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Are we dire yet?

Are we dire yet? Are we dire yet?

Dear Fred.

Hello again future reporter Fred, I hope things are doing well with you in the year 2120. Send my regards to the editor that is forcing you to write the centennial retrospective for the anniversary of the COVID-19 crisis.

In the days before radio and satellite communications, naval ships on the open seas would use flags and other symbols to share messages and warnings. Among the many flags and messages, the most dire is to hang the national flag upside down. This signals the ship is in great distress.

My dad was a Navy veteran and for the past few years every letter or card we received from him had the American flag stamp turned upside down because he feared America was foundering.

I was thinking about this over the past week as I sat through the Medford City Council meeting where aldermen were debating the issuance of a city state of emergency and then again a few days later when the Taylor County Board held a special meeting to declare its own state of emergency.

To give some perspectives, generally these declarations come in the wake of a natural disasters such as severe storms and work to streamline government action to allow for a nimble response to ever-changing situations.

The discussion was intense at these meetings, not over whether they thought the declarations were needed, but to guarantee that democracy, oversight and public accountability would not be lost along the way. If the Republic exists in name only after a disaster, then we have truly lost everything.

On Tuesday, Gov.. Tony Evers put the state on a “Safer at Home” order through much of April. The concern throughout the crisis is that we keep infection rates to levels that are manageable by medical resources. You reading this a century from now will have a better idea of how well we did.

People who choose to live in places like Taylor County, do so because for the most part they want to be left alone and are self-reliant. These are admirable traits, but they are challenged when facing an invisible foe and are told the best defense is to hunker down and wait out the storm. The call to inaction chafes on the very nature of people in the region and for some the call for caution reeks of cowardice.

Unite Americans behind a single vision and there is nothing that can stand in our way. The challenge in the current crisis, is not trees blocking roadways, or houses that need to be rebuilt — we would already be out with chainsaws and hammers if that were the case. Instead the current crisis is battling an all-but-invisible enemy that may hitch a ride on any door handle where victory won’t be met with parades, but with people quietly returning to lives put on hold.

Future Fred, you, with the foresight of history, would have a better guess as to if the flag belongs upside down at this time.

For myself, I am not so sure.

There is no doubt America and our local communities face an unprecedented challenge. The crisis will have a defining impact on a generation. The economic aftereffects will be felt for years to come, forever altering the idea of business as usual. For whatever their flaws, I feel we have leaders that will help see us through this rough patch, whether they are those at the helm now or who will step forward because there is a need.

We are walking a tightrope and depend on leadership, not only at the state and national level, but within our own communities and families, to stand united. I keep a pair of small American flags on my desk at work, the gift of a long-past group of Cub Scouts who visited the newspaper office to fulfill a rank requirement.

Brian Wilson is News Editor at The Star News.