OPINION: Lack of empathy in this health crisis

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A letter to the editor by Liz Crockett of Mt. Holly, NJ

Glenn Harland Reynolds states in his Burlington County Times Op Ed of 4/24 that there are two Americas, and he is right. But it is not the poor vs. rich as he would have it – the divide is between people who care about their fellow Americans, and people who don’t. The protestors fall in the latter category.

If the protestors wanted relief for the poor, they would be advocating for things such as temporary basic income until the crisis has passed, or universal COVID coverage so the poor could seek medical treatment, or for the widespread testing necessary to safely reopen the country. Instead, their signs read “I need a haircut.” “Don’t take my golf season.” And “Sacrifice the Weak.”

Sacrifice the weak. Note the theme running through all the protests – not that they themselves want to return to work, but that they want OTHER PEOPLE to go back to work. They want other people to risk their health so the protestors won’t be inconvenienced. “The weak” they want to sacrifice are the poor, the low-wage earners, the people of color – those they deem expendable.

These very small protests are following the same heartless right-wing agenda as the GOP. Remember Wisconsin, where the GOP went to court to stop their primaries from being postponed, and then again to disallow an extension of safe vote-by-mail deadlines? Notice that the GOP in Congress removed provisions in the last relief bill to fund election security or the post office, both vital to allowing safe and secure, fair and free elections amid a pandemic. Remember that the Congressional GOP allowed Trump to remove the oversight of the small business support fund, which led to widespread fraud as large chains like Shake Shack and Ruth’s Chris stole money meant for the same small businesses these protestors pretend to support.

Small businesses want to reopen, yes. People who are already struggling want to return to work, yes. And that there are people who are struggling already is very real. But none of these people want to reopen, to go back to work, until it is safe. Every medical expert in the world says the key to reopening safely is widespread and continuous testing—the exact thing the federal government is not providing to its citizens. So if these protestors really want to see people back to work, they should be demanding the tools to do so.

These protestors also seem to be myopic in their focus. They pose this crisis as either people reopen or people starve. This is a false dichotomy. We can save lives and save the economy. We could simply pay people to stay home – thus keeping the economy running as people purchase things while simultaneously keeping people from suffering. Every other first world country is doing this, by either guaranteeing a certain percentage of people’s paycheck or a monthly stipend. If we truly are the richest country in the world, why can’t we do the same?

The answer is because the GOP refuses to do it. Sacrifice the weak. We all know who they mean by the weak. Not the protestors. Those who would have to risk everything to serve the protestors. The hair dressers and golf caddies. The waiters and movie workers. The grandparents. The immuno-compromised. The health care workers.

Sacrifice the weak. Reynolds is right that there is a lack of empathy in America. And it’s coming from the protestors themselves.

Editor’s note: The opinions in this letter are the author’s only.

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