Ken Plum: Return to normalcy
Warren G. Harding was elected president by a landslide in 1920. He promised in his campaign speeches that he would deliver, in a phrase that he reportedly coined, “a return to normalcy” that people eagerly sought after World War I. Harding had a scandal-plagued administration and marital affairs that contributed to rumors that his wife poisoned him leading to the heart attack that killed him before the end of his term. But Harding liked to be liked, and his “normalcy” phrase captured the mood of the people.
Today there is certainly a desire to return to life as normal from the quarantine existence we are experiencing during the pandemic. There are politicians who suggest that a quick return to life as we knew it before the coronavirus is possible and that people should be “liberated” to live without the restrictions that governors have had to impose for public health and safety. At the reconvened session of the General Assembly last week there was a background blare of horns sounding as cars and trucks circled Capitol Square driven by protestors who wanted to let us know that they wanted restrictions lifted.
It would be a tragic mistake to lift health and safety restrictions too early based on politics rather that reliable scientific evidence. Every individual needs to act in a responsible way with social distancing, hand washing, and face masks, and we need to encourage others to do the same. There is no constitutional right to spread your germs around.
The economic crisis brought on in part by the pandemic is another issue that will be addressed in future columns.
An activity that I believe would be helpful to undertake while we are hunkered down is to review the old “normalcy” under which we grew accustomed to living and to ask ourselves if we have learned things over the past several weeks that might be applied to life in the future. Recently there has been a significant reduction in air pollution. We drive our vehicles less. Could we continue to make a list of what we need and make fewer vehicular trips to get those items. Walking and bicycling are on the increase that will contribute to better health in the community.
There has been a strengthening of community as neighbors support each other more, and there has been a wonderful outpouring of contributions and help to those in need. Many are looking at entertainment differently as there is a need to be more inventive and creative in entertaining ourselves.
Technology is being used more frequently to deliver information and services that should be continued into the future. Do not simply go back to the old way if we have been forced to recognize better ways to accomplish a purpose. Certainly teachers and public education have gained support by those who have had to teach their children at home!
I share the desire that a life without restrictions return as soon as medical science says it is safe to do so. In the meantime, let’s think about what we have learned through all of this that might make our life be even better in the future. Share your ideas with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ken Plum is a member of the Virginia House of Delegates.