A security guard in Michigan was shot and killed last week after he got into a confrontation with a woman who refused to wear a mask into Dollar General.
A man in Florida was arrested after he threatened to go on a shooting spree in his local grocery store because not enough people were wearing masks.
A park ranger in Texas was pushed into a Lake as he was trying to get a group of visitors to social distance appropriately.
A security guard in a California Target store broke his arm when two men threw him to the ground and physically assaulted him after being told that they would need to wear masks in the store.
In Stillwater, Oklahoma, the local government opened retailers and restaurants with the caveat that patrons would need to wear masks into the establishments. Waitresses, restaurateurs, and store employees reported such extreme levels of verbal abuse and threats of physical violence in trying to enforce the policy, that businesses considered closing again of their own accord, and the city immediately ammended the policy to make masks optional.
A similar story came out of Massachusetts where a local ice cream shop opened for one day before the owner immediately closed it again as staff began to quit over the treatment they received during their first shift back.
Need I go on?
Two months ago, when it became unavoidably clear that COVID-19 was not just going to disappear and states began to respond with a patchwork of stay at home orders, closures, and cancellations, it felt like a moment of national unity. We all agreed to come together and do something collective to protect ourselves, protect each other, and protect our health care systems. My social media feeds were filled with images like this:
You could almost believe that, for this unified moment in time, that we all cared about each other.
Now, two months later, I’m worried that after having isolated for two months, we will re-emerge from seclusion and have forgotten how to care.
And to be sure, this is not a one or the other proposition!
It can’t be either I stay home because I care about health and safety…or I go out because I don’t.
It can’t be either we shut down the economy because we’re trying to deal with the virus…or we stop trying to deal with the virus and open the economy.
And it can’t be either we take extreme precautions by forcing people to stay in their homes…or we take zero precautions and just go back to the way things were and see what happens.
Because we know what happens.
It’s been happening for months, it’s still happening now, it’s projected to keep happening.
But while the beginning of the pandemic was marked with so many shows of unity and togetherness, I’m afraid the current moment of the pandemic…not the end, just this moment…will be marked by increasing displays of selfishness, entitlement, and uncaring.
And to be clear:
Wanting to go back to your job…is not selfish.
Wondering why Walmart is open and your small business is not…is not selfish.
Crying over missed graduations, weddings, birthdays…is not entitled.
But how we respond to those moments might be.
Whether or not it’s your constitutional right and/or essential to go to Menards for mulch and landscaping fabric in the middle of a pandemic can be debated by cable news media outlets for hours. What should not be debatable to anyone is that when the Menards employee tells you at the door that the store policy is that you should wear a mask, that the employee is not subjected to physical or verbal threats or abuse.
About our current state, Rev. Stephen McKinney-Whitker recently said:
We’ll be ready to re-open when bus drivers can tell riders to wear a mask and not get spit on.
We’ll be ready when McDonalds workers can say the dining room is closed without being shot.
We’ll be ready when park rangers can ask people to social distance without being shoved in a lake.
We’ll be ready when a store employee can ask people to wear a mask before entering without fear of being killed.
We’ll be ready when we can show that we can listen and follow safety guidelines.
I do not know when the virus will be ready for us to reopen, but clearly we are not ready. Freedom is a responsibility, not an unearned privilege to do as we please. We are acting like a bunch of spoiled whiny brats who are more than willing to hurt and put others at risk.
We’ll be ready when we can treat other people with love and respect.
We are not ready.
Currently, my biggest worry about COVID-19 is that, by these standards, some people have no interest in getting ready at all.