The virus has spread; and the world is different now. I don’t need to even say it’s name anymore, you already know what I’m talking about.

What began as a few reports of a strange new disease in a far away place has since spread it’s tendrils all across the globe. Cases continue to grow with each passing day, and countries continue to sacrifice their economies and aspects of daily life in the name of precautionary methods. It’s everywhere you look; on TV, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and every other platform you browse on a daily basis. It’s not just on the digital stratosphere anymore either; you need only look out your window to see the effects firsthand.

And you’re probably doing that quite a lot nowadays, as more and more states and countries begin to implement quarantines and stay-at-home orders. The neighborhood kids don’t play at the park anymore. You don’t see church parking lots filled on Sundays, or theatres packed with moviegoers. You can’t even go out and eat at a restaurant with your family anymore, and no one seems to know how long it’s going to last.

Many people have lost their jobs or at least had their income severely hampered by the measures put into place. As congress scrambles to try and develop some sort of stimulus package to shield the economy, people have begun hoarding supplies and locking themselves at home with their families. The stock market has plunged to the lowest depths since the great depression, and business after business has fallen on the verge of bankruptcy.

I suppose I’m one of the lucky ones whose job was deemed essential, and thus have continued to work throughout this pandemic. My income has of course been negatively affected, as my job hinges upon people driving – which many no longer are.

As I drive the streets of Portland late into the night, I can’t help but notice how quiet everything has become. Bars and clubs that once packed to the brim on weekends now stand desolate, and the streets are void of commuters. It’s like I’ve entered some dystopian novel, with a slow rolling apocalypse shutting down our world one thing after another. The city has never been so quiet, and although somewhat serene, it’s also eerie to behold.

I used to dread Tuesdays and Thursdays; as those were normally the days of the Portland Trailblazers home games. The highways would become congested with fans and people just trying to get home, but since the NBA – along with all major sports leagues have shutdown there is nothing. I never thought I’d miss rush hour – and I still really don’t, but under the circumstances I’m beginning to wonder whether this trade off is worth it.

The weirdest part about all of this is how quickly it happened. One day it was just a report from halfway around the world, and now everything is shut down. Me and my household were luckily a bit ahead of the curve when it comes to stocking up on supplies, as it’s something we’ve done for years, but even we have noticed how difficult finding toilet paper has been of late.

I can never decide whether I’m overreacting to all this, or if I’m not doing enough to prepare myself. The contradictory mishmash of news, facts and reports spouted from all networks and outlets are almost maddening at times. Many reports claim this is the worst crisis since the black plague, while others are convinced this is all some massive overreaction. History will be the judge in this regard, but that doesn’t help us now.

One particular trend that has me worried is exactly how much people seem willing to sacrifice to combat this disease. Local legislation has already locked down countless jurisdictions across the U.S., and the National Guard has even been deployed in what could rightfully be considered implementations of Martial law.

More worrying is the reports of ‘ghost bills’ attempting to be pushed through congress involving everything from firearm restrictions to diversity quotas. A democratic strategist by the name of Rahm Emanuel was famously quoted as saying, ‘never let a crisis go to waste’. I do my best to refrain from falling into the trap of right-left dichotomy in this country, but this time you really can’t ignore it.

The most notorious and perhaps egregious example of this was speaker of the house, Nancy Pelosi shooting down a stimulus bill intended to bring relief money to Americans all across the country. If this bill had been vetoed on the grounds of fiscal or scarcity justifications than I could understand that. After all, the last thing we should all want is to sabotage the economy for decades to come, but the problem is this wasn’t the reason it was rejected.

It was rejected, and then subsequently re-proposed on what was essentially the same bill with a bunch of specialty interest demands. I’m not naïve enough to not realize that this happens all the time in politics, but in this particular instance it is nothing short of treacherous. We are in the midst of a global catastrophe and worldwide recession, and now is not the time for discussion on semantics. Blocking a relief bill in this regard is the equivalent of holding the American people at gunpoint to pass legislation that you know would never be otherwise passed.

Like I said earlier, I’ve continued working and will continue working for as long as I am able in this crisis. I’m not in desperate need for a bailout, but I know that many Americans are through no fault of their own. I have countless friends who have lost their source of income because of this, and people cannot wait forever. The longer you withhold aid for those affected by this, the more desperate people will become.

