If we all simply couldn’t wear a mask, then we all were not in this together . . .
There’s a raw individualism in the United States. An unchecked, unbridled, unbothered individualism. A culture and history seeped in thinking of oneself first and foremost, even at the expense of others. A climate that would breed the political and formidable stance of America First — without seeing that the pretense invariably leaves us alone, or at the very least necessitates that we deem others expendable.
This hyper-individualism is not necessarily applicable to all Americans, nor is it insurmountable. It rests on other -isms, and a few -phobias, historically rooted and still presently powerful.
See, ableism means that it is the problem of the “weak”, that it is not our collective concern that a disease disproportionately impacts them.
Ageism means that the elderly can be forgotten and sacrificed in nursing homes and in the grander context of society — for the economy, for personal convenience, for the future. They’ve done their living.
Homophobia and Islamophobia means that a facility donated, operated, and staffed by an organization known to condemn the lives of the LGBT+ community and Muslims is welcomed with open arms — they need only sign a form stating they will (somehow magically) dismiss every standard of discrimination they have historically followed and demanded in their previous work; and that those who are LGBT or Muslim are left to hope — hope they’ll be cared for and treated with respect, by the same people who openly opposed their existence.
Racism means that a deadly disease that is discovered to be most devastating, most prominent, and most likely among people of color, among Indigneous, Black, and Latinx especially, is not that dangerous anymore — and thus it is incumbent for us to move on. After all, a quick look at history shows us their lives have previously been sacrificed for far less.
Xenophobia, paired with racism, means that immigrants, of any kind, are barred from explicit consideration and inclusion for support during a global economic collapse, and/or a pandemic. They’re not one of us.
When we believe ourselves so defiantly unobstructed and unconcerned with the collective, we see no problem with excluding, or condemning, the other.
I know that this isn’t the whole the picture of COVID and our pandemic response, but it is impacting it. As we believe ourselves on the road to recovery, with 3 vaccines available and states lifting all restrictions, I have to wonder if we’ll have regret or engage in reflection on who we supported and who we neglected, and if in that regret or reflection, we consider the possibilities and responsibilities that lie beyond ourselves.