Get America Well Again

Our virtues and our DNA...

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The heart of Americans is beating fast, our blood pressure is rising by the day. We must avoid a heart attack, especially when there is no doctor in charge — by slowing down and reflecting.

We are longing for calm. Fortunately, the COVID-19 lockdowns are giving some of us more time for calming activities and solitude.  Since the pandemic, I have started deep breathing exercises, which have a meditative effect.

As I write this, I have already planned to skip the third debate — my ballot has been mailed.  In the first debate, the two presidential candidates did not discuss any issue of significance or those that I wanted to understand.  Fortunately, the second one was canceled. 

I was also disappointed with Chris Wallace the moderator of the first debate.  He did not help us examine the goodness of America or how we can achieve meaningful progress. 

Not reading the headlines every day might be the first step in getting our pulses back to normal. 

We are agitated and anxious with the melodrama and with candidates throwing mud at each other.  

Mainstream media blames social media for sensationalizing news.   But it is also guilty of doing the same. By listening, watching, or reading sensational news, we run the risk of emulating what we hate.

We could start to return to wellness by ignoring conspiracy theories.

The power of a democracy lies in not just being able to express our opinions but also in considering outside views and finding a reason to compromise.  According to Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman, internal biases lead to consistently bad decisions.  Active listening to outside views reduces internal biases leading to better decisions.  It will take work to get there.

We could pull ourselves out of the elections fervor and debates and reground ourselves.  In an editorial published in the Wall Street Journal on Oct. 19, 2020,   Admiral William McRaven (retired) eloquently said, .. Black lives matter, the Dreamers deserve a path to citizenship, diversity and inclusion are essential to our national success, education is the great equalizer, the climate change is real and the First Amendment is the cornerstone of our democracy. Most importantly, America must lead in the world with courage, conviction and a sense of honor and humility.”

These noble goals are advanced by capitalism and economic pursuits, only when the innovation engine runs out of devotion to the trait; we manage to diffuse monopolistic behaviors; we build a trusted partnership between the public and private sector;  to rebuild America.  

The next step in the recovery will be to regain our strength and emerge stronger than before.

We do have good DNA.  Historically space programs, Defense Advanced Research Project Agency’s (DARPA) work, and the like have brought new advancements:

Eight Americans—four of whom were women—were awarded Nobel Prizes for 2020.  Their work attests to American innovativeness and perseverance.

Dr. Harvey Alter and Dr. Charles Rice in Chemistry for the discovery of the hepatitis-C virus. Incidentally Remdesivir — now used for COVID treatment  — was first discovered to treat Hep-C.

Dr. Reinhard Genzel and Dr. Andrea Ghez in Physics whose work on black holes has improved our understanding of the universe.

Dr. Jennifer Doudna in Chemistry for gene editing, “contributing to new cancer therapies and may make the dream of curing inherited diseases come true”.

Louise Glück in Literature, for the subtle emotions of human depth embedded in her poems.

Paul R. Milgrom and Robert B. Wilson in Economics for improving auction theory, making auctioning a science.

Reading about their work is invigorating and mentally healing.

The COVID-19 pandemic has placed the spotlight on healthcare.  The industry is hoping for the adoption of digital health, mission- rather than profit-driven care, and new medical initiatives — beyond cost-cutting or debating universal healthcare.  Some drug companies have announced that they will not enforce their patents on coronavirus vaccines during the pandemic.  The government and pharmaceutical companies are partnering on this front.

Systemic progress is often more difficult in a democracy, as it requires consensus building.

Privacy concerns have prevented us in aggressive contact tracing to prevent the spread of the virus, causing more deaths than necessary.   That is the price we have agreed to pay for the rights and privileges we earn in a democracy.

We may often achieve poorer results in the short term, but we drive with a long term vision in mind — a superior way — compared to autocracy.

America needs to heal so that we are reenergized to get to even bigger and better goals.

A strong economy is our reward for systemic reforms.  Talking about the economy before we debate substantive issues is putting the cart before the horse.

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10 comments

  1. Dominique Trempont Reply

    Back to a serene mind! Thank you for your calm widom!

  2. Micki Hidayatallah Reply

    The pandemic has taken 220,000 lives and destroyed our core economy.Our citizens are facing hunger,homelessness,unemployment and a deep sense of depression with no solutions in place except for temporary relief with a multi trillion dollar stimulus that our descendants will pay for.The media meanwhile keeps the score through out the day on deaths and new cases.My cousin Zia plays bridge.

    1. vinitagupta Reply

      Thanks for your thoughts.

  3. R K Agarwal Reply

    Nice article on corona virus scene in USA and her efforts and limitations, as a democracy, to win over the Corona war.

  4. Hemant Lall Reply

    Great wisdom in sorting out where our focus should be, and why, in these turbulent times.

  5. Preeti Reply

    Nice article

  6. Sramana Mitra Reply

    Hi Vinita, As usual, calm, sensible observations. You may want to look into the mental model research that Dominique shared recently.

    Daniel Kahneman’s System 1 / System 2 thinking models give us the insight that people are not really interested in changing their minds on anything.
    They’re more interested in operating within their comfort zones, whether that is Libertarian ideals (pandemic be damned), unconstrained meritocracy
    (poverty, hunger, lack of opportunity be damned), etc.

    So how do we change minds?
    How do we get past systemic biases of the reactive System 1 mode of thinking, and delve into a System 2 mode?
    Heck, most people have better things to do than allow their deep set mental models to be challenged.

    That requires getting past intellectual laziness.

    That requires opening your fundamental beliefs to examination.

    Very uncomfortable for most.

    1. vinitagupta Reply

      I am a fan of mental models, also.

  7. Prakash Reply

    I wonder what the objectives of healthcare are in the US. When I look at extensive health care data, not many parameters give me a sense that US healthcare is in the right place.
    https://www.healthsystemtracker.org/?sfid=4356&_sft_category=access-affordability,health-well-being,spending,quality-of-care

    Articles like these also appear every once in a while suggesting that all might not be well.
    https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/usa-jails-privatization/

    Compare that to 18th century India when Indian GDP was almost 1/3rd of world GDP, and where free variolation coverage was almost at a six-sigma level. Perhaps, the goals of healthcare need to be redefined in the US

    1. vinitagupta Reply

      US healthcare questions are reasonable.
      I believe the costs are very high, but the quality is good. The outcomes, as measured, are not as good enough.
      Outcomes are measured against countries that have universal healthcare which America does not. That may mean that when we take the average of all people, covered by health insurance or not, we do poorly.
      .