There’s no question that there are authoritarian measures currently at work. The excuse always used is all of this is only temporary, but is it? No one seems to know how long we are supposed to live like this. And if you’re going to tell me that civil rights infringements in times of crisis are always repealed after things have returned to normal, I’d ask you to take a look at the Patriot Act passed by the Bush administration after the 9-11 attacks.

It’s very difficult to repeal a law once it’s accepted as a measure of safety. Time goes on and people adapt to the new norm as they just desire to get back to their lives. This crisis is not just one of health and financial repercussions, it is also one of spiritual. This crisis and how we react to it, will be something that will define our countries and our world for the foreseeable future.

It may sound grandiose, but this is a pivotal moment in history for all of us. Will we triumph onward in these uncharted waters with the that stereotypical American bravado? Or will we let the powermongers who seek to further tighten the noose of control around our throats lay the ground work for a tyrannical future? Those who give up freedom for safety deserve neither, and the things we do in the coming months will determine the course this country follows for decades to come.

Despite how desperate things may seem now, I remain optimistic for the future. These last few months I’ve seen people come together in beautiful ways as we all suddenly face a common enemy. It’s cliché I know, but we are all truly in this together.

At the risk of sounding callous, not everything that’s happened has been entirely negative. Carbon emissions are way down, the price of fuel is low, people are helping one another and even washing their hands regularly. Obviously, these things do not in any way compare to the loss of life that has been endured, and they in no way justify it either. The point to be made is this: our world is changing rapidly before our very eyes, and this is our chance to improve things.

Even before this pandemic began, there were others plaguing our society. The opiate crisis has ravaged this country for years, while the rates of suicide continue to climb. Wages have largely stagnated, and many industries are in desperate need of an overhaul. We face many problems, but over the last few weeks I have seen people rise up to the challenge. The usual bickering and partisan divisiveness have largely taken a backseat to the more serious issues that we now face. If we want to truly create a better, more productive world that allows people of all walks of life to prosper and revitalize the American dream, then now is the time to put the pieces in motion.

Perhaps now the trade industries which have been clamoring for more workers for years will now be looked at in a new light. The fact that so many have lost their source of income may cause renewed interest in lines of work that may not seem glamorous on the surface, but as this crisis has illustrated – are all but recession proof. Working from home may now become the new norm for countless Americans, as the safest and perhaps most desirable form of work.

The truth is, Covid-19 has struck our world hard, but not as hard as something could’ve. All the info I’ve seen seems to indicate that it carries somewhere between a .25% – 2.5% fatality rate. Infection rate seems to be nearly triple that of the common flu, but of course, we won’t know all the details for a while to come.

Whatever the case, we are better equipped from a medical standpoint to fight this, than our ancestors were who faced the Spanish flu or even the black plague. We got lucky that this strain is not particularly deadly, but it may not always be that way. This crisis has illustrated what many scientists and biologists have been saying for years: we need to be better prepared for potential pandemics.

It is my hope that this event will force necessary changes onto society. Changes to help aid struggling Americans, revitalize our crumbling infrastructure and set a new standard for the economy. It’s not going to be easy, but nothing worth doing ever is. This outbreak is a challenge to our spirit as Americans, and now is our time to rise to the occasion and help one another as fellow Americans. This is the true American dream – a sense of comradery, community and a future we can all work on together to achieve; and it’s time for it to be reborn.

It’s a scary time to be alive, and reports lately seem to indicate that things are going to get worse. It’s wise now to not panic, and stock up on supplies that you’re going to need. At this point we are in the thick of the storm , and all we can do in the meantime is hunker down.

I wish I had the knowledge to concretely form a conclusion about this, but the eb and flow of the endless news cycle and conflicting reports has me as torn as anyone. For now, I think it’s wise to do as has been suggested. Wash your hands, keep your distance, and spend money only on things you need. Here’s to hoping this doesn’t go on too long, and that in the end we emerge as a better, stronger society with a renewed sense of who we are and what we’re here to do.

Stay safe everyone, this too shall pass.