"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness ..."
"A Tale of Two Cities" is arguably one of the greatest books ever written. Its powerful opening makes Charles Dickens appear prescient; his masterwork, set during the tumultuous French Revolution, is just as relevant in the present moment as it was when he wrote it in 1859.
We live in extremely challenging times. If you are like me, you are poorer, more tired and far more uncertain and insecure about the future than you were at the start of 2020. Also, like me, if you are reading this, you are alive.
As long as we live, there is hope that tomorrow will be better than today. My Aunt Bev used to always smile optimistically in challenging times and say, "Sunday morning is coming." Sunday morning, it seems, was her reference to hope renewed as one week closed and a new week began.
The onset of covid-19 has turned our world upside down. As I write this, there have been more than 12 million cases of the virus reported in the United States, and more than 255,000 Americans have lost their lives to this illness, including nearly 2,300 Arkansans.
The data demonstrates we are standing on the knife's edge of a serious covid-19 outbreak. While numbers are stabilizing or shrinking in other countries, they are still climbing here. The United States is experiencing between 100,000 and 150,000 new cases per day as we head into the heart of flu season, with Arkansas experiencing its own spike in cases.
But it also true that the vast majority of Americans have recovered from the virus, including more than 100,000 Arkansans. We have been very fortunate as well to have had more than 1.5 million negative tests in Arkansas alone. Despite what the bulk of media coverage would have you believe, there is hope and cause for optimism, even in the midst of this pandemic. The best news is there are several effective vaccines coming.
Having said that, far too many people still do not believe the virus is real, or they see it as something that will not impact them personally. This is an especially dangerous tipping point as most of us who have been cooped up at home now hear the tempting siren song of a traditional holiday season filled with parties and other gatherings. Those factors can create the perfect storm for new virus spread, more lives lost and extending the duration of covid-19's dominion over our lives.
This is not an impossible situation. We have the power to stem the tide of infection and defeat this virus. President Bill Clinton famously said, "There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America."
Previous generations have defeated far more difficult threats. We are the people who drove the British monarchy from our shores after eight years of the Revolutionary War. Our forefathers put this great nation back together after a four-year civil war where brother fought brother and 618,000 Americans died.
We scrapped and worked till our fingers bled and our backs ached to rebuild our economy after the Great Depression left 12 million Americans without work. Americans rationed food, gas and other necessities for half a decade during World War II to defeat fascism.
Today, we are a nation at war once again: Covid-19 has invaded our nation. It is an invisible enemy because a person can carry it to others despite having no symptoms. The virus closes our businesses, takes our jobs, sickens our brethren and kills our neighbors.
We cannot stick our heads in the sand and pretend the threat is not real. We must not selfishly think of only ourselves and hoard commodities and walk around as if we are invincible. The "age of foolishness" toward this threat must end.
An individual's responsibilities in fighting this virus are simple, requiring the type of common "sacrifices" the Greatest Generation would find laughable: Wear a mask in public, keep your distance from others, wash your hands and use common sense.
This virus is real. Let's band together and make these modest changes for the sake of our fellow Arkansans.
These truly are the "worst of times," because for the majority of us, these have been the hardest times of our lives. But these are also the "best of times," because these are the only times we have. Our future will be great. But to build that bright future we must offer up our best selves.
Sunday morning is coming. It is up to us to decide how long it takes to get here.
Sylvester Smith is an alumni of the Huckabee administration, and a frequent contributor to Fox News. He presently serves as a business consultant, attorney and lobbyist, representing clients such as the National Federation of Independent Business and the Arkansas Outdoor Advertising Association.