In “The Thirteen American Arguments,” Howard Fineman covers questions and topics that Americans have been debating since the founding of our nation. The topics include “What is a person?” and the extent of presidential power.
The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic raises another debate that Fineman did not cover that now encompasses our daily discussions: Our leaders’ actions and news media coverage. This debate is historical and current and has existed since our foundation: The American way of life versus American lives.
To what extent should lawmakers implement economic and social restrictions to save lives? This may be blunt but is true. In the past week we saw protesters across the country protest against business closures during stay-at-home orders.
More and more legislators are calling on governors to loosen restrictions as human interaction is massively decreased and the economic fallout sets in.
The Paycheck Protection Program has run out of money and around 57% of businesses saw revenue drop by 75% or more, according to Main Street America. President Donald Trump even said the cure should not be worse than the disease.
On the flip side, healthcare workers staged counter-protests in state capitals across the country telling protesters to go home for the sake of their and other Americans’ lives. Many state governors and healthcare experts warn of the potential resurgence in cases and deaths if restrictions are loosened too quickly. Here we have another example of the classic debate alluded to above.
Just take a look at Facebook or any major news network and you will see this debate. Chances are you probably already had this discussion with your family or friends.
We have argued for centuries over how many lives we can lose before we accept changing our way of life. We fought many of our wars to defend our “way of life.” We rebelled in the American Revolution against “tyrannical” England, fought World War II against the Germans and Japanese, launched the Iraq invasion after the 9/11 attacks and so forth.
This debate also occurred during the 1918 Spanish Influenza pandemic as well. Protesters flooded the streets, industries economically collapsed and state and city governments argued over when and how to ease restrictions.
In all of these situations, hundreds of thousands of lives were lost in the process. Yet, people contended that those losses were justified in order for the American way of life to continue. The question is, “To what extent?”
When do we justify war? How long can an economic shutdown be justified?
The question today: For how long should our nation damage our economy and way of life in order to save lives? Americans need to do what they do best: debate. In an America where we are concerned for our lives, our economy and government power, we must continue to debate this American argument.