Perspectives From Within a Crisis

Three: I, Me, Mine

I feel a need to stipulate at the outset that generalizations like I am about to make are of course subject to a wide arc of inapplicability. Still I believe they can be useful in trying to understand some otherwise hard to grasp realities of today’s world.

From the earliest days of America – even before it became a federation of states—it was a principle maxim of most people’s lives to live and let live and to help those in need. In times of crisis, we banded together.

That spirit of common cause and mutual responsibility may be another victim of the Trump presidency. During a dangerous and still-growing pandemic, certain governors have decided to reopen parts of their economies; gun-bearing protestors have descended on state capitals to demand the premature lifting of stay-at-home orders; and young people in far too many places have displayed a shocking disregard for everyone by ignoring social distancing guidelines to congregate at beaches, parks and anywhere else others are gathered. One can (almost) understand the governors, who face pressure from the White House and their political base; And one can (almost) easily dismiss the militias, who have long fiercely guarded their right to die for no good reason. I am, however, horrified by the youthful partiers, who clearly do not feel they should suffer any inconvenience just because a few old folks might die a bit early because of their actions.

All three groups share the troubling trait of placing their own interests and desires ahead of the common good at the most basic of levels. The ordinary annoyances of every-day life (line cutters, rude drivers, cashiers who text instead of attending to their customers) regularly testify to the primacy of self in our culture, but with much smaller stakes. Now, people with suspect motives and questionable judgement are charging ahead where doctors tread with the utmost of caution: decisions about who lives and dies.

I can see how such thoughts might spring from young minds — the follies of youth are a many-splendored spectacle. It is impossible, however, to accept the decisions of politicians to ignore the advice of virtually every medical expert, along with business leaders and the desires of their own constituents, to pursue a reckless dash to re-open solely for their own political benefit.

That Trump has encouraged them for his own obvious political reasons is shameful, but it’s shocking that, even now, in the face of tens of thousands of fatalities (so far), so many elected officials in his own party are either afraid to challenge him or believe him. Certainly, the protestors and youthful gatherers are taking their cues from our narcissist-in-chief, who cares not a whit about consequences save one: his own reelection.

This clash is an embarrassment and a tragedy — damaging to public health and devastating to our reputation in front of the world.

We might ignore them as simple Igorots and wait for them to either come to their senses or go away. But the damage they’d do in the interim might be extensive.

It would be both reassuring and helpful if the media and sensible leaders from both parties across America called them to task for their un-American behavior!



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