Did you whine in 2020? Were masks too much for you? Did the coronavirus pandemic cause intolerable inconvenience? Congratulations, American Snowflake—you can’t handle even modest adversity.
If you lost a partner, friend or family member to Covid-19 in 2020, you had a truly awful year. More than 300,000 Americans died of Covid in 2020, and when you multiply that by the 20 or 50 or 100 people close to each one of those souls, it’s a ghastly toll. Millions of others suffered economic hardship from lost jobs or reduced income or a family business that gave out as everybody’s work and spending habits changed. The economic pain is real, too.
But selfish rubes defined 2020 more than anybody else. President Trump led this march of folly by repeatedly denying the severity of the coronavirus, then contracting it himself. Trump went to the hospital and got specialized treatment unavailable to most Americans, then returned to the White House with the pomp of a war veteran returning from a battlefield victory. But Trump’s injury was self-inflicted and what he was really celebrating was medicine saving him from himself. Other Covid victims weren’t that lucky.
Some spreaders, like Chris Christie, didn’t think Covid was serious when other people got it, then changed their mind when they got it themselves. After seven days in the hospital, Christie played the convert, saying he was “wrong” not to wear a mask, and urging others to up their prevention game. Better taught, than stupid forever.
Covid hypocrisy was bipartisan in 2020. California Gov. Gavin Newsom broke his own lockdown rules to attend a ritzy birthday dinner with a dozen other maskless people. Denver Mayor Michael Hancock told citizens to avoid unnecessary travel over the Thanksgiving holiday, then got on a plane to visit family in Mississippi. The recurring theme: Rules are for other people.
Many Americans felt their freedom threatened in 2020, by a demonic new torture device known as a mask. “Masks are oppressive,” said Marjorie Greene, who won a Congressional seat in Georgia in November. She vows to break the mask requirement on Capitol Hill when she arrives in January, and she encourages other members of Congress to do the same, so she’ll have some company in the Covid ward. On social media, she promotes the hashtag #freeyourface, so the virus can attack your lungs more easily. If she were a soldier, she’d go to battle without a helmet or body armor, wearing comfy flip-flops instead of ponderous combat boots. Rules are for others.
In Michigan, armed protesters organized by a group called “Michigan United for Liberty” massed at the state capitol to protest shutdown orders meant to prevent more people from dying. They could have volunteered at a hospital or nursing home instead, but they would have had to put down their guns. Some of the protesters ended up being terrorist wannabes planning to kidnap the Michigan governor, seize the state house and conduct televised executions. They’re in jail now, dreaming of other ways to defend their liberty.
An August motorcycle rally in Sturgis, S.D., drew 460,000 people and generated at least 400 coronavirus infections in 20 states, including at least one death. But you could buy a shirt at the rally that said ““Screw Covid I Went to Sturgis,” so it was worth it. That’s freedom!
Former presidential candidate Herman Cain went to two crowded Trump rallies without a mask, and even tweeted that “people are fed up” with wearing masks before attending one event on July 4. Less than a month later, Cain died of Covid, which he may have contracted while exercising his maskless freedom at one of those Trump rallies.
America asks very little of its citizens these days. There hasn’t been a military draft in 47 years and there’s no requirement or even nudge for young people to consider any kind of national service. We have laughably low tax rates because Uncle Sam can borrow limitless amounts of money, allowing us to spend way more than we can finance on our own. If living beyond your means is a privilege, no society has ever been more overprivileged than the United States in 2020.
In response, modern Americans ask not what they can do for their country, but what their country can do for them. We demand that health care workers take care of us when we fail to take care of ourselves. We ask others to bear risks so we can reap the reward. We value vanity over courage and we raise the “freedom” flag to justify laziness and self-interest. The coronavirus exposed our weaknesses in 2020, but it didn’t cause them. We did.
Rick Newman is the author of four books, including “Rebounders: How Winners Pivot from Setback to Success.” Follow him on Twitter: @rickjnewman. Confidential tip line: firstname.lastname@example.org. Click here to get Rick’s stories by email.