Friday, March 20, 2020

Ohio's Coronavirus Dream Team

L to R: Dr. Amy Acton, Gov. Mike DeWine, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted
Governor Mike DeWine, Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted, and a rising star in the medical world, Dr. Amy Acton.   The three of them have led the state ahead of the Coronavirus curve, shutting down almost everything - except, strangely, daycares.  Husted and Acton look like charismatic Hollywood stars you would pick to play their parts.  Husted is tall, handsome, athletic (one conference had him dressed in outdoor gear and a recreational vest), and Acton is an easy-on-the-eyes medical savant who is amiable and down to earth.  Both are able to communicate their expertise clearly, taking abstract government lingo and complex medical terminology and filtering it so that anyone can grasp what they are saying.

Governor DeWine, who has stood firm where former governor John Kasich often faltered, has been a pleasant surprise.  One might mistakenly see him and think of a hobbit in glasses.  Like hobbits, however, he has taken a surprisingly strong and resilient line on issues near and dear to conservative hearts, while also being willing to reach across the aisle when policy doesn't conflict with core morality.  Ahead of many US governors, he jumped out early on this, prepping the state for the radical steps about to be taken.  His decisive leadership and calm demeanor (with frequent suggestions passed to him from his wife, Fran) have been crucial in helping keep Ohians grounded. 

For most Ohioans across the political spectrum, they generally have been well received.  There is a feeling of confidence they exude, and I've not heard from many (save the usual suspects on both sides) who aren't at least happy with their leadership, even if they don't care for all their decisions.

For my part?  Some might protest that I was one of those skeptic types who admitted there is a virus and we should do things, but feared we're causing more harm than good.  Here's how I am.  There is a television series from the late 1990s based on the Forester book series Horatio Hornblower, starring a young Ioan Gruffudd.  It was an early cable version of 'limited release series', with initially four separate episodes directed by different directors.  A BBC production, it's top rate.

The third episode, titled in the US "The Duchess and the Devil", has Horatio and a handful of his men captured by the enemy and set up in a Spanish prison.  Among the various storylines is one subordinate, named Hunter, whose resentment and jealously of the young up and coming Horatio is obvious.  Horatio, being Horatio, is taking the long game: to escape will require much planning, thinking, and considering all options.  Hunter takes a more direct approach.  Whipping up suspicion of Hornblower's intentions among the men, he manages to rally them to his cause, and one day rises up and attempts to force his way out of the prison and into freedom.

It's a lost cause, and Horatio knows it.  Hunter had acted against direct orders, and suddenly they were rushing down the corridors, heading into a certain trap.  Again, the calm and level headed Horatio can see it all too clearly.  Nonetheless, when his men rally behind Hunter, Horatio grabs what weapons he can - and joins them.  It turns out to be futile.  Men, including Hunter, are shot, and the prison breaks collapses as soon as it began.  The prison's warden even admits he knows the foolish ploy couldn't have come from someone as smart as Horatio.  Nonetheless, Hornblower had joined the uprising because, well, that's what you do.

That's what I do.  Even though I believe we are likely overreacting, and it might even cause long term harm, it's what we are doing.  We had best join and do our part to help as many as possible, and see each other through.  Who knows? Perhaps we'll look beyond this and realize that our problems predated the latest viral outbreak.  After all, a nation where suicide is one of the leading causes of death for ten year olds is not a nation that should have needed a virus to kick it into gear.  In any event, I may protest, but when the team commits, unless it is to grave and intrinsic evil, find me more or less willing to jump in and try to help.

One final observation. Regarding our vaunted leadership team, it is worth noting that there are many others who join them on different days for Ohio's daily briefings.  One group is missing, however, and that's religious leaders.  While DeWine makes several references to Catholic saint days and Catholic devotions, there are no leaders representing religion in general, or Christianity in particular.  In fact, churches have been reduced to the same category as barber shops and restaurants - told to do what they are told to do and expected to comply.  I find that telling.   What's more, the fact that the churches immediately comply without demanding some presence in the decision making is even more telling, if not expected in our secular age.

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