Opinion: Solidarity Must Go Both Ways

(Photo provided)

(Photo provided)

By Owen Keenan, Guest Columnist

The COVID-19 pandemic has warranted the greatest societal reorganization since World War Two. The economy has ground to a halt and social bonds have been put on hold. The policy needed to end this pandemic is a hard, but necessary, pill to swallow if we are to protect the elderly and immunocompromised. This means that healthy young people, who are at lower risk of serious illness from COVID-19, must act in a spirit of solidarity.

We must cancel our vacations, leave our beloved colleges, and watch a strong job market evaporate in front of our eyes, for the sake of others and not ourselves. And this is the right thing to do. We are living up to the high demand of President Kennedy when he directed Americans to ask not what our country can do for us, but what we can do for our country. This is now a foreign concept in a country that has fully embraced the ethos of every man for himself. This cruel disregard for others has been our justification for weakening the social safety net, and perhaps more odiously, the outright denial of the apocalyptic havoc that climate change will wreak upon our generation and those that follow us.

The reality is that young people are reviving the spirit of solidarity in this country. An understanding that we must put our wants on hold when our neighbor’s needs are much more pressing. When we get through this crisis, we will have the opportunity to examine what was so ill and rotten in our society that has allowed the pandemic to spiral out of control. Out of the ashes, we must build a society where homeless people are not living in squalor and so susceptible to infection from a virus. We must guarantee healthcare to the cashiers who are endangering their lives so we can continue getting our groceries. And yes, we must sacrifice the short-term profits of industry to take on the mammoth threat of climate change. The solidarity that young people are extending to the rest of the country must be returned in favor when the pandemic ends, not for any one person’s sake, but for the country’s sake.

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Author: Gettysburgian Staff

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  1. “When we get through this crisis, we will have the opportunity to examine what was so ill and rotten in our society that has allowed the pandemic to spiral out of control.”

    That’s an amazing statement about our beloved country from someone who is very lucky to be here, instead of in one of the many hellholes in the world. First, the virus is not spiraling out of control, thanks to the amazing technology, medical workers and facilities available in this country, as well as the cooperation of 300+ million people. Second, if our society is so ill and rotten, perhaps you can name a few countries that are not so ill and rotten and where, as a result, they have not suffered from this virus. Where is your virus-free paradise?

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    • I see, Barry Stiger, the 2020 version of my country right or wrong. So the world leader in infections and number 4 with a bullet for total deaths is not one of those hellholes but the other 206 countries with lower numbers of cases and critical cases are the “hellholes.” If the virus is not spiraling out of control it is truly from the bottoms up efforts by heroic healthcare workers, aware and caring ordinary citizens and brave local and state leaders sacrificing their economic security, their lifestyles and unfortunately their lives to keep this from spreading like wildfire. As I read it, Owen is simply asking for something in return from those of us (I am 55) who are borrowing from our younger people’s generational prospects and future. It seems to me a livable planet and a society that supports life and not just profit are a fare trade.

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  2. What an amazing statement, Owen. Such a measured reflection given the state of our current situation is a pleasure to read when the default, lazy state of mind all too often merely parrots back conclusory talking points. As you make plain, there needn’t be a paradise in fact in order for us to make strides toward it. Well said.

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  3. Yes, solidarity must go both ways, otherwise it is just one side pampering the other.

    One good example of that is the current Spanish PM. For political motivations (risk of losing popularity) he did not act quickly enough for the Covid-19 even though he knew what happened in Italy.
    Even worse, the Spanish PM weak after forming a minority government, did not want to risk his fragile hold on power by banning large gatherings. Instead, he allowed thousands to attend soccer games last week, as well as permitted a 120,000-strong feminist rally in Madrid to proceed.
    And now Spain blames the European Union for lack of solidarity… what Spain really wants is to be pampered by other European Union member states while taking no responsibility for its errors.
    And that kind of errors did not happen only in Spain but all over the world.

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