Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.
As a senior, school and campus closures have been especially difficult to process and cope with. For anyone in college, these closures may mean a loss of freedom as many of us return to our parents’ homes to do online classes in the room we grew up in. It feels weird, to say the least, to have been on campus one moment, and packing up my apartment the next.
But what can we do, other than be sad, social distance and zone out during Zoom classes in our hometowns? We can learn. As much as it’s important to let yourself grieve and be sad, it’s equally important to push forward. We’ve spent our time at the University of Maryland learning, trying to uncover the truths of the world (some of us, at least), so let’s learn from this, too.
So, what are we learning from the world around us right now? For one, our national government is failing us — from 2016 to now, President Trump has wreaked havoc on our nation, culminating in this disaster. Even if we’re privileged enough to not be extremely affected by our federal government’s daily actions, we’re all affected by this pandemic. And with lacking federal insistence on social distancing and making tests widely available from the beginning, our national government’s inaction has made the virus more likely to spread.
Federal failures have also shown us the detrimental consequences of refusing to mandate paid sick leave, an adequate national minimum wage and health care for all. This pandemic has also highlighted the ways that state governments have to make up for the gaps in federal action, as shown by Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s proactive and critical response to the spread of COVID-19 in our state.
As Trump proceeded to do essentially nothing to respond to the situation — previously telling people that the situation was “under control” — Hogan shut down dine-in for restaurants, paused evictions and utility cut-offs and advised the University System of Maryland to move classes online for the remainder of the semester. And, to support local restaurants, small businesses and nonprofits during this time, he implemented an economic relief package.
Personally, I feel helpless and out of control right now — but it won’t be like that forever. Soon enough, some of us will be the policymakers, health care providers, landlords and grocery store owners making decisions that affect countless people across this nation and the world. Don’t go in blind — you’ve seen firsthand what profit-driven decision making has meant for the spread of this virus and its fatalities, and this might not be the last time we’ll have to endure a situation like this.
So, in between bouts of crying and your 9 a.m. Zoom lecture, take a moment to pay attention. Watch how university administration is responding, how long it takes Trader Joe’s to offer workers hazard pay, what grocery stores are providing special hours for high-risk shoppers — know that there is always a way to put people over profit as we move forward as future leaders.
There are so many injustices in our world, our nation and even on our campus, and we’re also the next generation of leaders, here to fix it. We lost something these last few weeks that needs to be grieved, but make no mistake — this may feel like the end, but it’s just the beginning.
Liyanga de Silva is a senior English and women’s studies major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.