Och Tamale Summer 2021 - University of Redlands

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Post-pandemic future

“How do we use what we’ve learned during this pandemic to be more inclusive, to come together and support one another with compassion?” —Professor of Political Science Althea Sircar According to Professor of Political Science Althea Sircar, this is no accident. “During 2020, we saw opposite sides framing the [political] conflict as existential,” she says. She notes that, to the right, left-wing politics represented a threat to “America as a nation of white people and white masculinity in general.” People on the left used similar language, saying rightwing policies threatened people of color, LGBTQ+, immigrants, and those of different religious identities. “What causes people to take politics seriously is a sense that their personal existence is implicated in some way,” she says. “The pandemic was already an existential threat to all human beings because it is so deadly, so there was a sense of heightened urgency.” A key question, says Sircar, is how seriously people will take the consequences of the pandemic: Once vaccines are widely available, many underlying issues—economic and racial inequality, structural change in the economy, health disparities, access to education—remain. “The pandemic offers this moment to ask, ‘What have we learned that we want to build on?’ How do we use what we’ve learned during this pandemic to be more inclusive, to come together and support one another with compassion? It would be really sad if this experience, which is something that we all hold in common, ended up driving us farther apart.”

The way forward Krueger, for one, hopes reassessments from the pandemic lead to public-health innovations. “There is room for hope,” he says. “A large reason the U of R Health, Medicine, and Society program has been successful is that there’s a greater general awareness of the way many factors work together to contribute to health. It isn’t just a question of the individual. That recognition can have some pretty profound effects if it translates into action for communities.” Interim College of Arts and Sciences Dean Steve Wuhs, a professor of political science, addresses the divides in our society: “Do we need to heal? Yes. But healing isn’t a passive process; it is about rebuilding trust and confidence in one another so that we have a common set of assumptions and understandings about democracy, about science and expertise, about how elections work, and about civil rights.” While acknowledging many economic challenges, Jensen hopes that this year has resulted in moments of personal and professional reflection and inspiration. She notes periods of disruption can encourage people to try new things, whether that is switching careers, going back to school, reprioritizing how to spend time, or finding new ways to approach old problems. “Things have changed in the past,” she says. “The country doesn’t always stay the same—politics shift, policy shifts. We can always do something different. We can reimagine ourselves.” OT