By M. Francis Mirro
Benjamin Franklin, as he went to pen his name to the bottom of the Declaration of Independence, said, “Now we must all hang together, lest we all hang separately.” In the midst of the global pandemic we find ourselves in, no words could ring truer.
Let us be clear about where we are right now, not as a nation but as a species: We are at war. That is not hyperbole, it is reality. Our enemy, this pesky novel coronavirus (COVID-19) does not discriminate. It cares not if you are white or black, Latinx or Asian, it will gladly welcome everyone into its embrace. It doesn’t care about your social class, your gender or sexuality, it will infect you all the same. It doesn’t care about your followers on Instagram nor can it be swayed to cease its encroachment by an angry presidential tweet.
To COVID-19, this global pandemic which has killed thousands, put millions out of work and stopped the world from spinning, you and I, no matter how different we may perceive ourselves to be, are indistinguishable; simply a warm host for it to feed off, a body for it to hijack and forward its insidious spread. A virus is cold, calculating and abides no law of men or nations. It seeks one thing as the very basis of its existence: the conquest of the planet by infecting as many people as people.
Necessity dictates a response to match such a formidable enemy. To defeat a hive mind we need to act together, not as the divided, jingoistic fiefdoms that have long characterized the human race. We need to put aside petty differences, forgo the excesses of greed and the coldness of partisanship and find common cause in the task at hand.
Yet so far, we, especially those of us in the United States, have failed to meet that challenge. There are instances of counterproductive actions on all fronts: the obstinate spring breakers who could not forgo a party or two even if it meant someone losing their life along the way; the overreacting hoarders and hypochondriacs gobbling up supplies like masks, gloves, hand sanitizer and, yes, toilet paper, without rhyme or reason; celebrities who have used their social influence to jump the line and get tested despite having no symptoms; the five members of Congress who assured the public there was nothing to worry about as they dumped their stock shares and told their friends on Wall Street to buckle up; the President of the United States Donald Trump spewing misinformation on a daily basis, pathetically demanding shows of loyalty in exchange for desperately needed emergency supplies.
Now more than ever we see the importance of our society’s most unappreciated: our grocers, our teachers, our truck drivers, our nurses, our day to day wage earners who fuel our economy while often living paycheck to paycheck. And has our government, seeing this, passed legislation to acknowledge as much? Quite the opposite, in fact, as the stimulus bills propped up by the Republicans represent little more than an absolutely massive corporate bailout with little strings attached, only throwing crumbs at the now-out of work families worried about paying their medical bills if they get sick. But did we ask how we would pay for the billions we gave to Boeing? No, of course not. That ridiculous question asked of the richest nation on the planet is reserved only for a policy that might actually help the working class of this country like Medicare for All, paid sick leave or a universal living wage.
We are, quite simply, not alone in this fight, and it’s high time our actions reflect that. American individualism simply won’t fix the problem here, only exacerbate it. The only way for any of us to make it through this in the best possible shape is to ensure that everyone does. The solution cannot be found in sacrificing our grandparents, as some Wall Street acolytes like Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick have suggested, nor should we board up our windows and ready ourselves for a Mad Max-style apocalypse.
The truth is there is no clear cut solution, not yet, but we get closer and closer to making the situation a tiny bit better when we listen to medical professionals and scientists like Dr. Anthony Fauci instead of internet rumors and Alt-Right conspiracy theories perpetuated by the likes of Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh.
Social distancing is an uncomfortable and unfortunate necessity at the moment. As much as it may seem like the world has come together just to ruin all your travel plans and keep you from living your best life, the truth is a harsh one: this just isn’t about you, nor is it about me or any number of us standing alone; it is about all of us. As easy as it may be to bemoan all that we are missing out on the current fight is far from over and to win it requires all of us focusing on what we can accomplish together not what we can salvage while apart.
Humans have an amazing capacity to work together and yet so much of our history has been written on that which separates us. But what binds us now is a shared crisis, one that cannot end unless we band together and reach across all aisles to make sacrifices for the greater good. Now more than ever we must forsake partisanship, nepotism, and cronyism and assert the truths of science and follow the mandate of medical professionals who know better, yes the doctors know better, than our elected officials. We need to recognize those in need of help and guide them through to the end of the tunnel we are all mired in. We need to acknowledge those whose toil truly makes the world turn, the same people who are being hit the hardest by COVID-19 and ensure their contributions are no longer ignored and that their needs are met as much as anyone. Only by helping our neighbor can we be sure to help ourselves.
In the words of President John F. Kennedy, “Our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.”