By Dale Martin
April 10., 2020
Another week of coronavirus comes to a close. For how many more weeks will our routines, our jobs, and our lives be disrupted? For some, more importantly, when will the fear end?
The fear in this case is both medical and economic. In both instances, as mentioned in the Mayor’s closing comments at Tuesday’s first City Commission since the onset of the public health emergency, this community will reach an end to this crisis. It is certainty that we have lost, not stability.
The medical fears are being accommodated by most of us through the recommended preventative measures: remaining at home except for essential needs; awkward, but necessary, spacing when out; and an abundance of basic personal hygiene. The medical fears are being also confronted by a wide range of medical professionals, including nurses, doctors, and researchers.
The economic fears are somewhat similar to those faced when newly elected Franklin Roosevelt delivered his first inaugural address on March 4, 1933, in the midst of the Great Depression. It was during this speech that the phrase “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” The entirety of the first paragraph of his speech, in which that phrase was spoken, speaks with remarkably relevance and clarity to today:
“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 Nation impels. 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. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days.”
These words were delivered calmly. President Roosevelt did not sow additional fear- he specifically called out the “unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” His reassuring tone continued later in his speech: “Compared with the perils which our forefathers conquered because they believed and were not afraid, we have still much to be thankful for.” In the current situation, it remains the same.
This is a truly rare national (global) event that we face. I agree with the Mayor that we will, although not as quickly as we’d like, emerge. The “other side” will be different: how so is unknown and cannot be predicted. Economic models of the pandemic, like the medical models, are all over the place. Jobs will be changed and lost…and gained. Businesses will close…and open. The unemployment faced by Roosevelt was roughly twenty-five percent. Although significant, the unemployment now measures roughly ten percent (although increasing).
I hope that you take faith in the realization that 1933 America emerged from the depths of the Great Depression to become an incredible nation of prosperity and power. It was many of our grandparents, only two generations ago, that overcame the challenges, including a global war, and earned the moniker of the Greatest Generation. Our challenge today actually pales in comparison to what they faced and overcame: I can find little reference to toilet paper hoarding and social distancing. This drive to overcome and succeed is part of the American spirit.
Who knows when the crisis will end? No one. Who knows the ultimate economic impact? No one. We have our problems and challenges to face, but from a local government perspective, we are prepared and, under the leadership and direction of the City Commission, will proceed cautiously to sustain for now and prepare for the future.
A significant community event takes place tomorrow, Saturday, April 11. Farm Share will distribute nearly 40,000 pounds of provisions to residents in need. The event will take place at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Recreation Center, beginning at 9:00 AM. The event will be a drive-through only distribution. Volunteers are welcome, but must provide their own personal protective measures. Thank you to the Elm Street Sportsman Club for sponsoring this project.