Daniel Suddeath

We have reopened, but the masked shoppers pushing carts past half-empty shelves on the paper goods aisle in the grocery remind us that we’ll be living with this pandemic for quite some time to come.

It really was inevitable from the start. Historically, pandemic-level viruses don’t go away just because of election cycles. We can’t hope and pray them away. We are better equipped in terms of technology, health and science to grapple with this virus than at any other time in human history, but here in the U.S., the same spirit that won our independence threatens our future.

We didn’t become the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave by being passive. We didn’t much appreciate colonial rule, so we waged war and sent the British packing.

About a century later, we began ridding ourselves of the sin of slavery by fighting each other — American vs. American.

Fast-forward another 160 years and we’ve taken to the streets to protest systemic racism. Other countries have followed our example, but it’s we who took the lead. Threats to freedom, equality and decency aren’t accepted (except by some extreme elements who quite frankly get way too much attention from the press, social media and agenda-driven politicians) in this country, and we don’t mind shutting down some streets, or even a bridge, to prove it if that’s what it takes.

But that engrained autonomy — the heart of Americans — works against our better interests when it comes to the coronavirus. As Dr. Anthony Fauci said back in March, “You don’t make the timeline, the virus makes the timeline.”

We can’t protest away the pandemic. We can’t fight it, we can’t vote it out, and we can’t control it through hard work, or religion, or government structure.

These cornerstone beliefs of our country play right into the spread of the pandemic.

We don’t like being told what to do. We’re fiercely opposed to too much government interference. We don’t appreciate having our structural balance thrown off by some unseen enemy.

We’d rather fight it on the battlefield, or rally against it in the streets, or pray it away in church. But that’s not working with this virus. Instead, we need to listen to experts, take precautions, and stay away from each other as much as possible.

We need to get on board with government suggestions about social distancing and wearing masks, and that’s just not in our DNA as a society. We want to be tough, rugged and independent — not caught up in a herd mentality where we fall in line with what the masses expect us to do.

Think back to middle school. You would, if you were like me back then, be disappointed that adult-you decided to wear a mask just because you were told to do so. Where’s your rebel spirit?

But we grow as humans, hopefully, and we realize that sometimes the bravest action we can take is to sacrifice for the greater good. Also, wouldn’t middle school-you probably have thought it would be pretty, oh what’s the word, we’ll go with “rad,” to wear a mask inside a store?

It’s completely understandable. We are Americans and we don’t take orders too well. But this is a fight unlike any that we’ve waged during our lifetimes. We haven’t lived through a pandemic like this one, and these times require sacrifices that would normally go against our better judgment.

But the numbers don’t lie (unless you’re one who thinks hospitals are inflating COVID-19 numbers to get some extra funding from the government. In that case, you’re probably reading the wrong publication.). We were told by some that the virus would wane as the weather heated up, but it hasn’t. Thankfully the death toll isn’t as high as originally projected, either, but that’s because many of you have stepped up, stayed at home, washed your hands, and worn a mask. Those actions may be why you’re here today to witness one of the most historical years of the past century.

My fear is that we’re opening back up too soon, though I completely understand the reasons. Those who condemn businesses for wanting to reopen often don’t take into account the financial losses this virus has inflicted upon so many people.

So if you’re like almost all of us and don’t want to see schools closed, businesses shut down and people out of work, it’s time for you to toughen up.

Wear that mask even if people look at you funny or make a comment about you. Words don’t save lives, actions do.

Our desire for independence has largely shaped our country. Our willingness, or lack thereof, to cooperate as a whole will be what either sustains us, or breaks us.

Daniel Suddeath is the Senior Reporter for the News and Tribune. He can be reached at, or by calling 812-206-2152. Follow him on Twitter @DsuddeathNT.

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