‘Crisis Upon Crisis’: The coronavirus is not the only emergency we are facing

Episode three of the SAS podcast ‘In These Times’ looks at other urgent issues of our time, and examine how they affect and are affected by COVID-19.

In episode three of “In These Times,” a podcast from the School of Arts & Sciences (SAS), moderator Alex Schein, the director of digital communications for SAS, talks to a political scientist, a historian, and an environmental humanist about the other urgent issues of our time, and examine how they affect and are affected by COVID-19. The podcast uses COVID-19 as a platform for a six-episode series that explores the science, social science, and history that have shaped events in 2020.

Cartoon of the U.S. map with imagery of political parties, racial justice protests, and coronavirus molecules.

In “Crisis Upon Crisis,” political scientist Matthew Levendusky, the Penny and Robert A. Fox Director of Fels Institute of Government, discusses how the U.S. approach to the pandemic has been affected by politics from the beginning of COVID-19, and whether the nation is as polarized as it seems on paper. Mary Frances Berry, Geraldine R. Segal Professor of American Social Thought and professor of history and Africana studies, discusses how we got to the country’s current state of racial injustice, decades after the civil rights movement. Lastly, Bethany Wiggin, associate professor of Germanic languages and literatures and founding director of the Penn Program in Environmental Humanities describes life in the climate crisis, and the vision she gets from her students of going beyond a “new normal.”

4:45:  “It’s also important to note that there are gaps between Democrats and Republicans and how they view the pandemic. What kinds of protective behavior they’re engaging in, absolutely, but there’s two points to note there: One is that they’re somewhat smaller than you might think. And [two], that for a lot of people, they don’t necessarily view this through a partisan lens.”—Matthew Levendusky explains that the increased polarization has its roots in the 1950s and 60s when the parties realigned, and currently, the nation’s political alignment has become so intense that it influences how they view the coronavirus and the measures taken to deal with it.

15:44:  “I think that the way you get change, period, is by, as the people in the civil rights movement saw, and the people in the gun rights movement are seeing, and the people in the climate change movement are seeing, is the way you get change is by disruption.”—Mary Frances Berry explains that people need to be socialized to want change and the protests need to continue.

19:16: “As a parent, as well as a teacher, I’ve really wrestled with this question of, ‘Do we educate our children into an understanding that this is a new normal? Just get used to it. There’s going to be more wildfires; there’s going to be more extreme weather; there’s going to be more pandemic. This is normal.’ Or do we say ‘No, this isn’t normal. This is a terrible aberration from normality. And therefore it’s intendant upon us to work, to create a different role.’”—Bethany Wiggin ponders the question of whether there will be a new normal for a really long time, and what actually is next for us.

Listen to the podcast in full at Omnia.