Arlene Violet: Another sickness is lack of unity

By Arlene Violet
Posted 8/23/20

The statistics are bad enough. With 4.2 percent of the globe’s population, the United States accounts for about 30 percent of COVID-19 mortalities. According to the CDC, 80 percent of those are …

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Arlene Violet: Another sickness is lack of unity


The statistics are bad enough. With 4.2 percent of the globe’s population, the United States accounts for about 30 percent of COVID-19 mortalities. According to the CDC, 80 percent of those are age 65 or older. Others are black Americans who have 2½ times the death rate of their white counterparts. Faced with these realities, one response has been that the elderly should be willing to risk their lives to reopen the economy. (Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick). The other reaction has been to ignore what the indictment of minority deaths are to this American society.

In fact, far too many Americans are contemptuous of doing anything that mitigates the impact of the contagion. Contempt for the common good is paraded as a virtue and a patriotic badge of honor. This righteous callousness has widened the crack in our democracy where citizens are incapable of uniting to fight this pandemic. Yes, there have been amazing acts of bravery and self-sacrifice, particularly by first responders, but their example is offset by the pseudo-Americans who literally spit in the face of their fellow citizens and who assert a “birthright freedom” not to wear a mask or social distance. This indignation at being asked to make the most minimal effort to help protect their countrymen is as astonishing as it is appalling. (Williams HARPER’S, August 2020, p. 9).

The coronavirus spread is now confining children to another round of remote learning. Ironically, the states with the worst infection rates are insisting on opening the classrooms with very little science or reasoning.

It should be a primary concern of all Americans that this country is not healthy and not only because of the pandemic. Collective sacrifice is out the window. Political rhetoric has encouraged the most basic disregard of one another. Religious principles like “Love your neighbor” have been trumped by political allegiance to the “gods” of politics. In effect, this country has metamorphosized into a cult with some groups.

The body politic is sick. Whether folks of good will can turn this epidemic of smug, self-centeredness remains to be seen. Right now, the disregard of the sick, the infirm, the weak and the impoverished, is in vogue. Anti-expertise fervor has replaced science.

How else would anyone explain the lack of appropriate masks, testing capacity and misinformation about unproven and actually lethal substances to "cure" the virus? In fact, the effort is just the opposite, i.e. to blame everybody else for the pandemic, including China. Certainly, everyone is aware that this virus emanated from the Wuhan City but its spread here is totally our own doing because of a lack of early response to curb the contagion and the lack of protective gear and equipment and a lack of a national plan. By telling states that they were responsible to handle the epidemic the lack of a national strategy drove up prices astronomically because of competition and the lack of a national cause. This “on your own” approach mirrors the ethic in the country today where folks just don’t give a darn.

I know it’s quaint but I still hope that this country can get back to “I wear my mask for you and you wear yours for me”. Otherwise, we are goners in more ways than one.

Arlene Violet is an attorney and former Rhode Island Attorney General.

Arlene Violet

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