My Fellow Americans . . .

I’ve heard it said that a person’s true character is revealed in times of crisis. I, for one, believe that is true. Our current national crisis has proved no exception. Over the past several weeks, I’ve seen the true character of many of my fellow Americans exposed. Both in both good ways, and in bad.

As many people know, in my younger years I served on-board a submarine. Quite honestly, most of my deployments were relatively uneventful. There were a handful of times, however, when we found ourselves experiencing some, well, let’s just call them, “precarious conditions.” It was during those handful of times when the true character of myself and my fellow shipmates was revealed.

For me, there were three major character aspects that were especially revealed when we found ourselves in these so-called “precarious conditions.” These characteristics were temperament, attitude (toward others), and citizenship. My fellow citizens, you have revealed these same characteristics during our current national crisis. For many, this revelation leads me to believe you would have been a good shipmate. For others, not so much.

In the middle of a crisis moment on a submarine (or any other combat platform), the last thing that is needed is panic. Panic by one, causes panic by others. Panic causes rushed, mistaken, sometimes irrational, actions and behavior. When you remain calm, it sets the tone for others around you. It allows you, and those around you, to think and act calmly, thoughtfully, rationally, yet decisively.

Unfortunately, I’ve seen, and continue to see, panic from many of my fellow citizens. Their panic has led others to panic. Their panic feeds not only their own anxiety and fear, but those around them – most notably, their family. Their panic has led to rushed and irrational actions and behavior. As Exhibit A, I give you the “I-must-have-hundreds-of-rolls-of-toilet-paper-at-home” debacle. Really? Why? Can anyone explain to me how that was (or is) rational?

I didn’t think so.

I’ve also observed people lining up outside grocery and big-box stores hours before they are set to open. There is absolutely no rational reason for this behavior. Again, it is sheer panic. Every governmental official I know of has assured us that the food supply in this country is plentiful, and that the supply chain will continue as efficiently and as effectively as ever. That is, if people will stop over-buying and hoarding more than they need. But, as I said, panic causes rational thought to go out the window.

My wife and I have yet to buy more food than we need for a few days at a time or a week at a time. And guess what. Each time we return to the store, more food has magically appeared, just like it did in the past. It may not always be the specific food we are looking for, but it is food, nonetheless. Panic doesn’t allow for such rational thought and action.

One of the many things I still take pride in from my days on the submarine was being able to remain calm during crisis moments. I recall on more than one occasion motioning to a more junior shipmate to slow down and stay calm. This wasn’t always the case. It took training, a willingness to listen, and a desire to learn. Did that mean I never felt anxious or fear in those moments? Of course not. But I knew that panicking would not alleviate the anxiety or fear, whereas remaining calm and following procedure would. I also knew it would lead to a better result.

When you’re on a submarine, your life depends on the actions of your shipmates. Similarly, their lives depend on yours. Because of this, even though there may have been personal differences among shipmates, those differences were set aside, especially in times of crisis. In those times especially, everyone’s attitude is: it’s not about me, it’s about everyone. There is no room for selfishness.

My shipmates and I could not afford to selfishly place our own well-being above everyone else’s. We realized that our well-being depended on the well-being of everyone else on-board. We realized that our individual actions had the potential to impact the life and well-being of our shipmates. We trusted each other; we respected each other; we cared for each other; we looked out for each other. Sadly, I’ve seen many of my fellow citizens act contrarily.

Again, why buy up and hoard unneeded toilet paper and leave none for others? Why buy up and hoard more food than you need and leave little – or none – for others?  There is only one answer. Selfishness.

Then there are those who blatantly and defiantly disregarded the so-called “social distancing guidelines.”  Indeed, some continue doing so.  Such selfishness may prolong this crisis, at least for some.

Yes, I have observed many, many citizens respecting the needs of others. Indeed, not just respecting their needs, but selflessly reaching out to help meet their needs. The selfless deserve our respect. The selfish our disdain.

