You have all seen them: the memes and posts that say “We’re all in this together.” But, are we really? I ask because I have also seen news that shows people behaving really badly toward their fellow Americans.
Driving Americans Apart
Many of us thought this pandemic would bring us together. Instead it has driven us apart. There are two reasons for this:
- Covid-19 has hit some states worse than others. The most-affected states have big international airports, densely populated cities, large colleges and universities, cruise ports and convention centers—all places where people gather in crowds. These states also tend to be blue states. The disease has been less prevalent in the more sparsely populated rural states—which trend politically red.
- The Trump administration has urged people to flout the CDC guidelines, which say that we should wear masks, avoid crowds, and practice social distancing.
The president reinforces this by refusing to wear a mask himself and surrounding himself with members of the administration who don’t wear masks or keep their distance from him or from one another.
Politicizing a Disease
NOTE: This is not a political post.
My subject is the response of average Americans to the situation.
This politicization of a transmissible disease has made anger communicable as well. People who listen to Fox News and don’t know anyone who has or had Covid-19 find it easy to believe the whole thing is a hoax—or at least overblown.
Because it’s not real to them, they don’t see Covid-19 as an existential threat and they associate the CDC guidelines with the government denying them their civil rights. As a result, they act in ways that show little concern for protecting others, even the most vulnerable, even in their own families.
More in It Than Others
We are not all in this together. Some of us are more in it than others. We know and understand the risks and take whatever measures are necessary to keep ourselves and those around us healthy. Others don’t do any of those things and engage in risky behaviors
The cultural divide between red and blue states grows wider by the day and the results are, frankly appalling. Here are just a few of the rude, insulting, and downright dangerous responses some American have had to the simple requirement that they wear a mask:
- Man Wipes Nose on Clerk After Being Asked to Wear Mask
- Target Employee Attacked After Asking Customers to Wear Masks
- Macomb County Woman Attacks Worker, Spits on Police After Being Asked to Wear Mask
- Indiana 7-Eleven Clerk Attacked in Face Mask Dispute
- Mask Requirements Spur Threats, Violence as Tensions Rise Over Coronavirus Restrictions
That’s just a sample. You can find more such acts of violence with a simple Google search or just by watching the news. My favorite is the teenage boy who shoved a Texas Park Ranger off a dock into a lake and who grins proudly in his booking photo.
Must we fear for ourselves to behave with civility and kindness toward our fellow citizens?
Not All in This Together
Which leads me, once again, to ask “Are we really all in this together?” Because, if we are, these incidents would not be happening.
This is not, however, the first time. It reminds me of the gas shortage back in the 70s when cars south of the Mason-Dixon Line sported bumper stickers that said, “Let the eastern bastards freeze in the dark.”
No, we are not all in this together and I think we haven’t been since the beginning of the Civil War. The U.S, has been divided into many countries with different cultures and priorities, united by a federal government that some distrust, malls, fast-food chains, and a somewhat common language. Is that enough?
Not a Pretty Picture
I occasionally answer questions on Quora, a question-and-answer site that gives me insight into the lives, careers and interests of other people. Last year I answered the question, “Why do so many people turn into villains in post-apocalyptic scenarios?”
As a published author, I provided five reasonable responses based on writing style and plot demands. I ended my response with this statement:
“Living in a safe and comfortable world, as we do today, we lose sight of just how thin the veneer of civilization can be. After an apocalypse, heroes and villains emerge. The question is which one the reader or viewer would be.”
The Covid-29 pandemic may not be an apocalypse but it is providing us with a preview of that scenario—and it’s not a pretty picture. If we’re not all in this together now, what will it take?