Why Covid-19 Challenges Americans

Do social distancing and masks work? No one can prove it.
Photo by Kate Trifo on Unsplash

It seems like fighting coronavirus and COVID-19 should be simple enough. Stay inside, make only essential trips, cover your mouth and nose, wash your hands… Everyone by now has heard the advice ad nauseum. U.S. Founding Father Benjamin Franklin said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” Following the advice would end the pandemic sooner, but some have chosen to actively ignore it, protesting in groups, going to church services, and gathering for parties. It even looks like some states will be weighing in on Franklin’s wisdom shortly if they haven’t already. Aside from the insidious words of a few loud-mouthed hypocrites inciting dangerous protests, there are some reasons why it’s hard for Americans to follow the rules they are given.

Everyone’s Essential

Is every job essential?
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When everyone is special, everyone is essential. No one wants to believe that they aren’t needed, and that’s exactly what the phrasing of “essential jobs” and “essential personnel” does. It tells people that they aren’t needed in society. Their jobs are luxuries that people could do without if it came down to it, and it has come down to it. To find out that a specific job isn’t valued because it doesn’t keep people healthy or alive is hard, especially for someone who believes in the implicit essentialness of the work.

Erasing the Identity

If you’re not your work, who are you?
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In the U.S. and capitalist societies the world over, a person is his or her job. People who do not have jobs, like the homeless, are routinely ignored or denigrated. Even someone who is busking will face ridicule for not having a real job. No one wants to be invisible. Having a job gives people something to talk about while allowing them to support their ego. When someone asks them, “What do you do?” They have a ready answer. While staying at home and not doing a job, people suffer as their identity is given away to something else.

Introspection Is Hard

What are your thoughts when you aren’t being entertained?
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There are a lot of jokes about how staying at home as revealed how much a husband doesn’t like his wife or vice versa. The best comedy always reveals an element of truth. Spending so much time together has revealed flaws in the relationship that were covered up by long work days. However, this is just the beginning. The U.S. is a society that likes to be entertained. Americans like to ignore their problems and what’s going on inside, especially men. Even with the available entertainment on the Internet, there will come a time when everyone has to examine his or her life. If they don’t like what they see, they will take it out on their significant others or anyone else who they feel is responsible for this introspection revealing their character flaws.

Believing in the Invisible

People can’t see a motivating force behind the universe, but they believe in one.
Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

There are hundreds of religions based on believing in things unseen. Human beings are no strangers to believing in the invisible. People have long believed in spirits, fairies, and ghosts. More recently, they’ve taken to believing in the Loch Ness monster, bigfoot, and aliens. But a virus is different because science tells people that viruses exist while simultaneously telling people that those other invisible things are in fact something from the collective conscious. How can people believe in the invisible of science when science can’t prove the long-held beliefs in the spirits and after-life and it denies the existence of the monsters, aliens, and fairies of our imaginations?

Prevention Isn’t Measurable

Washing your hands prevents disease transmission, but not everyone does it.
Photo by CDC on Unsplash

One reason for America’s medical system being based on cures rather than prevention is that scientists can’t measure prevention. No one can definitively say one person lived longer than another because he or she exercised. There’s no way to know for sure whether or not a specific prevention technique was effective in keeping people healthier. Some people smoke every day of their life and live until they are over 100. The same is true with coronavirus.

Doctors might be able to say that they believe people staying inside kept people safe, or people wearing masks kept people safe, or social distancing prevented disease transmission. However, there is no way to prove this is the case for the individual. There’s no way to point at someone the individual would have come into contact with and say, “That person would have giving you COVID-19 if you would have gone out on a specific day and met him or her in the supermarket.” There is no way to know when the threat was mitigated, and most people will choose to believe it won’t happen to them.

Freedom Fighters

Don’t tell me what to do.
Photo by Ryan Franco on Unsplash

Even though Americans are told what to do every day, through traffic lights, by their bosses, and by the talking heads they listen to, the U.S. has a strong culture of “You can’t tell me what to do!” Step children say it to their stepmothers and fathers, 18-year-olds say it to their parents, and a certain segment of the population says it to the government. This runs so rampant, that some people would choose to do something that harms themselves, if they were told to do something that was good for them. Some will even avoid doing something they want to do, simply because someone else told them they had to.

You Can’t Fight a Virus

It’s hard to fight what you can’t see.
Photo by Hermes Rivera on Unsplash

Yes, by staying inside, people are effectively fighting the transmission of the virus, but America is a society that thrives on contact sports. Football is the most popular sport in America. MMA, UFC, and boxing are all popular. For all of its scripting, wrestling was deemed essential in Florida. There is the idea that Americans will fight for their country; it’s why the Second Amendment exists. However, in this case, the Second amendment can’t help anyone. You can’t shoot a virus.

Disinformation and Misinformation

Just because someone has a radio show, doesn’t mean they know what they are talking about or that they are being truthful.
Photo by Jason Rosewell on Unsplash

With the main weapon of choice out of commission because of its ineffectiveness, people should be able to turn to the experts in their field to combat this disease. Unfortunately, over the past three years, there has been a public campaign to discredit competent individuals and the journalists who would report on them. Instead, people choose to listen to conspiracy theorists and follow their advice, most of it wrong and deliberately so. Rather than relying on the First Amendment to guarantee an informed democracy, people have chosen to follow those who speak more and listen less. They follow people who aren’t journalists; they follow talking heads who shout down the opposition, and they follow what fits their worldview.

Confirmation Bias

Money is more tangible than prevention and health.
Photo by Jp Valery on Unsplash

It’s easy for people to believe what they already think is true. Even if they are shown that what they think is false, they will find ways to protect their beliefs. They will look for others that confirm their beliefs, and they will bond with those people to confirm their identities. This confirmation bias makes it easy to ignore the numbers and to believe the lies propagated by those who have an agenda toward the economy. Besides, those who haven’t seen the virus in action will believe they can’t get it. That makes it easy to believe coronavirus is a hoax or the economy is more important than one’s own health or the health of others in the community.

The Solution

There’s nothing that America can do for this pandemic. As much as doctors may have wanted to protect people and save their lives, the uneducated massed and their speakers have decided the economy is more important than friends, families, neighbors, and health. They’d rather be able to get their hair done, and they insist that they save lives just like the doctors and nurses on the front lines. They’ve been riled up by the hypocrites that are hiding in their basements away from other people, and they’ve been misled by misrepresentation and mixed messages from the top.

The best that can be hoped for is that employees stay home when states are opened too early, and responsible individuals choose their own health and the health of others over making money. This part of the pandemic is hard. It’s hard to be alone or with people you hardly know. However, opening the economy early and dealing with the health issues that arise will be much more difficult. Hopefully, America will get lucky and those who choose to protest will be healthy for years to come.

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Earned a Master’s in Creativity and Innovation from Malta U., author of “Disneyland Is Creativity” and other books, other works available at www.penguinate.com.

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Shad Engkilterra

Earned a Master’s in Creativity and Innovation from Malta U., author of “Disneyland Is Creativity” and other books, other works available at www.penguinate.com.