Dean of Academic Affairs and Professor of Government Dr. Mark Mitchell discussed how we should go about living our lives amidst a national crisis in his lecture titled “Power, COVID-19, and Little Platoons.”
“A crisis is valuable: it can reveal things, both good and bad about us individually, and about a people, and about a nation,” Mitchell said. Times of crisis bring dangers that threaten the normalcy of our lives, but they also mold us into stronger individuals.
“I think this provides a moment for us to consider the ideas that animate many of us, that serve to shape and motivate us culturally, that have come to constitute what some might call ‘the worldview of many,’” Mitchell said. “It provides an opportunity to reflect on who we are, what we should be.”
Each opportunity that Mitchell presents is born out of difficulty and struggle, but each informs us on how we can learn to go on living after social distancing guidelines are lifted…
1. Reflect on What it Means to Be Human
When a pandemic devastates nation after nation, it causes us to be confronted with our mortality. “Whenever we are, as individuals and as a people, compelled to think seriously about our own mortality, that’s a good thing,” Mitchell said.
When life is normal and easy, we want to distract ourselves from thinking about how fragile we are. Such conditions make us feel in control of our lives. But when we are distracted by the temporal joys of life, we forget what it means to be human.
“[Situations like COVID-19] compel us to think seriously about what it means to be a human, to think seriously about the value of human life, to reground our thinking and our vocabulary about human being in the language of inherent dignity ultimately rooted in the fact that we are, all of us, created in God’s image,” Mitchell said.
2. Rethink Our Relationship With Neighbors
Everyone is affected by this pandemic. With others hurting from the loss of a loved one or substantial job, it is vital to reconsider how we care for others. “We have here the opportunity as believers to practice the virtue of generosity,” Mitchell said.
The Christian should not be preoccupied with inaction, but embrace charity and love for his or her neighbor. Mitchell described the importance of what Edmund Burke called “little platoons.” The cultivation of virtues that inform the character and ultimately, the unity of a nation, rests in the effectiveness of these family units.
“The little platoon[s]… ultimately are grounded in love, habits, and practices that are shaped in the home, the neighborhood, the local church, the community,” Mitchell said. During this time of change and uncertainty, we must reconsider and reconnect to these “elemental loves” that the love of country is founded upon.
3. Open Our Hearts to Gratitude
“All of us can be better in touch with this sense of gratitude when we become once again aware of the fragility of all that we hold,” Mitchell said. We are more inclined to hold dear those things that have been robbed from us.
Before COVID-19 hit our nation, we enjoyed the liberty of interaction, mobility, health, and a stable economy among other blessings. Now, with those things being threatened, we must “turn our hearts and our minds to gratitude,” Mitchell said.
“We have an opportunity here to recognize that we have been gifted with many beautiful things… these good things can be seen as an inheritance; something that was given to us unbidden,” Mitchell said. When we slowly regain a sense of normalcy, we should treasure the once mundane blessings of life.
We are all longing for the day that we can go to the grocery store without a mask, shake people’s hands, have dinner with friends, go to work at the office, and other normal activities. We long for this freedom. But “a free society is not natural; it’s an historical anomaly,” Mitchell said.
Perhaps the best preparation for the future, is to embrace the here and now, letting it mold us into better individuals and a better nation.
“This indeed is the source of our hope,” Mitchell said. “May God, in His mercy, give us the wisdom, the strength, and the courage to faithfully live out the truth in this particular time to which He has called us.”
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