April 19, 2020


As was said during the day’s One World: Together at Home program, the world must act as one now.

May the abdication of national leadership in the United States mark the ascendancy of a truly great international power that compels intelligent governance, something we’ve never had worldwide.

The One World: Together at Home program inspired me. I found hope where there had been little. The program made an artful presentation of the pernicious and reverberating and consequential impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. And I mean artful in the best sense of the word, they presented the issue and the human drama in a clear way that was accessible to a broad spectrum of folks, and did not stray far from its central purpose of thanking the workers working the hardest to protect us all and to beat COVID-19. Subsumed under that main message were underlying realities: that the health care professionals also must be the communicators to loved ones when we cannot be in the room with them; that people of color are suffering disproportionate infection and death; that the World Health Organization, WHO, is a vital resource and key to defeating COVID-19; and that we all play a part, even if that part means staying at home. Those organically connected realities shared the stage with some truly wonderful artists, there to give us hope, encouragement, and more facts.

Artists’ primary responsibility is to have an open, compassionate heart and an open, enlightened mind, and to show up for work prepared to share them through the prism that is their art, reflecting our world. On this the artists delivered, with emotional performances that both felt the pain and reached for its healing. They summoned and lit up the best of the human race.

That belief in humanity fuels a strong partnership between cultural leaders, musicians, artists, journalists, and efforts to organize an international public health infrastructure. Such an influential partnership holds promise.[1] Could there be the silver lining of a new global awareness, where understanding this pandemic means making the connections and responding to the ever more urgent need to ameliorate racial discrimination in the form of disproportionate suffering; income inequality that creates inexcusable crises for the working class; and the vulnerabilities of homelessness and toxic poverty? Throughout the world? This awareness needs to be the driving force of every nation’s government. On Saturday, we heard from some leaders who bring that awareness to their missions. That’s hopeful.

In the United States, we’ve yet to implement appropriate taxation—in particular the taxation of the very wealthy. It’s 70 years since we’ve come close, during the Eisenhower administration. I’ve always believed that that was the best way good governments could create a more just world, end poverty and all its ill effects, not to mention sustain infrastructure, education, environmental protection, health care, and so forth. I still believe that.

But in this time of crisis, if philanthropy has to be the kindling of that liberating fire, so be it. If the US Chief Executive is going to unilaterally withdraw funds or delay payments to the World Health Organization and it has to be made up via 21stcentury telethons, so be it. If to take care of their citizens, the governors of the 50 United States have to behave as if they lead nation states, so be it. If the volunteer organizations of the world have to be the ones to lay the cooperative groundwork for an international public health system, one that would be state-of-the-art in preventing a future pandemic, one that would have the tools to immediately squelch a future outbreak—if they have to achieve that without the support of an isolationist bully in the White House, so be it…[at least until November 2020].

And while we’re at it, the 50th anniversary of Earth Day is April 22, 2020. It’s nothing to be proud of that we’ve known we need to do a better job of stewarding the earth this long, and we’re failing more than we’re succeeding. But wouldn’t it be nice . . .

[1] I couldn’t figure out why the channel I was watching went to a National Geographic special that made a big point about how Rambo and Knight Rider were powerful US exports that they contend were key to bringing down the Soviet Union. Whether it was deliberate or serendipity, I’m conjecturing that a pop culture message of peace and healing could be just as influential as that of a murderous soldier of fortune.


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