America's Nest in the Gale

Dr. Margaret Mead, the distinguished American anthropologist, once said, "The greatest gift we can give our children is to teach them to nest in the gale."

"To nest in the gale" is to build a haven in the midst of a storm, to secure a shelter against the troubles around us, and by doing so, nurture our children to be resilient and brave, to understand adversity and change, and to embrace inevitable fair skies as opportunities to test and spread their wings, to discover themselves, and ultimately to build nests of their own where they can be safe and happy and thrive.

This is what America needs now in the whirlwinds of the coronavirus — to learn how to "nest in the gale."

Sadly, in the competing interests of our fractured political climate, we have distinctly different visions of the kind of nest we need to build in the gale of COVID-19.  As the Rev. Jeffrey A. Schooley of Marysville, Ohio has said, "this isn't just a human versus virus event — it's a left versus right event."

They are those among us who believe that the current health crisis would be a terrible thing to waste — economically, politically, socially, and environmentally.  They tend to view the pandemic as a "Sputnik Moment," where America needs to catch up, to re-educate and retool itself, and to set a course in another direction.  We must publicly admit and atone for our deep-rooted racial inequality, sex discrimination, wealth disparity, class division — in short, all the bigotries, injustices, and inequities that inhabit and stain virtually every aspect of American life.

They feel that now is the time to double down on the grand redesign begun by President Barack Obama — of "fundamentally transforming the United States of America" — by changing the conversation, changing our traditions, changing our history, "changing the rules of power," and moving the nation to a different place.

Professor Eddie Glaude, Jr., chair of the Department of African American Studies at Princeton University, agrees and says the coronavirus has exposed us: "We're dying, and we're seeing the disproportionate impact of this burden of the pandemic precisely because of the inequality and the deep structural racism that has defined American society for generations.  I'm talking about Black America, and I think the effects of this pandemic will throw us back into the 60s and the 50s in terms of our economic standing."

As such, any stimulus packages for COVID-19 must also provide assistance for our political and social health as well as our physical health — they are inextricable.  In an April 9 letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, twenty-four Democrats underscored this imperative when they outlined a list of demands for CARES Act allocations, one of whose "Overall Guiding Principles" included to "ensure every action Congress takes addresses inequality and strengthens racial equity and economic equality."

According to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, "[w]e need to be able to play hardball. ... We cannot bow to the logic that a dime and a crumb is [sic] better than nothing."  Fellow squad member Rep. Ayanna Pressley goes farther: "[t]his truly is a crisis within a crisis. ... We have a responsibility to repair the systemic injustices[.] ... [I]t's akin to war crimes."

More and more progressive voices openly blame our political system itself: America's democracy is no democracy at all — capitalism is the culprit for America's malaise.  We must undergo a "political revolution" if we are to continue to survive as a nation.

Investigative journalist Nikole Hanna-Jones — whose controversial broadside in the New York Times's 1619 Project won this year's Pulitzer Prize for Commentary — sees the answer only 90 miles to our south: "If you want to see the most equal, multiracial ... country in our hemisphere, it would be Cuba. ... In places that are biracial countries, Cuba actually has the least inequality and that's largely due to socialism."

If only America weren't America.

Then there are others among us who do not view a once-in-a-century pandemic as the opportunity to indict America and its transgressions.

They argue that seeing COVID-19 as laying bare "structural racism" and contending that the coronavirus is a "Black plague" (New York Daily News) and declaring the pandemic a "racial time bomb" (Charles Blow, New York Times) are attempts to racialize the pandemic, to racialize medicine, and to portray blacks as perpetual victims in the long shadows of Jim Crow and slavery.

All health care professionals agree that conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, advanced age, chronic lung disease, immune disorders, cardiovascular disease, densities of populations, etc. are the true drivers of pandemic fatalities, not race.  To the issue, Asian-American fatalities are lower than white fatalities.  Indeed, using race as any kind of measure to mobilize health care responses and government resources not only is misguided and unscientific, but can drive critically needed aid and assistance in the wrong directions.

National Review contributor Zaid Jilani refines the point: "[t]he racialization of the coronavirus is part of a larger racialization of social and political issues in the United States.  I fear this racialization is giving life to racial categories — pretending that they are material, rather than a coincidental feature of a person."

What many see is what the Manhattan Institute's Heather Mac Donald sees — perhaps an even more dangerous contagion than the coronavirus itself: unrelenting, militant, "reflexive accusations of racism and sexism ... contempt for Enlightenment values of reason and due process" that "increasingly infuse business, government, and civil society."

The result: America is being forced to look at everything through the prisms of race, sex, sexual preference, implicit bias, grievance, and victimology, with racism always wearing a white (and generally male) face.  The effect — America is being eroded from within by those who would discard our principles of rationality, individual rights, freedom, and moral law in favor of some ill-defined collectivist delusion that has no place or standing in our capitalist system.

America is here — it is ours, it is real, it is good.  There is so much beauty and love.  We can hold it in our hands and feel its goodness and grace.  It welcomes us and we are grateful for its beckoning promise and bounty.

America knows how to build its nest in the gale.  The question is, do we know how to keep it?

Russell Paul La Valle is a New York–based political commentator whose work has appeared in many major newspapers, magazines, and online opinion websites.  He is a former contributing editor to the philosophical think-tank the Atlas Society.  His commentaries can be found at https://russellpaullavalle.com/other-writing.

