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Embracing our interdependence

A letter from the editors: Embracing our Interdependence

In a country born out of the notion of individualism, our greatest strength can actually be our interdependence.

“In these uncertain times.” It’s a nonsensical phrase we’re hearing a lot recently. There’s an assumption built into those words that when things “get back to normal,” the future will seem certain once again. But, we never truly know what the future holds. And for most of our citizens, “normal” life was already filled with uncertainty.

While we might not know what lies on the road ahead, we can be better prepared, and prepared in a way that acknowledges that we all benefit when we consider everyone’s needs more fairly.

If these times have revealed anything, it’s that our systems were held together with – to borrow a phrase from our rural past – chewing gum and baling wire. We’ve seen how the coronavirus is having an unequal impact on the health of people whose work puts them on the front lines and whose medical plans may be inadequate or non-existent.

And, we see that federal aid is thus far only perpetuating problems we had even before the crisis, which is that access to entrepreneurship is not equal among different constituencies. Starting and growing a business is a lot harder for women, people of color, and rural residents who have steeper challenges in navigating red tape and lining up capital, but we’re seeing the potential for the same kind of problems playing out again with the Paycheck Protection Program.

The crisis is also shining a light down into the depths of the chasm that is the digital divide. While educators are valiantly trying to keep their students engaged in their homes, the lack of adequate technology in many residences is only causing some children to fall farther behind while schools are shut down. Even prior to the current crisis there was a homework gap. Pew research showed that 15% of U.S. households with school-age children do not have a high-speed Internet connection at home and 45% of students in households with income less than $30,000 a year were doing homework on a phone, due to lack of access to a computer connected to the Internet.

We’re dependent on the entrepreneurs who stoke our economic fires and the students who are our future workers and leaders. And they are dependent on our support. So, we ask the question, “What if we rebuild better?”

In a country born out of the notion of individualism, our greatest strength can actually be our interdependence. We can remain strong individuals while also building stronger schools, stronger businesses, a stronger economy, stronger infrastructure and systems, and a stronger nation.

We’ve weathered crises before: We rallied around the flag after 9/11 and recovered from the 2008 recession. Humans are nothing if not creative and adaptable. But, human nature being what it is, we’ve quickly reverted back to the comfort of belonging to our teams, parties, states, and countries. What if, instead, we accepted that, along with our need to compete, is a need to cooperate – for our own good and for the good of humanity?

For a while now, we’ve been saying that the world is getting smaller, but recent events are proving that out, to our grim detriment. We can no longer ignore the fact that how we live on one side of the planet has an impact on the other side. And, if that’s the case, why would we overlook the interconnectedness we have with people across the country, or even the other side of town?

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