Now is the time for our better angels to fly

Column by Michael Alcorn
Posted 3/17/20

So. What’s new? There’s an old Chinese curse that reads “May you live in interesting times.” We are, my friends, living in a Chinese curse. Actually, given the origin of this pandemic, you …

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Now is the time for our better angels to fly

Posted

So. What’s new?

There’s an old Chinese curse that reads “May you live in interesting times.” We are, my friends, living in a Chinese curse.

Actually, given the origin of this pandemic, you could say the Chinese have cursed us to live inside a Chinese curse.

If you will forgive the syllogism.

Is it just me, or, given the demographics of this, couldn’t we just bubble wrap and then Saran Wrap every nursing home, and then just have everybody else report to an “infection station” so we can all get it, feel bad for a couple weeks, and then get on with things?

Of course, that’s ridiculous. Saran Wrap doesn’t stick to anything long enough to be useful.

Still kidding. Obviously, that’s the absolute wrong thing to do, and I would never seriously suggest that. My mother is right in the middle of the target demographic of this thing, and I want her to go on living for many years to come, so I’m perfectly happy with all the precautions that the CDC and the Governor are recommending and enforcing. But it is a very strange state of affairs. The last thing I said to my students this week was “I’ve been teaching for 29 years, and I’ve never seen anything like this.”

But, I am encouraged. Well, not by my little side errand to the grocery store yesterday—seriously, what does toilet paper have to do with this? COVID-19 is not a laxative, people. But, I digress … I have been encouraged by the resilience and good humor of my peers, the leadership of the personnel at the building and district level right up to the Governor’s mansion, and the sober, restrained response of the students and parents I’ve come into contact with. If every segment of society deals with this the way the school community has, we’re going to be just fine.

In fact, maybe even better than fine. A smart person in the leadership of Jeffco called this an opportunity: we now have to be engaged in a “competency-based” model of education, rather than a “time in seat” model. There is every possibility that some students will find that, absent all the distractions of a regular classroom, they can get their work done more efficiently. And, if we find that their work is just as thorough and their learning just as meaningful as it always has been, there may be a real opportunity to meld those two models going forward into something better.

Maybe it’s an opportunity for the economy, too. Maybe we’ll finally be motivated to bring some of our manufacturing and production capacity home (especially pharmaceuticals!), absorb some of the cost of decent labor, and be less dependent on China.

But the real opportunity is that we, as a people, remember who we are and finally rediscover the better angels of our nature. In fact, it’s already happening. Within two hours of the announcement that the NBA season was suspended, Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, had his people working on a plan to help out the ticket takers, the concession workers and the parking attendants who would not have a job to come to. One professional basketball player, Kevin Love, has announced that he is donating $100,000 to help the support staff of his team make it through this. Other players are following suit.

Listen, if Mark Cuban can act to inspire the phrase “better angels of our nature,” then this can’t be that hard for the rest of us. If you have the means to run errands for an elderly person in your neighborhood, do so; if you have a friend who is alone, and whose life is far worse from social isolation, call them; wave to your neighbors, smile at the children; be smart, be careful, but, for God’s sake, be human.

It’s time to let our Better Angels off their tethers and let them fly!

Michael Alcorn is a teacher and writer who lives in Arvada with his wife and three children. His new novel, “Charon’s Blade,” is available at Amazon.com, on Kindle, or through MichaelJAlcorn.com.” His opinions are not necessarily those of Colorado Community Media.

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