Opinion: A challenge for our leaders; how to earn my respect

Clark County Today Administrator Heidi Wetzler shares her thoughts on the times we are experiencing

I’ve seen terrifying stories told on the big screen, with plot lines similar to the one in which we are living now. I remember trying to wrap my mind around whether something like that could actually happen. And then I remember leaving the theater with a sigh of relief that what I witnessed was only a movie. My mind didn’t want to believe or even think about the horror of a global pandemic. I would imagine I’m not alone.

Heidi Wetzler
Heidi Wetzler

Now, here we are and it’s surreal. One thing I’ve noticed are the varying ideological paths people have been on as they’ve come to the shared realizations many of us have today. Some were fearful and panicked from the start. Others were naysayers and cynical. There were over reactors and under reactors and lots in between. Even in my own family and work family, I have watched opinions and mindsets shift dramatically. We all have our own individual set of responses to this type of thing based on our personalities and experiences. I remember feeling slightly embarrassed with my full Costco cart well before there were lines or shortages. The cashier had the gall to teasingly accuse me of preparing for the zombie apocalypse – and I wasn’t even buying any toilet paper. He was on a different path in his mind than I was. And that’s normal and OK. I wanted to at least be slightly prepared, just in case. He wanted to discount my preparedness – maybe out of disbelief, or maybe he simply didn’t want to feel afraid.

Hopefully, today, most people realize that in order to beat this thing we have to be a collective body focused together on one goal with one agreed upon path to get there. Beating this thing does not mean winning. There will be too many lives lost to ever say we’ve won anything. This is an unprecedented moment in history. And we need to have grace for one another.

I feel like there was a specific moment when the realization of the magnitude of what we were about to face as a country and a world set in for most of our leaders.  In that moment I felt a glimmer of hope that our venomously divided political parties might actually be able to come together for the greater good and tackle this unspeakable beast as one nation of Americans. I remember President Trump reporting that he had spoken to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer. That idea caught my breath.  I was naïve and optimistic that I was witnessing a miracle in the making – bipartisan cooperation. I repeat. I was naïve and optimistic.

Why in the world are many of our “leaders” unable to lead by example? Where is the teamwork? Most job descriptions put its importance near the top. How ironic. We desperately need a strong cohort of individuals who can put aside their own quest for power and humble themselves long enough to reach across the aisle and show our citizens how it’s done. I now have a constant stream of finger pointing and blame on my news feed, and it started with our “leaders.” We are living in unbelievable times and this virus has caught everyone by surprise, and most dreadfully unprepared. It is so very easy to look backwards and blame people for what they should have done and when. It is easy to act like an expert in hindsight.

My opinion is this. Get ready. If you didn’t have 3-6 months of income sitting in a savings account for this very rainy day, then maybe you have little room to judge the preparedness of our nation.  If you didn’t have enough food and supplies stored to feed and secure your family in an emergency and were one of the hoarders at the stores, then maybe you, too, were caught off guard with a steep learning curve. Yes, our nation could have been more prepared, but so could have we all. You can make cases for assigning fault all over the map for how we as a nation don’t have enough tests, don’t have enough personal protective equipment, don’t have enough hospital beds. But hear me please when I say THAT IS NOT HELPFUL today. Today, we need to spend every ounce of energy we have in finding ways to protect our citizens, protect our health care and other essential workers, and save our economy. We can hash out woulda coulda shoulda months from now. Or dare I suggest, we only look forward with lessons learned and how to do it better next time.

In my opinion the president hasn’t had perfect responses at times. And some of our national representatives who have had decades to work on pandemic level preparedness have also left our citizens vulnerable. Previous presidents have fallen short. If one is looking to place blame, that is easy. Why don’t we instead demand from ourselves and our representatives what is not easy? Humility, grace, forgiveness, selflessness. And good old-fashioned grit. Our nation didn’t become unprepared during the course of this presidency, it has been a very long time coming.

I have witnessed an inspiring level of help and cooperation on the ground level regarding our citizens, business, cities and states. Truly incredible displays of selflessness and care for one another.

I challenge and implore our leaders to stop the hostility, name calling, and finger pointing. It is not productive. Grow up, work together and earn my respect as we move through this thing.  And was every line item in the lengthy coronavirus stimulus package relevant to this crisis? That topic will have to wait for another day. 

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