Shared sacrifice, not individualism, needed to see us through pandemic

Posted 17 March 2021 at 5:46 pm


I thought it necessary to respond to a recently published article entitled “Pandemic Perspective: Covid has been a demon, disrupting and ending lives.” The headline caught my attention, which on the surface felt relatable.

Then I caught a glimpse of the subheading; “Generous government relief for so many puzzles long-time reporter.” I thought perhaps I had stumbled upon the Letters to the Editor page, but alas, there it was front and center.

The author nobly calls attention to the lack of shared responsibility across our country over the last year, a constant reminder that individual “freedom” will always trump community in today’s society. Citizens across the United States have sacrificed, some willingly, and others without choice. We have lost loved ones and missed out on important milestones while so many persisted, yet others insisted that social distancing and mask-wearing were too inconvenient or infringed on personal rights.

In all honesty, I appreciate the general concern expressed by older generations about “who” will pay for the massive debt that the government has undertaken. “Will somebody please think of the children!” they scream. My condolences to Generation X, who has the privilege of shepherding us Millennials and Gen Z’ers through that challenge.

An issue created by a generation that no longer has any skin in the game. They decry survival checks to those who have suffered the greatest hardship during one of the largest global pandemics in recent history but will not bat an eye when billions or trillions are pumped into Wall Street and corporations.

Martin Luther King, Jr. perhaps said it best, “We all too often have socialism for the rich and rugged free market capitalism for the poor” (from a 23 Feb 1968 speech entitled “The Minister to the Valley”). This idea is so deeply engrained in our mind that the first inclination is to question the authenticity of need. That stimulus checks must be going to those who do not need it and therefore the money should go to the top in the form of tax breaks, subsidies, and other incentives. This way, money can trickle down upon the downtrodden by the benevolence of the billionaire who wants for nothing.

It was the “great” Ronald Regan who mainstreamed the “welfare queen” trope in his 1976 presidential campaign. Those proponents of individualism and free market capitalism use anecdotal evidence (at best) to cling to this idea of rampant and widespread fraud involving public assistance. For that reason, no one should receive financial support because suffering is the cornerstone of the American Dream. It builds character and everyone knows the world needs fewer snowflakes, people who can accept the racist caricatures of Dr. Seuss as essential to childhood and those willing to fight against “woke” cancel culture.

With that line of reasoning comes concern about the government doling out free cash to those who do not need it. That an unemployment check that totals more than a person’s normal wages is an indictment on government support programs and not on the employer who pays starvation wages. That there is no way that someone making $75,000 on paper two years ago could have lost their job during that same time span. That someone earning that much could not possibly be burdened by student loan debt and out-of-control healthcare costs fueled by inadequate employer-sponsored health insurance plans. And of course, when the government puts stops in place to prevent employers from forcing employees into unsafe working conditions, the employee must be lying about their health conditions.

Topping the whole article off with a misattributed Thomas Jefferson quote and an Archie Bunker-esque anti-immigrant rant is the perfect close for a misinformed perspective littered with microaggressions.

I would expect better from the Orleans Hub.

Snarkily yours,

Matt Ballard

Statesville, NC (formerly of Clarendon, NY)