By Sam Pfeifer | Illustration courtesy of Henry Rolph

It is wild that only a month ago I left campus in a mad dash. It feels more like three years ago. My dad came to pick me up on campus with an uncanny beard I had never seen before. He shaved the beard a couple days ago and I asked, “Wait, how long have I been at home?” Life before our current crisis seemed to move at a much slower pace. Obviously, taking into account the drastic change in daily routine, and the shrinking of the spaces people take up in quarantine, we can’t help but feel a shift.

On a more national scale, it has been 11 days since Captain Brett Crozier was fired after pleading for help in an open letter. Only 10 days since President Donald Trump decided to fire the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community. It has been a week since residents of Wisconsin were forced to vote amid a public health crisis. And it has only been six days since Bernie Sanders suspended his campaign.

All of these major stories have been covered in the news, but it feels like, more so than before, they are slipping through the cracks. Rightfully, everyone is focused on reporting the constant changes revolving around COVID-19 and the tragic impact it is having on communities across our country. People are exhibiting tremendous sacrifice and resilience, especially our medical professionals. I have a lot of optimism that our country will continue to unify through uncharted waters. However, I sincerely hope that in light of our country coming together, we don’t forgo our duty to call out irresponsibility when we see it.    

It is time to put to bed any labeling of the criticism of the current administration and other authorities’ inept response to the pandemic as “partisan.” The Trump administration and other political leaders — of both parties — are certainly not responsible for the virus, but it would be foolish to say that their collective incompetence will not continue to result in dead Americans.

It’s also deeper than this surface level labeling. It’s peddling, in my view, a twisted idea of what patriotism should look like. I find this to be argued on the right side of the political spectrum predominantly, but, make no mistake, it certainly has its moments on the left.

Regarding the major news headlines mentioned above, three of them should raise serious questions. Luckily, we have dedicated journalists who have continued to cover these stories. However, in our gradual process of returning to normalcy, we shouldn’t turn a collective blind eye to these objective exploitations of power. 

Regarding the last news headline, in short, I was never a Bernie supporter. Frankly, I detested much of the rhetoric and political theater of his campaign. I disliked the idea that my side of the political spectrum would have to bow to another “my-way-or-the-highway” politician, no matter how good his ideas are. The track record of our current president should be ample evidence that this is a bad idea. 

But what I did admire and support was an underlying propensity, within the Bernie movement, for societal sacrifice. At the core of Medicare-for-All or the Green New Deal, taking away the enormous political capital, are plans to make grand sacrifices for individuals in our country who are the most vulnerable. To me, this is what should underlie patriotism. It is the essence of what makes serving in the military for your country patriotic. It is also what makes the actions of our first responders, our doctors, and our nurses also undeniably patriotic.

Sacrifice becomes insubstantial if Americans are told to accept a certain level of reckless governance. We should be able to unify and heal while simultaneously holding our leaders accountable. Recent history has shown that when we come together but choose to stifle criticism, unnecessary damage is done. Most notably, some have pointed to the unified American response in the aftermath of 9/11. We banded together, but I could write a completely separate article on the devastating impact post-9/11 American policy had in communities in the Middle East and at home.

Let’s not repeat this mistake.

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