By David Taub
Abraham Lincoln, perhaps our greatest President, clairvoyantly said: “United we stand; divided we fall.”
At no time since the destructive divide that infected the United States and plunged the country into a devastating Civil War has our country been more politically and philosophically divided than at the present moment. Lincoln’s advice is more meaningful now than ever before.
It is no exaggeration to say we are at war against the insidious enemy named COVID-19. It is of paramount importance to learn and benefit from lessons gleaned from past failures lest we be doomed to repeat them, at great cost in human capital.
Every citizen has the power to take his/her own destiny in their own hands. To avoid a catastrophic and unnecessary loss of lives, every person must join together in the battle against the mass invasion of COVID-19. If we cannot unite together, then be assured countless Americans will needlessly perish.
The essential, albeit painful path forward has been paved by the courageous accurate advice of our leading health experts — Drs. Fauci and Birx stellar among them. Each of us who foolishly fails to heed their clarion call to hunker down and avoid contact with others, endangers not only their own lives but the lives of others. No greater crime can be done to our kinsmen.
The citizenry has a critical role to play in the interface between those who are elected to govern and those who are governed by them.
No less a founder of our American democratic experiment than Thomas Jefferson made this observation centuries ago: “I know no safe depositor of the ultimate powers of society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion.”
And so, the democratic process cannot be effective absent the necessary and sufficient role of a knowledgeable and engaged electorate, no less so than the critical necessity that our leadership be likewise enlightened and unified.
The duty of citizenship to be informed has been a central pillar of the evolution of “Western” democracy since its inception. Today, the duty of a united citizenship is more important than ever.
Citizens have a civic responsibility to be well “enlightened” about, and engaged in, the activities of their government. It is a duty as old as the Athenian invention of “democracy” as a formula for living in a civilized and healthy society.
Belatedly, but finally, our national leaders have now come face to face with the brutal reality of the nation-wide pandemic of COVID-19. This virus plays no favorites; it is an equal opportunity, virulently infectious enemy and it does not discriminate between gender, race, or political inclinations.
Everyone is at risk. Many thousands of our citizens have already died — many tens of thousands, nay perhaps hundreds of thousands will perish in the coming weeks. At last Tuesday night’s White House briefing, the devastating reality of what this country faces in the next few months came crashing down like an atom bomb on our national leadership.
At last, that reality has finally been laid naked, front and center, to a public starving for accurate scientific facts and not wishful dreaming. A singular message is that we citizens must unite to fight this plague; there is no other route to victory.
And so, we have the civic and moral duty to ourselves, our neighbors, and especially our heroic health care providers to do what must be done. As a country united we have done so many times before. We alone hold the key to minimizing the unnecessary loss of life.
We have proved before that we can do this; let us now join together as one — E Pluribus Unum — so that it becomes our national mantra yet again.
For the sake of our country, hunker down, physically stay away from others, be a good citizen.
It is not a hyperbolic exaggeration that our very lives are at stake. DO THE RIGHT THING AND DO IT NOW.
David M. Taub was Mayor of Beaufort from 1990 through 1999, and served as a Beaufort County Magistrate Judge from 2010 to 2015. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.