mclachlin1_FRANCOIS LO PRESTIAFP via Getty Images_covid vaccine manufacture Francois Lo Presti/AFP via Getty Images

The COVID Revolution

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need to revitalize postwar institutions, address shortcomings in democratic governance, and launch a global attack on the virus. Ending the pandemic and building a better future will, above all, require the world to develop new norms to replace worn-out, insular beliefs.

OTTAWA – In December 1862, in the throes of the American Civil War, which pitted the norms of slavery against the norms of freedom, US President Abraham Lincoln presented his emancipation plan to Congress. “The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present,” he declared. “The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew.”

In the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, that is our task as well.

Lincoln saw clearly that the Civil War would utterly change the United States, and that in the world that would follow, old norms and mindsets would no longer suffice. He was right. The tragedy is that he only partly succeeded in persuading his fellow Americans to accept the new norm he proposed – equality for all. Some political leaders thought and acted in a new way, but too many sought to revive the past. Instead of heeding Lincoln’s call to think and act anew, the southern states built a new regime of segregation and discrimination.

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