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Not that the pandemic is over yet, but the end does seem to be cautiously near. I am, however, tired of hearing the cliché “the light is at the end of the tunnel.” From this distance, one can’t be too sure whether that light at the end of the tunnel our leaders are seeing is the end or if it’s the racist Trumpism train that’s bearing down on us from the opposite direction. It has been an exhausting 12 months, but what have we learned?

First in my mind is that most of what goes viral on social media can be just as dangerous or insidiously stupid as the coronavirus was and our initial response to it. Advertisement

This past year has shown us how vulnerable we are as a nation to fake news, horrific lies and how weak our political system is to self-inflated blowhards whose only goal is to stay in power no matter the cost to the public. The death toll from the coronavirus stands at more than 550,000 dead. I would stop to mourn them all, but it’s still not over.

COVID-19 and its variations don’t care what color you are or what god you believe in or not — it just does what it is programmed to do

The second lesson that comes to mind is that this virus has taught us that for all of our differences of race, religion and our places of origin, our most common biology, ribonucleic acid (RNA), is the thing that links us all together. More than tribe, more than tradition and far more than skin tones. Yet for all the advances in medicine and technology we are as a people left with the vestigial prejudices of our national history that block many from understanding this most obvious of facts. COVID-19 and its variations don’t care what color you are or what god you believe in or not — it just does what it is programmed to do — mutate to survive.

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This should be a teachable moment for the entire human race — a lesson taught in real time about evolution and how we’re all interconnected. You see, once the virus infects a body, it starts to replicate itself in the RNA proteins and about once in every million replications, which happen faster than you might think, it mutates­ ­— creating a variant of the original. The variants then multiply. If that strain doesn’t kill its host, then it continues to spread. At one point last year, a Japanese virologist discovered that there were some 5,000 variants. It evolves faster than we do which is obvious because some of our people still can’t seem to evolve to wearing a mask. A mask would seem like a simple task of recognizing that we are all in this together, an evolutionary consciousness that some haven’t yet achieved. 

Thirdly, this past year has exposed just how disconnected our for-profit health care industry is from providing equitable universal health care that is directed by a truly independent, science-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; one that is not politically controlled or covertly sabotaged by an idiot who doesn’t believe in science, medicine or public health. The CDC must be run by medical experts, not politicians, and there needs to be a firewall between the two.

This past year has not only shown the need for, but the adoption of, something greater than the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare by any other name). And if you haven’t noticed, Republican adversaries have stopped using Obamacare for target-practice with their AR-15s. After all, what is it when the federal government pays for the expediting of vaccine research, the enhanced production of vaccines and then gives them away for free to the entire population? This my friends is a form of universal health care, albeit with the pharmaceutical companies holding onto the patents of the vaccines we paid for them to develop. The lesson from this exercise in national unity should be that access to health care is a right and not a privilege.

Fourth, we all thought that when Andrew Yang was running in the Democratic presidential primary on the platform of universal basic income he was smoking some California grass. Only now during this crisis did both sides realize that this was the only way to keep the Main Street economy from completely imploding and taking capitalism as we know it down the tubes. It’s curious how far out quasi-socialist ideas get adopted when the bankers begin to panic.

Fifth lesson: For all of those who grouse and complain about big government and the onerous taxes we have to pay, just tell me when did any private enterprise bank loan you even $500 at 1% and then tell you that if you spent it on paying your employees they would forgive the loan? The answer is never. In fact, our for-profit system is so geared in the opposite direction that the banks that are charged by the government to be the middlemen in this deal hardly know how to hand out free loans with any efficiency. And yet they did it for a price of course.

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All of these lessons could lead an enlightened nation on a course of progressive reforms that would change our economy, our health care system and our sense of national unity. A moment such as this one could make America live up to its fundamental creed of protecting life, liberty and pursuit of happiness for all. But that light at the end of the tunnel concerns me. It could just be a train coming at us in the wrong direction taking us all back to a place that is neither free or just.

James Preston Allen
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