Dr. Margaret Mead, the distinguished American anthropologist, once said, "The greatest gift we can give our children is to teach them to nest in the gale."

"To nest in the gale" is to build a haven in the midst of a storm, to secure a shelter against the troubles around us, and by doing so, nurture our children to be resilient and brave, to understand adversity and change, and to embrace inevitable fair skies as opportunities to test and spread their wings, to discover themselves, and ultimately to build nests of their own where they can be safe and happy and thrive.

This is what America needs now in the whirlwinds of the coronavirus — to learn how to "nest in the gale."

Sadly, in the competing interests of our fractured political climate, we have distinctly different visions of the kind of nest we need to build in the gale of COVID-19.  As the Rev. Jeffrey A. Schooley of Marysville, Ohio has said, "this isn't just a human versus virus event — it's a left versus right event."

They are those among us who believe that the current health crisis would be a terrible thing to waste — economically, politically, socially, and environmentally.  They tend to view the pandemic as a "Sputnik Moment," where America needs to catch up, to re-educate and retool itself, and to set a course in another direction.  We must publicly admit and atone for our deep-rooted racial inequality, sex discrimination, wealth disparity, class division — in short, all the bigotries, injustices, and inequities that inhabit and stain virtually every aspect of American life.

They feel that now is the time to double down on the grand redesign begun by President Barack Obama — of "fundamentally transforming the United States of America" — by changing the conversation, changing our traditions, changing our history, "changing the rules of power," and moving the nation to a different place.

Professor Eddie Glaude, Jr., chair of the Department of African American Studies at Princeton University, agrees and says the coronavirus has exposed us: "We're dying, and we're seeing the disproportionate impact of this burden of the pandemic precisely because of the inequality and the deep structural racism that has defined American society for generations.  I'm talking about Black America, and I think the effects of this pandemic will throw us back into the 60s and the 50s in terms of our economic standing."

As such, any stimulus packages for COVID-19 must also provide assistance for our political and social health as well as our physical health — they are inextricable.  In an April 9 letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, twenty-four Democrats underscored this imperative when they outlined a list of demands for CARES Act allocations, one of whose "Overall Guiding Principles" included to "ensure every action Congress takes addresses inequality and strengthens racial equity and economic equality."

According to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, "[w]e need to be able to play hardball. ... We cannot bow to the logic that a dime and a crumb is [sic] better than nothing."  Fellow squad member Rep. Ayanna Pressley goes farther: "[t]his truly is a crisis within a crisis. ... We have a responsibility to repair the systemic injustices[.] ... [I]t's akin to war crimes."

More and more progressive voices openly blame our political system itself: America's democracy is no democracy at all — capitalism is the culprit for America's malaise.  We must undergo a "political revolution" if we are to continue to survive as a nation.

Investigative journalist Nikole Hanna-Jones — whose controversial broadside in the New York Times's 1619 Project won this year's Pulitzer Prize for Commentary — sees the answer only 90 miles to our south: "If you want to see the most equal, multiracial ... country in our hemisphere, it would be Cuba. ... In places that are biracial countries, Cuba actually has the least inequality and that's largely due to socialism."

If only America weren't America.

Then there are others among us who do not view a once-in-a-century pandemic as the opportunity to indict America and its transgressions.

They argue that seeing COVID-19 as laying bare "structural racism" and contending that the coronavirus is a "Black plague" (New York Daily News) and declaring the pandemic a "racial time bomb" (Charles Blow, New York Times) are attempts to racialize the pandemic, to racialize medicine, and to portray blacks as perpetual victims in the long shadows of Jim Crow and slavery.

All health care professionals agree that conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, advanced age, chronic lung disease, immune disorders, cardiovascular disease, densities of populations, etc. are the true drivers of pandemic fatalities, not race.  To the issue, Asian-American fatalities are lower than white fatalities.  Indeed, using race as any kind of measure to mobilize health care responses and government resources not only is misguided and unscientific, but can drive critically needed aid and assistance in the wrong directions.

National Review contributor Zaid Jilani refines the point: "[t]he racialization of the coronavirus is part of a larger racialization of social and political issues in the United States.  I fear this racialization is giving life to racial categories — pretending that they are material, rather than a coincidental feature of a person."

What many see is what the Manhattan Institute's Heather Mac Donald sees — perhaps an even more dangerous contagion than the coronavirus itself: unrelenting, militant, "reflexive accusations of racism and sexism ... contempt for Enlightenment values of reason and due process" that "increasingly infuse business, government, and civil society."

The result: America is being forced to look at everything through the prisms of race, sex, sexual preference, implicit bias, grievance, and victimology, with racism always wearing a white (and generally male) face.  The effect — America is being eroded from within by those who would discard our principles of rationality, individual rights, freedom, and moral law in favor of some ill-defined collectivist delusion that has no place or standing in our capitalist system.

America is here — it is ours, it is real, it is good.  There is so much beauty and love.  We can hold it in our hands and feel its goodness and grace.  It welcomes us and we are grateful for its beckoning promise and bounty.

America knows how to build its nest in the gale.  The question is, do we know how to keep it?

Russell Paul La Valle is a New York–based political commentator whose work has appeared in many major newspapers, magazines, and online opinion websites.  He is a former contributing editor to the philosophical think-tank the Atlas Society.  His commentaries can be found at https://russellpaullavalle.com/other-writing.