“We’re all in this together,” is a rather contradictory phrase to use at a time when we are being exhorted to stay apart from each other. Nonetheless, the more widespread that sentiment, the more successfully we will weather this crisis.
I suspect that many of you, like me, vacillate between thinking that we, at community, state and country level, are dealing with this virus too leniently or alternatively in too draconian a fashion. I do not envy those making decisions. Nonetheless, I am concerned at social and governmental factors that belie the idea of one people pulling together in a tough time.
There have always been greedy, power-hungry and selfish people. Communities that could be loving and warm to those who fit in could also be indifferent or hostile to those who didn’t. However, I don’t think I am guilty of over-romanticizing the past in claiming that when doctors, storekeepers, teachers and mayors met the individuals they served in church, at Rotary and on the street, they actually saw them as individual human beings. When times were tough, those who had much helped those who had little. Those who had little helped those who had even less.
It concerns me that a chasm seems to exist between a large number of people whose paychecks come from money taken from taxpayers by the government and those who work in the private sector. I have sympathy for my local librarian as I do for my local shoe store owner. The private school teacher whose school shut down needs to feed her family just as much as the public school teacher who is also sitting at home. The business owner who is watching his sales plummet needs to pay his mortgage just as his state Senator does.
In other words, I have a sneaking suspicion that we are NOT all in this together. Some government workers are being paid while staying home. Others, like mail carriers and police and firemen are working under more difficult circumstances. Many of us in the private sector are reluctantly home while some industries will get a boost from this event. Doctors and nurses are seeing the exacerbation of problems they have known about for years yet been silenced from mentioning because they are politically incorrect. If those making policies and decisions that affect all of us felt the nail-chewing, lie-in-bed-worrying anxiety of their constituents, their edicts and suggestions would be more helpful.
I don’t have the answers. I do worry that describing certain industries as too vital to fail or treating government workers differently than those in the private sector or trying to put band-aids on some areas but not others, or looking to cast blame on the wrong places, will slow our recovery. If this virus and its accompanying economic plight can turn us away from the “me” and “special-interest” and identity politics Balkanization virus that has overtaken our society, we can be healthier after it passes (as it assuredly will) than we were before.