According to the World Health Organization and John Hopkins University tracking, as of May 26th, 2020, there are 5,370,375 confirmed cases and 344,454 deaths globally and more than 100,000 deaths across the U.S. The efforts to contain the pandemic that started only 6 months ago, have been widely criticized and have led to devastating economic problems, most acutely in the US 35,000,000 lost their employment, many businesses shut down and will likely fail, and the overall economy has seen the largest contraction in years and has added unprecedented debt to the federal government. Americans throughout the 50 states have been subjected to public health directives to stay at home, social distance, and wear masks to prevent the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus which is the cause of the COVID-19 disease. Fear and social distancing have created hardships and economic realities that are threatening the financial system. The efforts by the federal and state governments to address the pandemic have evoked partisan fighting. The political fallout has further exposed the polarization in our society, the lack of competence of the federal government, and the challenges of global political order. Although there has been an unprecedented collaboration among researchers, clinicians, and public health officials to identify the virus and to develop treatments to target it, the process to find evidence-based interventions to help patients and communities has been dangerously politicized.
In many ways, the once in a century COVID-19 pandemic has come to highlight the pathology of our current political moment, and expose the explosive unresolved tension that is part of the body politic. The pandemic amplifies and in many ways represents the many underlying challenges faced by the body politic of the United States. Social and grotesque levels of economic inequality, the consequences of systemic racism, has been aired for all to witness and experience without the option of denial.
How to make sense of the time we are living through? How to respond as citizens to the challenges and threats to our body politic at this time?
During the past 6 months, and more recently the horrific death of another African American citizen at the hands (knee) of the police and the uprising that grips the country. I followed like many millions of citizens in the US with fear of the response of the federal government so easily seeking to trample the provisions and spirit of the American social contract. When it comes to the COVID 19 pandemic, I have learned more about the stakeholders and the many efforts by the international, federal, state and local government, the mainstream and the social media, academicians, book authors, nonprofits, citizen groups, health care institutions, experts, law enforcement and stakeholders of all sorts to address the challenges associated with COVID 19. It is not for the absence of awareness of the challenge of lack of narratives and theories to explain the roots and persistence of the devastation of the pandemic. Nor is the response lacking a scientific understanding of the SARS-CoV-2 Virus or COVID 19 the fatal disease it causes, the political will to legislate or fund, the response to the pandemic. It is not due to the absence of a strategy and planning, data, resources, emerging best practices. In the past few months, Congress passed in bipartisan manner legislation to address the challenges related to COVID 19, allocating trillions of dollars to various programs and initiatives. Experiencing the massive protests underway to claim justice for GF and police practice in general, systemic racism, health care, and social inequality, I have come to realize that an understanding of the interconnected and complex bio-psycho-socio-political challenges of the COVID 19 pandemic and the related complex factors that drove the initial response to the pandemic is essential and the need for addressing the social stress and racial undercurrents of American life, I have come to believe that the COVID-19 pandemic and the nationwide protest are symptoms of and thus provides an opportunity to examine the larger disease of the US political system.
The systematic examination of the underlying pathology provides a framework to better understand our representative democracy and its institutions and the complex political process that defines our political system. Such a process may introduce ideas and tools to reclaim the role of the citizen within the political ecosystem. At this time of political polarization, lack of trust in government, the COVID-19 pandemic offers an opportunity to learn about how our government functions and how it gets corrupted in order to suggest strategies for citizens to be active in holding public servants accountable to carry out their duties. The possibility of leveraging the bipartisan and the public focus on better understanding the challenges facing our society, nation and to consider strategies to enhance our institutions and address the challenges facing our current and future citizens entering a world challenged with increasing social and economic divisions.
More specifically, the pandemic challenges us to understand our political DNA, a constitution written over 230 years ago, in order to provide meaningful solutions and ways to manifest them in the 21st-century world. But we must go beyond understanding the current condition associated with the COVID 19 pandemic. We must consider the social, economic, and psychological challenges that the pandemic amplified. To target the social, cultural changes facing an increasing number of Americans and are likely to contribute to the “death of despair” already part of American society. The journey is consistent with the importance that James Madison saw for public opinion in the constitutional architecture he and the other founders established. We seek solutions that address the challenges of the entire COVID 19 pandemic ecosystem. Most importantly we can use the process to utilize a pragmatic solution-focused approach to reclaim the role of the citizen within the body politic. The challenge we face is to engage in a process that will achieve the best outcome with acceptable unintended consequences. The effort will leverage aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic to better understand the corruption of the body politic. The overall goal is to use the COVID 19 crisis as a case study to better understand the political and social forces in our society and to better address the challenges facing our body politic. The process will lead to a crowdsourced document that reflects the case presentation approach, a tool for increased citizen engagement.
