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Will a Phoenix or a Vulture Rise from the Ashes of the Pandemic

by: Ed Garland, Don Samuel, Robin Loeb, John Garland, Amanda Clark Palmer, Kristen Novay, Sara Sibley, David Tuszynski, Anna Coolidge-Kaplan, Lukas Alfen

What will rise from the ashes of this pandemic: A phoenix or a vulture?

Will there be fewer civil rights? More impediments to voting? Enhanced encroachments on the right to privacy? Less tolerance of minority points of view? More misery for people and children at the borders?

Will there be more partisan bickering and shouting, or more listening and compromising?

When the people who are dying from the virus are people that we know – our neighbors and friends and members of our family; and even people that we don’t particularly like – will we learn to temper our tempers? Will we realize that our animosity was ill-conceived? That we should have listened, rather than shouted? That community is more important than tribalism?

Oddly, it seems to us today that the community has been remarkably more generous to less fortunate people who are on the front lines of misery when jobs are lost, medical care is rationed, and there is no money for rent or food. It is the government that more often seems to be exploiting the virus: consolidating power in one party, limiting civil rights in the name of restoring order, attacking the opposition as perpetrating a hoax, or somehow causing the misery that is all around us; putting the Constitution on hold, as if it has no place in our country during an emergency. Even the threats that are not directly voiced by the government, like threats directed at Dr. Fauci: Are these threats not the inevitable consequence of our elected leaders calling science a hoax, the implicit denunciation of the scientists?

During the pandemic, laws are being passed that prohibit all abortions. Republican legislators are denouncing the idea of allowing voters to cast their ballots by mail (claiming that this would foster fraud, while admitting privately that permitting voting by mail would endanger conservative candidates’ chances of winning). And the border? Don’t get us started. No doubt soon we will be hearing about the necessity of a border wall in light of the national emergency and the need to further demonize people seeking refuge in this country.

Today we must rely on scientists, doctors, health care providers, to extricate us from this mess. But when their job is accomplished and their sacrifices have been made, it will be the responsibility of lawyers – prosecutors in local, state and the federal prosecutors’ offices; defense lawyers both public and private; civil rights lawyers; public interest lawyers; State AG office lawyers – it will be our duty to ensure that the equilibrium envisioned in the Constitution is restored.

French President Macron explained, “The day after will not be going back to the day before.” Perhaps it will be a phoenix, not a vulture that rises from the pandemic ashes.