The Only Thing We Have to Fear…

“I am certain that my fellow Americans expect that on my induction into the Presidency I will address them with a candor and a decision which the present situation of our people impel. This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. I 

Franklin Delano Roosevelt 1933

In my lifetime, I have experienced events that made me fearful. The first one that I recall was the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. I was ten years old. I remember that we were on the brink of war with the Soviet Union. At school, we were all instructed on how to get under our desks, cover our heads and close our eyes. I believe there was a CONELRAD system which also provided an early warning if missiles were being fired. I remember they tested air raid sirens as part of the rehearsal. Fortunately we were led by a very smart president, John F. Kennedy and the crisis passed.

I have experienced stock market crashes (1987, 2008-2009), hurricanes with landfalls in New Jersey, urban riots (Camden), 9/11, and unemployment. Personally I have survived cancer scares for myself and my wife. I don’t like apocalyptic horror stories but I feel like I am in one.

That being said, I don’t know if I’ve ever experienced the type of chronic fear related to this coronavirus pandemic. Some of it may be due to my age and my susceptibility if I should be infected with the virus. This is so different. I don’t see solutions. I don’t see a quick end to this disaster. A lot of my fear and discomfort comes from factors other than my vulnerability.

The United States government and in particular the Trump administration have done a horrible job of communicating the status of the pandemic, the number of people infected and what steps are being taken to ensure the safety of the citizens of the United States. I think the Trump administration has made it a priority to focus on the effects to the economy.  To hell with people, “how do we both prop up the stock market and the Dow?” Where are the tests that people need to take? That should be the priority.

This is obviously a crisis that needs to be adequately addressed by scientists and medical personnel. Instead we have politicians literally falling all over themselves to politicize this catastrophe. This is a time when we urgently need smart and responsible leadership. Regrettably over the past month, I have seen no one with the credibility, leadership and communication skills to provide confidence to the public.

The media has also done a poor job. They are doing more to frighten people than they are to responsibly inform us of latest developments. I am tired of watching news conferences provided by local government officials and health agencies each time an individual is infected. They keep urging the public to remain calm but they do a very poor job of answering questions and providing guidance as to what the public may expect. Many officials appear reluctant to speak candidly and honestly about what they know.

Lord knows we desperately need a Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Unfortunately we are saddled with a Donald Trump and his administration that appears clueless on how to manage this crisis. My sense is that we have not even begun to experience the severity and breadth of this pandemic. We have no idea how long that we must remain vigilant. My sense is that the pandemic will be with us for a few years and that we need desperately for science to develop the necessary vaccine so that we can get back to living a routine life again.

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