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Your Say: What pandemic response says about us

San Diego Union Tribune logo San Diego Union Tribune 7/24/2020 U-T Letters
a group of people walking down the street: When San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter reopened in June, visitors were inconsistent in wearing face masks and social distancing guidelines were often ignored. ( Sydney Prather/U-T) © ( Sydney Prather/U-T) When San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter reopened in June, visitors were inconsistent in wearing face masks and social distancing guidelines were often ignored. ( Sydney Prather/U-T)

Most really only care about themselves

It’s hard to generalize whether I think more or less of my fellow Americans based on their response to the pandemic. My regard for many is great, but for a few I have no respect whatever. It depends on how much the individual seems to care about others.

Most people are selfish and myopic. They rarely want what is best for everyone; they just want what’s best for themselves. This unpleasant truth is the main reason our collective response has been disappointing. And when that tendency is coupled with the lack of leadership in Washington, D.C., and some state capitals, it is no wonder that the number of COVID-19 diagnoses is soaring.

Yes, many Americans have acted sensibly by wearing masks, maintaining social distance and staying home as much as possible. To those folks I say, bravo and brava! But others flout the rules that are meant to protect us from each other and from ourselves. For them I have only contempt.

We see news reports of crowded bars and beaches. We hear stories of shoppers freaking out when told they must wear a mask. We witness protest marches decrying “government oppression.” An Ohio woman at one such protest stated in a recent TV interview, “It’s my body, so it’s my choice whether to wear a mask or not.” It would be interesting to learn in a few weeks whether she and her fellow bare-faced marchers have contracted the virus.

The vice president and his task force wear masks. Republican senators like Mitch McConnell and Lamar Alexander wear masks. Even President Trump wore a mask (once). Going without one while screaming about your “constitutional rights” or some nonexistent “ADA exemption” is not patriotism, it’s boorish. It makes you a selfish jerk. Don’t mistake inconvenience for tyranny.

I understand the financial hardships this situation has caused. I understand the frustration engendered by stay-at-home orders. I understand the desire to grow the economy again and to reopen schools, shops and restaurants. But we must first get the pandemic under control. That’s what public health laws are meant to do: protect the public’s health.

One of the main purposes of government at any level is to provide for the well-being of its citizens. Without some kind of standards — law, if you will — society breaks down and life will be “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.” (Thomas Hobbes, 1651.)

We must do better. We must all accept personal responsibility and think about the bigger picture. Like it or not, we are all in this together. It’s not just about you.

Stuart Showalter, Mission Hills

Many have forgotten what sacrifice means

It is not for me to judge other Americans relative to their responses during this ever-widening pandemic. However, I am saddened by the manifestation of such selfish behavior.

How did this happen? Americans have forgotten what freedom is really about. Freedom is a social contract, not just the ability to choose whether or not to get a tattoo or wear a mask. Social contract. It means that everyone works together for the common good.

How unfortunate that so many people have decided to ignore science and fact, electing instead to risk their lives and others’ while they echo some uninformed media outlets, ignorant politicians and an irresponsible president.

It’s fairly obvious that many did not study (or do not remember) gripping American history, e.g., the Great Depression and World War II, both shining examples of how this country suffered through undeniably miserable, perilous (and often fatal) times.

For the most part, we rallied. We sacrificed when there was little to sacrifice. Parents starved so that their children could eat a bread sandwich, if they even had bread. Women went into factories to work during the war so that men could enter the service. We came together so everyone could have the opportunity to recover.

Yes, there are thousands of stories today, during the pandemic, of neighbors helping neighbors; strangers, individuals, groups and congregations that are helping to ease hunger and economic loss. But the focus is on those who have little or no regard for anyone but themselves. “I have the right to go to the (fill in the blank).” Regrettably, we will now be forced to ask, “What if?” in order to see the healthier, stronger nation that could have been. What if, despite the inept leadership in Washington, Americans had come together and said, “We honor life and care more about health and our future. We are not afraid to stand up and speak out”?

What if no one wore a mask and millions died? What if everyone wore a mask and millions were spared?

Wearing Spanx is difficult. Wearing a mask is not difficult. Make America intelligent again.

Sunny Brace, Lakeside

The six ways people respond to pandemic

My opinion of my acquaintances has not changed because of their response to the pandemic. I understood my friends before and every one of them is doing what I expected.

However, I have identified six different ways people respond to the coronavirus and the new norms.

1. Cooperators with a social conscience.

They ignore the politicians and pundits and follow the advice of physicians and professors.

I admire those few who cooperate.

2. Their hearts are in the right place, but ...

They think they are cooperators and doing all the right things.

But they don’t understand the difference between want and need.

“I want a Wendy’s burger, therefore I need a Wendy’s burger.”