The President of the United States during my tenure on submarines was polarizing. Perhaps not as polarizing as our current President (sheesh, who is?!!), but polarizing, nonetheless. His name was Ronald Reagan. Then, as now, you were either a true believer – a “Reaganite” – or you were not. We had our fair share of both on-board.

We had political discussions. We had disagreements. Occasionally, we had down right arguments. But you know what? During times of crises, none of that mattered. Why? Because we were all in it together. The outcome of our crisis did not depend on whether we did or did not vote for him. It did not depend on whether we agreed or disagreed with his policies. Most importantly, it did not matter whether we liked or disliked him. He was our president. Period. There was absolutely nothing anyone could do about it in the moment.

The bottom line was, neither our politics nor our feelings about the President made a difference to the outcome of any crisis in which we found ourselves. In those times, we set our political ideologies and feelings aside and worked together to overcome.

Now, trust me, I am not a Trump apologist. Though, in full disclosure, I admit that I did cast my vote for him, but that was more a vote against his opponent. That said, while I do take some guilty pleasure in his disdain for many members of the media, I do wish President Trump would talk (and tweet) less. A lot less!

Regardless, we must realize we are all in this crisis together. This virus cares nothing about your political persuasion. It cares nothing about your feelings toward our current president. It cares not whether you love him, hate him, or are completely indifferent. It’s willingness to infect you is based on one single factor – you are human. It cares not whether you are a Republican, a Democrat, a Libertarian, or an independent.

I’ve got to say, the political rhetoric being spewed in the name of COVID-19 sickens me. I half expect it from our politicians. After all, it’s basically part of their job description. But when I see it coming from my fellow citizens, I find it disgustingly abhorrent. Do you really believe that your unbridled cheerleading for the President is going to make the virus go away? Is your vile, hateful, disdainful (at times distasteful) opinion about his leadership (or alleged lack thereof) going to hasten our “flattening of the curve”? Do you think that your Facebook post in favor of President Trump is going to somehow inspire a Trump-hater to realize they can only be shielded from the virus by becoming a Trump-lover? Do you honestly think your anti-Trump, rant-filled Twitter feed is the Corona virus antidote? Gee, I hope not.

Then there’s this silly petition floating around that, apparently, over 100,00 people have signed. This petition asks news broadcasters to stop providing live coverage of the White House’s coronavirus briefings. The petition alleges that the President uses these for grandstanding, campaigning, misinformation, etc.

I have no idea as to whether these allegations are true. That, in large part, is because I don’t watch them. But it troubles me that so-called rational people want the broadcast media to censor the President of the United States. A rational person would just, well, censor him themselves by not watching or listening to him. That’s right, you personally have that power yourself. That’s why I consider the petition absolutely “silly.”

Instead, how about this. If you don’t like what the President has to say during this crisis, don’t listen. And just stop with the political rants associated with the crisis. I, for one, am not interested. In fact, each time you post one on a social media platform, my respect level for you decreases. Sorry, but it’s true. Then again, you may not care. That’s fine, too.

So, here’s a thought. How about we do something else. How about we work to inspire each other, regardless of politics. How about we try to encourage each other, regardless of politics. How about we try to help each other, regardless of politics.

A crisis can do one of two things.  It can make you better, or it can make you bitter.  I encourage you, choose the former over the latter.

For those who profess to be Christians, I have some additional suggestions.

Firstly, why not follow the suggestion St. Paul gave to the Philippian church when he wrote:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things (Phil. 4:8, NIV).

I guarantee this will alleviate fear, anxiety, and stress.

Secondly, instead of grandstanding for, or shouting against, our political leaders during this time of crises, how about praying for them. At least once each day, pray that God will bestow divine wisdom and courage on President Trump, Speaker Pelosi, and Senator Majority Leader McConnell. Pray that God will bestow divine wisdom and courage on your state and local leaders.

Your prayers may or may not change their hearts and minds. I know for sure, however, your prayers will change your heart and mind.