One of my brothers lives in one of the reddest of red states. He works in an “essential industry” (not healthcare) so he has no option to stay at home. If he stays at home he loses his job (and possible his health insurance). My other brother (who lives in a somewhat red state) likewise works in a field where working from home is simply not possible.
I have heard a bit of snark on the left about how the refusal of some governors to put out shelter in place orders, or the insistence of some fools to ignore or protest those orders, will result in some sort of massive dying off of people who really deserve what they get. (I’ve heard “Getting idiots out of the gene pool” or “Darwinism at work.”)
That’s not how pandemics work. Yes, the failure to put in place SIP orders will result in a larger death toll. But it is not a given that the people who will get sick and die support the governor’s actions. Yes, the people who are protesting are being foolish, but that doesn’t mean that they will feel the brunt of this.
Pandemics don’t care who they hit. Some of these people will be totally asymptomatic, and some will simply shed virus before they get sick. They will infect their parents and their neighbors. If they go to the hospital, they may infect their nurses or doctors. They will infect everyday people.
People like my brothers.
When I was in high school, I learned about the Social Darwinist movement in the late 19th and early to mid 20th century. Death among the poor was simply “survival of the fittest.” The disabled were subjected to forced sterilization lest there be generations of “cripples” or “morons.” The distinguising figure of Social Darwinism was lack of empathy and lack of recognition of shared humanity.
You tell me how what we on the left are doing is any different. You tell me how we are doing anything but celebrating potential death, simply because the people who are acting as death’s angels have political views that differ from ours.
Yes, some of them are abhorrent people. They wear MAGA hats and wave confederate flags. They are being egged on and used by the most corrupt elected official in the history of this country. They are being used by the forces of disruption and hatred.
But we can disagree with them — despise them, even — without wishing death upon them. Let the other side engage in this sort of reprehensible behavior.
We should strive to be better than that.
Believe me, I get how hard it is. Wasn’t I the person who said not ten days ago that I pray for Donald Trump to get coronavirus and die? But I also said, at the time, that I felt that that showed a damaged soul. I am working to do better, be a better person But maybe our collective souls have been hurt enough by these people that we can’t muster the empathy that even they should receive. Maybe empathy is an emotion that arises out of the privilege I have as a white woman in a blue state whose governor took swift action.
I understand that I can afford empathy for the Confederate flag wavers and the MAGA hat wearers. But if you can’t have empathy for them, please have empathy for those around them. Have empathy for healthcare workers. Have empathy for grocery clerks. Have empathy for “essential workers,” who are being forced to risk their health and lives and those of their families, even in the reddest of red states, and who are often severely underpaid even. Have empathy for the people in red states who are simply going about their lives.
Have empathy for my brothers.