It is nearly November. We are many months into this pandemic and we have yet to beat it. I am frustrated by the callous behavior I witness on a daily basis and the complete lack of caring and compassion. I’m talking about the people who refuse to wear masks.
I am on vacation this week, taking a much-needed break away from my everyday routine and spending time with my wife in the mountains of North Carolina. I head to the mountains when I need to recharge. I had not planned to write any blog posts while on vacation but I can’t ignore the compulsion inspired by the stupidity I see all around me. The stupidity is insidious and grounded in a failure and unwillingness to engage information with an open mind because it has been cast within a political context. For some, it is an expression of defiance. Others simply don’t want to be inconvenienced and don’t take the risk seriously; nor do they understand the impact that their decisions have on the greater community.
But back to my vacation. Last night we ordered takeout from one of the more popular restaurants in the area. When we pulled up to pick up our order, we noticed that the parking lot was packed (Wednesday night during a pandemic). As we approached the entrance (wearing our masks) and entered the restaurant, it was clear that there were far too many people there and the guests weren’t taking precautions. (The restaurant staff was wearing masks although we did have to ask one individual to pull his mask up over his nose as he spoke to us.) Some people entering the restaurant wore masks until they got to their tables, while others walked right into the establishment with no mask on, despite the sign at the entrance requiring people to wear masks. It was bizarre.
What’s even stranger is that most of the customers looked to be in their late 60s and 70s – a high-risk group for COVID-19. This is a tourist town, a popular place for retirees, and people were out having a good time. I get it. But we’re in a pandemic and COVID-19 cases are increasing across the country. Hospitalizations are increasing in many states.
Some might argue that these people are free to take whatever risks they want. I would argue that pandemics aren’t about your personal liberties. A virus such as COVID-19 isn’t something that you keep to yourself. Nor is it something you deal with on your own from a medical or financial perspective. We all bear the costs of your callousness and lack of caring. Literally.
I’ll close with this quote from Hannah Arendt in her book, The Origins of Totalitarianism published in 1951, and then I’ll return to my vacation:
“In an ever-changing, incomprehensible world the masses had reached the point where they would, at the same time, believe everything and nothing, think that everything was possible and that nothing was true. […] under such conditions, one could make people believe the most fantastic statements one day, and trust that if the next day they were given irrefutable proof of their falsehood, they would take refuge in cynicism; instead of deserting the leaders who had lied to them, they would protest that they had known all along that the statement was a lie and would admire the leaders for their superior tactical cleverness.”