Interesting times indeed

  • CHRIS COLLINS

Published: 3/26/2020 2:11:10 PM

By CHRIS COLLINS

May you live in interesting times.

Former Senate President Stan Rosenberg was always fond of trotting out that quote whenever things broke bad at the State House. It didn’t originate with him, but is believed by some to be an English translation of an ancient Chinese curse—which some have also come to classify this nasty little virus which has pretty much ground life as we know it to a halt.

I’m not going to begin to try and make sense of any of this, except to say that the initial stages of this “new normal” has revealed just how fragile our American system is, and how strong our resolve as a people can be in times of crisis. The latter has never been in question, but is being tested in a way not yet seen in many of our lifetimes.

The most obvious comparison is the days following September 11, 2001. We were never ordered by our government to stay at home during that time, but the economy took a pretty good whack as did our psyche as a nation. We were facing an invisible enemy back then too, and were also being led by a president a lot of people weren’t sure was up to the task.

My intent here is not to bash our current president. There are plenty of people doing that all over social media right now, but I’d be lying if I said I’ve been pumped full of confidence by his approach to this whole situation. Trump seems to be viewing this pandemic more through the prism of economic and political survival than that of public safety. Why else would he be calling for the country to reopen by Easter when pretty much every voice in the scientific community, including his own advisers, says that’s not realistic?

I get why the guy is a little freaked. The only card he had to play in this election was the economy, which is now in tatters and is likely to remain that way, regardless of the $2 trillion life preserver Congress is throwing at it. Couple that with what we see every time he steps to the podium, and the corresponding public reaction, and Trump’s got a real problem — one which could get exponentially worse if the Democrats decide to make a switch in their choice for president this year.

At this point, it would take something drastic to deny Joe Biden the Democratic nomination, but this pandemic may very well do the trick, assuming the effort to draft a certain northeastern governor begins to really take shape.

Say what you want about New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, but he has exhibited real leadership during this crisis. While Biden struggles to identify the current governor of our state—whom he referred to recently as “Charlie Parker” —  Cuomo on an almost daily basis exudes the kind of calm and mature approach we hope to see in a time of crisis. Every time that guy steps in front of a microphone it’s an ad for a “Draft Cuomo” movement which Democratic Party power brokers would be crazy not to at least consider.

Another guy for whom the “pandemic leader” cloak appears to fit nicely is the aforementioned Gov. “Parker,” a.k.a. Charlie Baker, who actually helped avert a potential local political sticky wicket in Greenfield regarding the city’s ordinance banning the use of single-layer plastic bags.

In Wednesday’s press conference where he announced that Massachusetts schools would remain out of session until May 4, Baker trotted out an executive order banning the use of reusable bags in grocery stores, at least temporarily. There were already a couple of city councilors and more than a few residents who questioned the idea of maintaining that ban, which could have set up a potentially nasty debate between opponents of the ordinance and the progressive councilors who fought so hard to enact it.

In this case, however, gubernatorial paper covered local rock, and Greenfield will get its plastic back, assuming there are any bags left to be had.

Another leader who is being tested by this crisis is new Greenfield Mayor RoxannWedegartner, who is doing her best to be a source of calm in a time where people are anything but. Like her counterparts on the regional and national level, Wedegartner is concerned about not only the health concerns, but also the economic impact of this pandemic.

“It could really be devastating,” Wedegartner said. “But the important thing is for people to be kind and look out for one another, and remember that Greenfield has faced tough times before and we always seem to rise to the occasion. I know we will this time.”

I pray that she’s right, for the sake of those who are fortunate enough to still be here when it’s all over.

Chris Collins has covered local and regional politics on a variety of media platforms for the better part of two decades. He can be reached at sourcechris.collins@gmail.com.

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