Thursday, March 26, 2020

Attacks on the Social Contract

Environmental & Science Education
Edward Hessler

Defeating Covid-19 makes some new demands on all of us. Persistence. Hunkering down. Following protective measures recommended by health care professionals and government officials.One of these is social distancing.

Lev Facher writing for STAT comments on the increasing politicization of  social distancing as President Trump and his allies are urging us to stop isolating and to forget it.  This idea, to state the obvious, is a "worry" to health care workers.

"In the face of a potentially once-in-a-generation pandemic, whether one takes steps to “socially distance” from others is beginning to serve as a statement of one’s political values. And as coronavirus cases in the United States continue to spike, the prospect that some conservatives might abandon those measures en masse has alarmed public health experts, who say that giving up now would result in thousands of unnecessary deaths — and effectively sacrifice many of society’s most vulnerable."

Facher cites and discusses several who would have us "break this social rule." They include Dan Patrick, the lieutenant governor of Texas (also was a radio talk host) who appears in favor of taking chances with the elderly; the president of Liberty University's Jerry Falwell, Jr. who said the school would welcome students back to campus after spring break; and others. I hadn't heard about recent comparisons President Trump has made to accidents and seasonal flu:

"In the past two days, Trump has resumed comparisons of the coronavirus to the yearly death toll from car crashes and the seasonal flu. Those remarks mirror his early talking points in February, when he called Democrats’ criticisms of his response a “hoax” and argued that despite the flu’s five-figure death count, the country did not shut down its economy each flu season."

This pandemic has ethics written all over it and Facher cites several experts who raise such concerns, including Dina Borzekowski (University of Maryland School of Public Health). 'What does it say about our society if we are willing to sacrifice one group for economic gain? This is a pandemic, and shouldn’t be played out as a skirmish on a neighborhood playground.'”
Facher also notes that Republicans such as Representative Liz Cheney and Senator Lindsey Graham, "a close Trump ally" both agree that "prioritizing the economy over the public health is likely a false choice."

Facher quotes Cheney who wrote in a Twitter that "'There will be no normally functioning economy, if our hospitals are overwhelmed and thousands of Americans of all ages, including our doctors and nurses, lay dying because we have failed to do what’s necessary to stop the virus.'

This article from the Washington Post will give you a chilling idea of what some conservative pundits, thinkers, and politicians are saying.  There is deep skepticism about facts, science, public health experts as well as following the necessary protective measures is merely a desire to move the country to the left.

Teresa Hanafin in the Boston Globe e-newsletter, Fast Forward (3.35.2020),  included a potent quote from the late Mario Cuomo, former governor of NY (he is the father of NY's current inspiring New York governor, Andrew Cuomo). Mario Cuomo made a memorable speech to the1984 Democratic National Convention in which he said,

"We believe in a single fundamental idea that describes better than most textbooks and any speech that I could write what a proper government should be: the idea of family, mutuality, the sharing of benefits and burdens for the good of all, feeling one another's pain, sharing one another's blessings -- reasonably, honestly, fairly, without respect to race, or sex, or geography, or political affiliation. We believe we must be the family of America, recognizing that at the heart of the matter, we are bound, one to another."

Hanafin closes with a simple observation and a good wish, "We are bound, one to another. Please stay safe."

Facher's column may be read here, something I hope you will do..

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