What Future Generations Will Remember About The Pandemic

We haven’t made our kids’ future important enough to inconvenience ourselves. And they know it.

Credit: Kiattisak Lamchan / EyeEm / Getty Images

I began writing a lengthy piece on the difficult decision of sending kids back to school, with four scenarios and decision criteria to try to help parents. Then I stopped because I started thinking about kids and what we teach them. I scrapped it for something much less useful.

I think about the things we all try to teach our kids:

  • How to be safe
  • Following the golden rule
  • Showing consideration
  • Using evidence
  • Looking out for those less fortunate

And I thought, WTF are they going to say about us when they grow up? They are watching us invoke them and how precious their education is (it is), but they see we weren’t willing to work all summer to make their buildings safe. That we decided to keep bars open and spread Covid-19 even knowing it would be impossible to control come fall.

That the governor in Arizona threatened to take a school district’s budget if they didn’t open even after a teacher died there. That we have some studies now that show school age kids get and spread Covid-19 and the president still asked every school to be open even with high spread.

That we have data emerging that indicates there is medium or long-term cardiac consequences for even asymptomatic people and still decided to open schools in person. That we didn’t put together the tools — tests and contact tracing — to make them, their schools and their families safe.

They see that European and Asian countries have done those things. They’re smart. They’re curious. They’re observant. They know it’s not impossible. Do they think we can’t? That we won’t?

They can see or will learn that some here had economic and political reasons for wanting them back in school and that’s what mattered. That we ignored their teachers. And their aides, their librarians, their bus drivers. The adults we tell them to listen to.

They will learn as you will that the Koch Brothers has people tinkering with CDC plan on school openings. That they were allowed.

These are formative years. What else do they see? That the president hails the stock market but doesn’t visit gravesites or talk about our losses. That at a time of need corporations got their bailout loans but their parents unemployment insurance was allowed to expire.

That we let people stand in line for food and lose their housing like the 1930s That even after losing 150,000 people, we sat by knowing 70,000 more would be lost if we did not change. And we did not change.

Today’s kids will be back in school at some point, hopefully soon. What should scare us is that their kids will study us in their history books.

My grandmother, like so many others, came here with nothing without her parents. She was 8. Everything I have including the “liberty” and “rights” were nothing I earned. They were gifted them from her and many others who sacrificed.

I always thought our job was to give something of equivalent value to our kids and grandkids. They have known for some time we have decided not to give them a more livable planet. And that’s unforgivable.

But this pandemic. This pandemic could absolutely be our moment to redeem ourselves. To show what we are made of. We can save lives. I think about the opportunity to show we can leave a legacy in these times. Show how we pulled together. How we valued human lives. How we helped people in need.

But our kids and grandkids are unlikely to learn about us as “the greatest generation.” They are unlikely to call us “pro life.” I don’t think they will say that the older generations sacrificed for them like we can say.

I think they may believe the lessons we tried to reach of kindness, of science, of charity were empty words. Telling them to do as we say not as we do.

We want kids back studying STEM but are a country ignoring and belittling scientists. We want kids back learning social studies but can’t demonstrate what adults do with lessons from history.

We want kids to learn and work in teams but see adults who can’t seem to manage not to put others’ lives ahead of our own rights. We teach values in school and religious school but do nothing about the suffering in nursing homes, farm labor camps, and among people of color.

I have no moral high ground. I feel a part of the crime in progress. The good intentions and losing votes don’t add up to much right now. I only hope future generations will remember the doctors and nurses. The scientists and social workers. The many neighbors who helped each other.

My hope is in them. That they will be formed by what they witnessed. I am hopeful we are raising people that would never tolerate the scale of human losses this large.

As of now I think they would look back and see people who wouldn’t wear a mask, wouldn’t bring this to a quicker end, didn’t have the courage or the character to at any moment look at the death toll and call for a stop.

I hope at any moment we change. There are many credible plans. I still believe we can take it back by caring about the next life we would lose.

But so far we haven’t made reducing the death toll or our kids’ future important enough to inconvenience ourselves. And they know it. That’s the education they’re getting.

Former Medicare, Medicaid & ACA head for Pres. Barack Obama. https://twitter.com/ASlavitt

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