Every little whim gives them an excuse to get out of the house and go shopping. They go shopping every day.

“Just this once won’t hurt.”

They are like an alcoholic who thinks he can just have one sip. They are shopping addicts.

3. Cherry pickers.

Cherry pickers have an agenda. They want COVID-19 to disappear and life to be normal again.

They know the facts and evidence, but they ignore evidence that doesn’t support their agenda. They cite only evidence that supports their wishful thinking.

They ignore the number of hospital admissions, shortage of beds and ventilators. They cite the low death rate for healthy young White people and imply that is the overall death rate.

4. Science-denying wishful thinkers.

They claim the coronavirus is no different than normal flu.

They claim the statistics we hear on CNN, MSNBC and even Fox News are all part of the liberal plot to take over the world and steal our money and freedom. Nevertheless, they sometimes cooperate.

5. Trumpers.

Trumpers are similar to science-denying wishful thinkers, but they refuse to cooperate.

With Trumpers, it is all about, “My rights and my freedom.” It’s all about me, me, me.

There is absolutely no regard for us and we.

6. It’s not my problem.

These people behave just like Trumpers. They don’t care as long as they, their family and friends aren’t affected.

They believe what they hear on the news about how those other people are suffering but “It’s not my problem.” They are NIMBYs. They don’t care if “it’s not in my back yard.”

When someone they know gets sick they do a 180 and COVID-19 suddenly becomes a national emergency.

They become COVID-19 true Believers.

Here’s my conclusion:

There is hope for most, but science-denying wishful thinkers, Trumpers and it’s not my problem people are hopeless. Let them experience the results of their own decisions, and keep them away from me.

Charlie Ballbach, Santee

Response a symptom of our herd stupidity

I do not think more or less of my fellow Americans based on how they have responded to the pandemic. The way I think about some of my fellow Americans has been at a nadir for some time now.

Writing 500 words is nowhere near enough for me to explain why I hold this opinion. The behavior of my fellow Americans in response to a deadly, very contagious, and new and not-yet-understood virus is only another symptom of why I have an extremely negative attitude toward my fellow Americans. The response to the pandemic by our citizens has shown the world that we have finally achieved herd stupidity.

Here are just a few things to illustrate why I have a very low opinion of my fellow Americans besides the pathetic way they have responded to the pandemic that could kill them:

1. More than one person voted for Donald Trump. The fact that 62 million Americans voted for this person, given the information that was available, is an indication of widespread insanity.

2. Inability to operate a motor vehicle safely. If you drive a car in San Diego, I do not need to elaborate.

3. Widespread cognitive inability to process information, even though we live in the Information Age.

4. A significant lack of refinement in communicating with other Americans in a civilized fashion.

5. Using firearms and gas-guzzling, oversized vehicles as a replacement for an actual mature, adult ego.

6. An incredible sense of laziness observed in any form of employment or position of responsibility. We seem to be very good at trying to avoid the tasks we are employed to perform.

Example: The last thing doctors want to do is see patients; the last thing a cashier wants to do is perform a transaction with a customer; the last thing a retail manager wants to do is manage, etc.

I’m done.

David Terry, Lakeside

We feel the need to rate each other's opinions

As I told my friend Missy when she called to moan about the presence of lawn war signs in her neighborhood: “I’m telling you! Everything went to hell as soon as we started wearing mottos on our T-shirts!”

I could feel Missy nodding in agreement although we were not on FaceTime.

How could I feel it? Because as Americans we are encouraged, even bullied, into expressing our emotions to as many people as possible.

I feel your pain! You feel mine! Feel it! Share it! Emoji It!

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against emojis or cute T-shirts like the one on the woman at the cruise ship breakfast bar that asked: “Do I look like a morning person to you?” Fair warning, that.

But what does announcing one’s mood or passion do for the person who views the message? Is there an urge to reach for that tempting Facebook thumb in order to record Up or Down? Self or Other?

Ah, that’s it. Self or Other. Right now the media reports that mask wearing has become a political statement. They report that Democrats are more likely to wear masks while Republicans choose to go without.

Some news items even quote the mask-less as claiming “constitutional” rights” to do as they choose. Is this a Right or just an unintended consequence of our decades of exposure to relentless advertisements?

Do we want to be unique or have we all signed on to an Emotional Brand Wagon?

We have all, I believe, succumbed and are now living with a pandemic of emotional branding. Alas, I too have felt the Bern—er, Brand.

Although I’m wearing a tee shirt that says “Life Is Good” I am not about to condemn any of the skewed and slightly screwball behaviors of my sister and brother Americans.

It’s my opinion that we are all infected with emotional branding.

Right now, however, that’s the least of our worries.

Regina Morin, Ocean Beach


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