instructions. The fire fighter experts could focus on the fire not the politics of the situation. We need to take similar actions with the Covid-19 pandemic.

In the United States, Governors like Gavin Newsom of California, and Andrew Cuomo of New York and other State leaders took actions for their entire states. They enacted lock downs of the state and then public places like beaches, fair grounds, parks and even schools and universities. Why? Because people were gathering at beaches and other venues but not social distancing at 6 feet or more apart. If we collectively do not obey the rules, whether it is wearing face masks, not gathering with more than 6 people, etc., we will be forced to return to a lock down. In fact many experts recommend that one way out of this pandemic, so that schools can open in person and other activities can return, is to immediately re institute shelter in place, lock down our society. Other countries such as South Korea, Germany and even China have extended lock downs resulting in significant reductions in death and the spread of Covid-19.

Thus far in our writings we have not touched on the politics of our times and the serious consequences of our individual and collective actions. The planet we all love; the ground we walk on; the flowers we smell; the animals we cherish and the people we love could all be gone if we do not change our behaviors. We have to put a stake in the ground and say enough of the flat earth thinking! We either become the stewards of our planet or we perish as a species, a civilization in an inhabitable planet.

It is not too late. We must stop denying the existence of the coronavirus pandemic with its real threat to humanity and the planet. We need to obey the rules set by the science and medical experts for face masks, social distancing, testing, tracking, and appropriate behaviors. Above all we must take responsibility for our individual and collective actions. We need to get real by thinking about more than ourselves and halt the destruction. This is not just about climate, the environment, and public health. It is about systemic racism, income inequality, and good public policy.

Saving lives should be our first priority, saving the economy pales in comparison. Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman and others clearly state we can keep the economy going by strategically investing federal funds. Other nations have made sure that workers continue to be paid, businesses get financial assistance, local and state governments can continue to provide services. Saving lives is not as simple, we as a society must act as one, not because big Government says so, because we value the lives of our family and neighbors.

In public health, we know the benefit of effective messaging through social marketing which we have written about earlier. In economics, we have written about how sustainable regenerative entrepreneurship can do more than just improve. Our actions can actually change the deleterious consequences of polluting our environment. We have a responsibility to ourselves, our children, our co-habitants and our fellow human beings.

We need to start having conversations with our friends, colleagues, and family members especially those who disagree. Crucial conversations are difficult, but necessary. Case in point was when I (Wayne) was reminded of an African American colleague telling me about the “conversation” she had with her male children. She said black male youth needed to know about the risks of being arrested and that the young men especially are at risk. With the pandemic we need to talk about facts as well as touch on their morality, spirituality, and responsibility for the stewardship of this planet.

The worst problem in the USA is the President and others that support him who are unwilling to face reality. All too often we see the unmasked leader of the USA and Senate with no masks on in the Capital city of Washington, DC. The staff and reporters all have masks on. Most of all we have to change the leaders that deny these devastating problems. We have said before that pandemics, climate change, social justice are the modern problems that our society must contain, fight, and conquer. We will need leadership that is knowledgeable, trained and willing to take on those challenges, not fight whether they are real. It is time to take our country back from the deniers, the anti-science, the racists. We have the moral high ground, we can see the North Star goals that can be achieved, we need to act as a nation for our future.