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OUR VIEW: We'll beat the virus, if we unite

The coronavirus pandemic that is battering the nation has been compared to the attack on Pearl Harbor and the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

From top leaders on down to everyday citizens, people get it – this is a crisis of major proportions, unprecedented for this generation.

And the casualties? Far worse than Pearl Harbor (about 2,400 dead) and 9/11 (3,000 dead).

Since February, more than 81,000 Americans have died, with more than 1.3 million infected. That’s two and a half times the reported deaths and more than five times the confirmed infections of any other nation in the world.

The virus is here, and it’s not going away any time soon. There does not appear to be a miracle cure, and no vaccine is imminent.

It took America years – not weeks or months – to recover from Pearl Harbor and 9/11. Our society needs to move forward and accept a “new normal” of battling back against an invisible mass killer that has prompted shutdowns and disruptions across the board.

As such, reasonable minds should be able to discuss and debate the best way to balance our concern with saving lives with a need to start reopening segments of the economy.

And reasonable minds can debate the effectiveness of citizens protesting measures that have been taken to ensure the safety of the public. The right to stage safe, peaceful protests is a basic right of the American citizen. Residents of our state should at least be thankful that protests in Illinois have not involved armed participants.

But reasonable minds should not debate proven science. As U.S. Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”

A functioning society is dependent upon a set of agreed-upon norms. Societal norms should reflect our best thinking and truest motives. In battling a worldwide pandemic, our agreed-upon norms for protecting the public should be based on scientific evidence. In other words, we need to follow the advice of the experts, not our "gut" or a Facebook post.

Unfortunately, the virus has devolved into a partisan issue. Some would cast those who urge caution as being “anti-American,” while casting those who wish to open the economy, regardless of the cost of life, as freedom fighters.

This is utter nonsense. Republicans and Democrats alike want the economy and the country to prosper. Individuals may have different ideas on when it is appropriate to bring back specific elements of our day-to-day lives, but again, reasonable people can have this debate.

During World War II, Americans had a common enemy. We united against regimes in Japan and Germany. After 9/11, we united against terrorism. As one nation, united in a common cause, we overcame.

As we face down our newest foe, Americans seem more divided than in previous predicaments. Instead of uniting in a common cause against an enemy that threatens us all, too many of us are focused on a perceived political fight.

Make no mistake about it. The VIRUS is the common enemy. The virus does not care about your political ideology. It strikes with impunity against conservatives and liberals alike.

Amid this disharmony, it would be wise to remember Abraham Lincoln’s words, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

To prevail, we must unite. We did it before. We’ll do it again.

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