A pandemic, an “invisible” (read: microscopic) virus, such as COVID-19 (named after the year it was discovered, not the strain count), is ripe for cognitive dissonance, as we are all now witness. At once, people understand the need for social distancing, or physical distancing; however, those same people will say this has gone too far.
Today, and many other days, about as many people died from COVID-19 as died on 9/11. Where’s the patriotic solidarity, the excess kept in the national stockpile? It should be here in spades but instead it’s more difficult to scare up than PPE (don’t you love how we all know what that means now?).
Why is it we can get behind LeBron, yet we scatter like ants, faction like a shattered mafia family whenever it is asked of us that we agree, work together, share an interest? I ask, in the interest of all of us, though I know it will infuriate some and inspire outright opposition in others.
While American individualism is admired the world over, mimicked from Bollywood to Nollywood, it’s the double-edged sword we are now falling upon, shoved by our neighbor, who is soon to follow. What sense does that make, I ask for a friend, a neighbor, a relative I don’t like or speak with any longer, grandparents, all of us.
Much like we see with the climate crisis, humans are seemingly incapable of spurring a paradigm shift. In the same way we go about gobbling up fossil fuels at staggeringly exponential rates, our appetite for consuming material goods, spending our glut of disposable income, or perceived abundance encouraged by a financial spiral of credit to acquire objects and services that largely hold no long-term value, is something we can’t even afford to let a pandemic interrupt.
Why is it we seemingly cannot collectively march toward markers of progress not tethered by mere symbols of wealth? The endless pursuit of more is our credo, the one unifying principle in this deeply divided country. We worship it above the very preservation of our species, sustainability, or the pursuit of knowledge. Collectively, we’ve used our knowledge as a tool for subjugation, not leaping toward a just, equitable society.
It may seem naïve of me; it may seem that I am asking for a utopia, filled with flower children, free love, and all that jazz. But no, I am simply asking that we stop killing ourselves. This grand global proposal to use physical distancing as a measure to save our own lives is being flouted, relaxed, outright denied as preventative measure, much like other global crises we face that are ultimately resulting in massive loss of life.
All the while, we have a president whose myopia is undermining any coherent policy shaped by his party on a daily basis. The only constant in his now daily briefings (something, you’ll remember, he did away with soon after taking office but have since provided a nice stump for reelection) is his unabashed dedication to himself. Mirroring the confines of his narrow vision through his squinted, shriveled eyes, Trump has proven he is capable only of focusing on himself, believing that truth and reality are contingent on his carousel of whims, literally contradicting his own policy during the very press briefings in which he lays them out.
Trump, like his followers, has little to no guiding principles to his behavior, relying heavily on contrarian rationale above all else, which among those followers has resulted in a bizarre display of personal liberty, machismo, and a contempt for their own self-interest (is this a uniquely American trait?!) during these social gathering protests. While involving a relatively small number of people, these protests are more like rallies, or conventions for various factions of the equally uninformed. As many participants are toting AR-15s as are styling N-95s.
Like their leader, there is no common thread driving them. Is it a Trump rally? Are they bringing awareness to small businesses decimated by the economic shutdown? Are they most interested in gun rights? The despair of the modern incel? It’s all very confusing, but more than anything, it’s alarming, this constituency coalescing around contrarianism in its purist form, opposition for opposition’s sake, at the detriment of self, neighbor, community and country.
I’m amazed we cannot do this, as a country. We’ve been training for this our whole lives! We have dedicated hour upon countless hour of screen time in preparation for this very moment! For the contrarians out there, I ask that you use this time wisely. Keep Up With The Kardashians, scour Facebook and Instagram for self-worth and the meaning of life, don’t connect with your neighbors, don’t tell your parents you love them, don’t read that book or workout. All that stuff can wait until tomorrow; keep putting it off, there’s always tomorrow, right?
Editor’s note: Brian Bors is a social worker from Athens who enjoys the outdoors, as well as the wonders of a newfound domestic life.