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Significant challenges like COVID-19 require shoulder squaring, not shoulder shrugging

Doug Mills, Associated Press

Unfortunately there seems to be a lot more shoulder shrugging than courageous shoulder squaring in our country today. In the face of significant challenges, too many shrug their shoulders, point fingers, place blame or simply say, “That isn’t my job,” or “It’s not my fault,” or “someone else should take care of it.”

Henry Ford is often credited with saying, “Don’t find fault. Find me a solution.”

In the end it is the solution that matters most. Whether the problem is a pandemic, an opioid crisis, homelessness, the breakdown of families, out-of-control national debt or a host of other societal ills, global challenges or local difficulties — pointing fingers, finding fault and placing blame never help produce viable solutions.

Wednesday night, before President Donald Trump had even addressed the nation regarding the novel coronavirus pandemic, some pundits were wagging fingers, placing blame and lampooning the president. Mere seconds after the president had laid out his plan, the government’s response and what he was asking the American people to do, the national airwaves and the internet were filled with more collective finger-pointing, second-guessing and a torrent of condescending questioning of the president’s motives. Some in the media went so far as to say the president’s breathing during his remarks to the nation was a signal that he wasn’t telling the truth.

The call of a president to the nation from the Oval Office should be a rallying cry to the county, not a battle cry for hyperpartisans with agendas of their own. Questioning the motives of others has become a full-time, full-contact political sport in our country. It is time for it to end — and politicians can no longer simply shrug their shoulders and blame it on someone else.

Sadly, the shoulder shrugging rolls on while the fault-finding produces seismic fissures in the foundation of the nation. We all have a duty to fulfill. We all have responsibilities to perform. We have things that we can, and must, do.

There is a classic old story that shows what happens with a shoulder-shrugging society. I have tweaked this over the years into my own tale. It is the story about four American citizens named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody.

There once was a time when the country needed the citizens to solve a critical problem that threatened the nation. Well, Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. And while Anybody could have done it, Nobody did it. Somebody got angry because, really, it was Everybody’s responsibility, yet Everybody thought Somebody would do it. But, Nobody asked Anybody.

Everybody thought a community meeting would help. Somebody couldn’t make it and suggested that Anybody could come up with a plan to solve the problem anyway. A few weeks later when Everybody checked in, Nobody had done anything with Anybody, so Somebody recommended they meet again next month.

When the problem became a true crisis, Somebody blamed Anybody and Everybody for the problem. Nobody got serious about a solution to the problem that Anybody could have come up with.

While Anybody could have done it, Somebody would have done it and Everybody should have done it, in the end, Nobody did it. And the nation was lost.

Instead of the shoulder-shrugging citizens in this story, what our country needs today is an army of courageous Americans who will square their shoulders and take on the difficult challenges of our day.

The weeks ahead will test the mettle of this administration and try the toughness of the people of this nation. The pandemic, economic instability, emotional uncertainty and disruption of daily life are going to require every citizen and every leader to square their shoulders and harness the better angels of their nature.

America has been faced with big tests and significant trials in the past. Today is no different. We should be thankful for those who have gone before us — who didn’t have time or possess the inclination to find fault, point fingers or place blame. True patriots of days gone by passionately and relentlessly pursued solutions to the challenges they faced, solutions that ultimately preserved and led the nation closer to a more perfect union.

We often, and rightly, say with gratitude that we stand on the shoulders of the giants who have gone before us in our country and right here in our own community. We should remember that the only reason we can stand on their shoulders is because they were willing to square them.

The color, size or strength of our shoulders does not matter. What matters is that we are willing to square them and work as one to lift this nation toward the solutions that will result in better, brighter days for all.