This study reveals the great lesson that COVID-19 taught humanity

If you’ve ever thought that coronavirus has impacted the core beliefs of almost all Americans, a recent Pew Poll would confirm that notion. The poll states that 86% of Americans believe that there is a lesson to be learned from the COVID-19 pandemic. Many Americans believe we need to rethink our priorities after the pandemic is over and that though this tragedy has ravaged our nation, we can learn from it if we take certain lessons to heart.

The study reports that “a large majority of U.S. adults (86%) say there is some kind of lesson or set of lessons for humankind to learn from the pandemic”. 3,700 people wrote their own personal responses to the study in the form of short or long answers and attributed the lessons to different sources. 35% of Americans say the lessons were “sent by God”, and 37% say the lessons were not sent by God.

The responses in the study were categorized by topic, and while there were some outliers, such as those who spoke about the lessons of personal hygiene or the government’s lack of preparedness, most of the responses were reflective of pre-existing larger issues that have divided the American public throughout the year. These issues are lessons from God, lessons about the economy, lessons about politics and lessons about humanity.

Frequently during the pandemic, we see reports from popular media outlets that speculate on the opinion of the American people, often assuming that extremism is the mindset of the majority. Though some responses in this study reflected the extremism this country faces, we see, for the most part, themes of helplessness, fear, anger and sadness. From feeling powerless against a rageful God to disappointment from a failed system, the American spirit has taken a dark turn in the past year.

Religion

The first group of respondents were those who cited God as the main source of lessons, and of religion as their guiding point through the pandemic. There was a wide range of responses, but most sampled seem to fall into two categories: the fearful, and the gracious.

Some of the religious responses were reminiscent of the cadence, stylings, and even the language of Biblical texts; most sampled responses appeared to be from Christians, who make up 70% of all religious Americans.

Respondents referenced the “book of Revelation”, “repenting”, and “salvation”. While to a non-religious reader, this might seem like hyperbolic rhetoric, the emotional content of these responses all center around feelings of guilt, helplessness, and fear, which are emotions many Americans can relate to at his moment in history.

Other responses were less foreboding and more empathetic; 65% of Christians report feeling a “spiritual sense of peace and wellbeing” at least once a week, and some wish to assist others in finding inner peace as well.

“Every person’s life is a precious gift from God,” one 66-year-old woman responded, and “we must learn to love one another.” Another 55-year-old man stressed the need for “quiet contemplation” during these trying times, and how we must “develop gratitude in the midst of the current situation”.

The economy

The next series of lessons put forth by respondents were those concerning the economy and essential workers. The sentiments of fear, anger and frustration persist in this group, and there are substantially fewer lessons one could consider positive. Pew Polls report that even globally, “positive attitudes” about the economy are lower now than during the Great Recession of 2008-2009.

Many responses contain critiques of the American economic system from all sides. While some respondents, such as this 65-year-old man, criticize the lockdown for “shutting down the economy for a virus which kills less than 1% of the population”, others criticize the entire capitalist system.

Climate change, civil rights, the importance of universal healthcare and the American ethos priding the economy over all else were all discussed. “The rich growing richer”, “big businesses” and “the 1%” are heard throughout many frustrated responses concerning both unemployed, underprivileged Americans. One out of five American adults cites coronavirus-related financial instability as a cause of psychological distress.

However, it also rings true that many respondents have felt Americans have learned how essential workers are the backbone of our nation, and economy. A 52-year-old woman says the lesson is to “appreciate all of those who serve and work with the public, treat them well and compensate them well.”

Politics

Lessons about the American economy also extend to the American political system, and many respondents believe that this pandemic has taught us a great deal about “political polarization”. The bulk of these is “anti-government responses that criticize both Democrats and Republicans”. Pew Research Center reports that America is “exceptional…in its’ political divide”, with numerous studies over the year and during the election that have shown exacerbated tensions in the pandemic.

Though responses came in on both sides of the aisle, respondents were definitive about their mistrust of government, unhappiness with the government’s response to the pandemic, and assumed government corruption.

However, less partisan responses were recorded; one 49-year-old man says, “science should be prioritized over political agendas when dealing with public health. Political polarization is detrimental to the public good.” Another 76-year-old woman stated that “humankind should learn to abide by the govt. orders to stay home”.

Humanity

Finally, respondents cited that Americans’ priorities on life, relationships, and humankind have been important lessons to learn during the pandemic. These responses, though non-religious in nature, express some of the same sentiments as religious respondents who found lessons of gratitude and reflection in the pandemic.

Though suffering from the aforementioned intense political divide, this section indicates that Americans are looking for lessons of peace and stability to help them through troubled times. “Empathy”, “appreciation”, “working together” and “the greater good” were all phrases echoed throughout responses.

A 24-year-old man states that the pandemic should teach people that “working and spending your time and money isn’t what life is about”; another respondent in her 50s said that “we should always be kind to one another regardless of race, religion, or political belief. The virus does not discriminate, and neither should we.”

One final respondent summed up all issues as being equally important lessons that the pandemic has “highlighted”. To him, the most important lesson given to the American people is “to listen to scientists, professionals, and subject-matter experts [about] topics such as climate change, health, social inequality, etc.”

Conclusion

Regardless of the nature of the lessons, it’s clear that Americans are tired of divisiveness, anger and vulnerability. Many seem to feel they live in a world they can’t control, and despite their wish for a more united and compassionate America, we are subject to a power greater than ourselves (religious or otherwise) that regulates the arc of our lives.

Whether they believe the result of the pandemic is a rapture, an economic collapse, a broken political system or the death of considerateness, the sense of despair in these responses is clear. Hopefully, these lessons that seem harsh and heartbreaking at the moment can lead to substantial long-term change and a brighter future.