In order to have an impact on the various aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the toxic social fabric it has brought to the front of the national consciousness, it is essential to better understand and address the various drivers of the pandemic and their consequences. Exploring the COVID 19 pandemic with a complexity lens allows for a more comprehensive approach that includes identifying and addressing the many factors that impact the COVID 19 pandemic, including the political corruption, the corporate decision making, social determinants, public policy, systemic realities. These efforts must be informed by the economic, social, cultural, political, and spiritual factors that are the breeding ground for systemic pathology known to sustain and amplify the pandemic. The approach must address the complexity associated with the COVID 19 pandemic and the problem of pathogens in general by focusing on the entire COVID 19 ecosystem and target and hold accountable the various stakeholders and bring about systemic change.
What Can Be Done?
Setting up the Framework
Over the past decade, I have been on a personal journey exploring the role of the citizen within the body politic. Inspired by the contribution of James Madison to the development of the architecture of the US body politic, I have come up with a framework to deeply understand and engage within the political ecosystem. The overall goal is to use the COVID-19 pandemic project to better understand the political and social forces in our society and to better address the challenges facing our body politic. The process will lead to a crowdsourced document that reflects the case presentation approach, a tool for increased citizen engagement. The COVID-19 Pandemic Project, the current organizing approach, starts with a vision and context for the project, describes and introduces the framework, the Medical Case Presentation, and the initiation of a related process, the COVID 19 Pandemic Citizen Commission to test our hypothesis for citizen engagement. The framework process allows for establishing a shared vision, reliable and verifiable data and information, crowdsourced ideas and suggestions, transparency, and response to evolving reality. The project highlights the potential for citizen action, interest groups, citizen groups, individuals, non-governmental regulators, as well as public officials to impact the COVID-19 pandemic.
Step One: Sharing the strategic plan for the COVID 19 Pandemic Project and setting a timeline for its implementation.
Step Two: Developing the structure for crowdsourcing and building out the team for the project.
Step Three: Initiating the COVID 19 Pandemic Citizen Commission
Step Four: Reviewing and implementing The COVID 19 Case Presentation
Step Five: Weekly examination of the stakeholders and process associated with the COVID 19 ecosystem
Step Six: Health of the Nation Event to review the status of the challenges associated with COVID 19 and its related impact.
The 6-month-old COVID 19 pandemic sweeping the globe has exposed the severe pathology of the body politic. We are at a crossroads with many options on many levels for how to move forward. There are many suggestions on many political, social, economic levels.
There is a need for a citizen-oriented comprehensive plan to address the devastation and launch a project that uses a more complex narrative to provide a framework to understand the challenges, embrace the opportunities and combat the barriers that have given birth to and stymied meaningful treatment of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The time is now to develop a comprehensive strategy that addresses the interconnected challenges the pandemic poses and just as important to provide an exercise in citizen engagement.
The COVID 19 pandemic presents an excellent framework to test a “citizen-centric” approach to address the problems facing our national body politic that is informed by our constitutional framework and recognizes government corruption.
The project leverages the multitude of issues evoked by the COVID-19 pandemic and its management, to create a framework that tests an approach built on enhancing the role of citizens in our threatened democracy.
The project provides the rationale for and educates about the fundamental importance of public opinion in a democracy:
Provide a narrative that is more nuanced and complex, utilizing data and information focusing on potential solutions.
Provide tools and information to enhance the role of the citizen as part of the body politic and a framework for personal involvement interface with government at all levels. (Federal, State, Local communities)
Provide a framework for citizen opinion and communication (Citizen Commission) and the Medical Case Presentation
An evolving media framework that utilizes digital technology, crowdsourcing tools.
Explores through a citizen’s commission the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic using the complexity/ ecosystem lens using an approach that is based on the interconnected and complex bio-psycho-socio-political challenges of the pandemic.
The COVID 19 Pandemic Project is a grass root citizen driven undertaking to shape the current conversation and takes a deeper dive into the various stakeholders associated with the pandemic contextualized within the larger social, cultural, and political landscape.
Citizenism in Action: Overview and and the COVID 19 Project (Shrink the Government) Google Doc