What characterizes some of the most traumatic moments in recent American history – World War II, 9/11 – isn’t just the shock and upheaval they caused, but also the sense of community and togetherness they engendered. Cataclysmic events, while destabilizing in so many ways, also have the ability to mobilize people and to strengthen society’s cohesiveness.
The recent pandemic is already having a similar effect, says Noah Friedkin a sociology professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
“An event like this reshapes the course of history,” Friedkin says.
American political life has become increasingly polarized, but he says the pandemic could change that dynamic because it affects everyone.
“I would hope that this event reminds us all that we are interdependent, and that there is great value to such interdependence and cooperation,” Friedkin says.
He says responding to such an all-encompassing event requires cooperation and compromise. And that’s a good lesson for how to solve less urgent problems, too.
“We can see in our response to this pandemic, no matter how inefficient that response is, that there is value to be placed on cooperative attacks on common problems,” Friedkin says.
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Written by Morgan Kuehler.