Opinion: Solidarity Must Go Both Ways
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.