This is the week that Maine, and much of the rest of the nation, has begun to open up. Everyone out there seems to be wishing for, hoping for, a return to “some sort of normal,” even as we all realize “normal” is gone for good, and even as we realize we might not be ready.

Brunswick resident Heather D. Martin wants to know what’s on your mind; email her at [email protected]

There has been a lot, and I do mean a lot, of discussion on this topic lately. New unemployment figures have everyone, self included, in a state of deep anxiety. Elsewhere there are dire predictions about “the end of the small business” and how this virus will actually benefit the mega-rich, who will be poised to swoop in and buy up all the foreclosed-upon spaces, taking ever more control over the economy – and our lives. Our leaders, those who took an oath of office and whose top priority I always assumed to be the welfare of the populace, are now making clear they are willing to sacrifice lives – our lives and the lives of people we love – for the sake of the stock market.

The virus is real. Real and largely outside our control. We are still trying to understand this thing that behaves in unexpected and baffling ways. We just have to rely upon the doctors, nurses and scientists, who are doing an amazing job of using science and evidence-based research to map it, counter it, and figure out our collective next move. I thank them.

Our response to the virus, however, is what we make it. We can choose to be angry that it is happening and lash out on ways unproductive and ultimately quite dangerous. Or we can get serious about working together to pull us all through. We can wash our hands (please), maintain social distance and don a mask when we go out, even if we don’t think we are sick. We can also stop pretending that the financial situation is an “either/or.” It’s not. It couldn’t be if it tried. As so eloquently stated by someone much smarter than I on NPR last Wednesday, we use the gross domestic product and other financial indicators as a measure of our nation’s health. But we are the economy. The people.

Exactly.

We, the people, are, literally and figuratively, the point of this nation and we the people are the economy. This virus will continue to claim lives. But, callously allow this in the pursuit of the almighty dollar and you will find that dollar worthless. In both emotional and global economic terms.

The dire fiscal straits exist only if we allow them to. The whole world is in this mess together. Other nations are experimenting with bold, visionary strategies such as a guaranteed living wage, mortgage freezes, etc., and they are working. Some are in the early trial stages and might fail. That’s the nature of bold experiments. Some fail. But many will succeed. We can learn from them and collaborate, too.

We know how to do this. Generations before us drew the maps. We know how to tighten our belts and band together, we can once again make “Stay Calm and Carry On” more than a slogan on a tea towel. If we put what matters most at the top of the list, we cannot fail but to emerge from this wiser, bolder, more compassionate, and ready to create a brighter shared future.

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