FUTURIST: Our choices can save lives over the next six months

Posted: December 19, 2020 at 8:27 am

David Houle| Sarasota Herald-Tribune

My previous column titledDark Winterwas my suggestion that we will have a dark winter ahead primarily due to the COVID-19 pandemic.The only thing I got wrong was thinking that America might top out at 135,000 new cases a day.Well, I am writing this on Dec. 7 and we have already hit 200,000 as a daily new case load, so I was off by 40%.This, of course, only makes the winter darker.

Americas Vision Deficit was about how, until recently, Americans came together to face common enemies, whether it was the Axis Powers in WWII or the Soviet Union in the race to the moon and the Cold War.

Remember 9/11/01?Of course you do!That was when 3,000 died in one day at the hands of Islamic terrorists, when several days later President Bush climbed the rubble of the World Trade Center, grabbed a megaphone and in just a matter of minutes united us against those that had attacked us and killed our fellow Americans.

If you were like me, you bought and proudly wore an FDNY hat for several years after that.We honored our heroes who went toward the towers.Today we honor our front-line heroes who are overwhelmed at all the hospitals dealing with virus deaths every day, often every hour.Close to 2,000 of them have died from the virus, often working with less than adequate PPE. We honor them by saying they are heroes.

Many of us, however, do not honor them. Every single front line health worker I have heard interviewed have all said the same thing: please help us, wear a mask and follow health guidelines.With these pleas from weeping, exhausted heroes, I just cant understand why so many people will not wear masks.

In one day, there were 3,000 deaths of Americans and we all were changed by it, and our sense of being Americans under attack seemed to unite us.Last week, three days had almost the same number of dead Americans as 9/11: 2,777, 2,802 and 2,669. In the first five days of December, 13,289 Americans died from the COVID-19 virus, or more than four times the death toll of 9/11.

After 9/11, and up to this day, we have tolerated hours of waiting to go through TSA security lines.We unpack our liquids, take off our shoes and belts, empty our pockets and walk through a scanner.Often, we have to be frisked.This is much more personally intrusive, much more time consuming and yet we do it.The obvious reason for this difference is that none of us could fly if we didnt go through TSA security, so we tolerate it.Yet many chose to not wear masks as it is an invasion of freedom.Well, for those of you who dont wear masks, think about TSA lines.If you accept the government rule that you cant fly without going through security, why would you resist a government mandate to wear masks?None of us want a terrorist on our plane.None of us want to get COVID-19.

We are under attack and yet we argue about masks.While our front-line workers are crying and pleading with us to wear masks and follow the health scientists, we argue amongst ourselves about mask wearing.What has happened to us these last few years?Yes, you can say President Trump as he doesnt wear a mask and actually has ridiculed those that wear them.But that is an easy cop-out as we all have the freedom of choice, unless of course you need a politician to control how you act.How we as Americans stay divided andignore those front-line workersis simply beyond me.The only real conclusion is that millions of Americans have chosen to be selfish and opinionated to a degree that we no longer can come together to fight the enemy.

Back to todays date of Dec. 7, the 79th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.That day changed history.Within days we were in a declared war and within weeks tensof thousands had signed up to fight the enemy.Any idea how many Americans died that day? 2,403.That means that three days last week more people died in a day thandied at Pearl Harbor.

We are all caught up in our opinions.We dont honor our health and front-line workers. We moan about our freedom to not wear a mask.If we had been so selfish, we wouldnt have won WWII, as the home front, the factory floors of Detroit, and unprecedented rationing were big parts of being the victor.

So here is what we know to be true as of this writing:

Back to the premise at the top of the column:A unique opportunity to shape our future. If we want to have fewer deaths than we sustained in WWII 420,000, over four years we can wear masks, social distanceand havea commitment to our neighbors, the elderly, the infirm and our frontline health care workers.If we want to keep Florida as a place where people can feel safe to visit during season, we can all do what is needed and what is right,and do it now.

Or we can decide to act selfishly and dismiss science, in ways that the Greatest Generation should find appalling.We can bond and come together in a singular way to lessen death, suffering and economic loss … and feel good about it.Or we can refuse to fight with the tools we know can help us win this battle against an invisible and deathly enemy.

What our collective future for the next six months will be is up to us. We can jointogether for the common good, for saving lives, for a faster economic recovery, or we can actselfishly and make the road ahead longer and more deadly.

What are you going to do?

Sarasota resident David Houle is a globally recognized futurist. He has given speeches on six continents, written seven books and is futurist in residence at the Ringling College of Art + Design. His website is davidhoule.com. Email him at david@davidhoule.com.

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FUTURIST: Our choices can save lives over the next six months

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