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Jim Crawford: Inspiration and anger

We are a nation in crisis. The coronavirus is killing so many of us, so cruelly. Our economy is failing as the virus prevents the recovery of our jobs and our hopes.

We are once again challenged to lift ourselves up as a people to fulfill the promise of equality for all promised by our founders.

Yet, in the face of all these challenges, we are reminded of our greatness, of our goodness, by Americans who offer themselves in service to us all. And we can still see the potential of our future in the eyes of our youth.

This week Lillian Petersen, 17, a New Mexico 2020 high school graduate, won the oldest STEM competition in America, the Regeneron Science Talent Search, with a $250,000 research grant.

Her work? Helping others.

You may not know that the strain the coronavirus has placed on the world’s economies will ultimately fall hardest on the poorest of us all.

Nations and peoples already struggling with food security will face more difficult challenges now and in the near future as a direct result of the virus.

Lillian Petersen designed and created satellite software used to predict crop harvest yields in the most desperate locations in the African continent.

Her results were accurate and helped plan how to mitigate and manage the food crisis.

Then there is the inspiration of John Lewis, who died last week. Lewis was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, but he was so much more. He was, every day of his life, a preacher — a preacher whose sermons were always about peaceful persistence towards our better selves and the promise of equality for all.

Lewis knew his work was incomplete, that equality remained elusive as his days ran short. But he left a new wave of Americans, Black, white and brown, dedicated to achieving that elusive equality in the days before us.

Lillian and John lift us up, give us hope that commitment to living lives of service to others still shapes our nation, still guides us to a better future.

But there is reason for anger, too — anger at the cynics who ignore peaceful protesters across the nation, marching in the streets to seek better, fairer policing and a broader equality before the law. Cynics who call these Americans exercising their First Amendment rights, mobs. Cynics who ignore the need for a more complete form of justice for all, who look away from discrimination and bigotry with not just blindness, but distaste.

Anger at leaders who ignored the very real threat of the coronavirus, who downplayed or ignored what was necessary to avoid the deaths now logged in our losses in 2020. Anger at the silencing of the experts who warned us of its toll, anger at the refusal to lead the fight against the pandemic from the federal level to every state, every county, every town.

And angry that the disaster that has damaged our economy, risked so many lives of those who had no choice but to work and risk exposure, when their safety called them to stay home. An economy that has never had a chance for recovery so long as the virus attacks us at every corner. And still, it is true, our economy remains subject to the killer in our streets, the coronavirus.

Our nation cries for true leadership, leadership that values each and every life more than re-election, more than profits, more than cynical ignorance.

As John Lewis’ good friend, Elijah Cummings so often said, “We are better than this.”