Each week in this crisis seems to have a theme to it. There was the week in early March when many of us experienced lockdown for the first time, an innocent week of home workouts and sourdough loaves and hope that this would all blow over pretty quickly. Just a little while back, there was the week that we were all arguing over masks, including whether they work and who should be wearing them. This week, it seems to me like a simmering resentment has bubbled and this week’s theme is: blame.
Nobody’s happy about this situation, right? We’re all either afraid of the virus, annoyed at the restrictions, desperate to get back to work, or some combination of the above. In this week’s roundtable, I think with a little consideration we can have a meta-discussion of who is blaming whom, and why. A couple of things I’m seeing:
Protests of local governments
These are a very small number of people in the US, so we can either talk about why people feel compelled to turn out and protest, or the motives behind organising and inciting protests in the first place. The target of the blame here: mainly local governments, for issuing stay-at-home orders and preventing people from working.
It is ironic, of course, to gather in crowds to make these demands. I’ve heard of protestors arguing that COVID-19 isn’t real, or that it’s just the flu, or other anti-scientific untruths. Some denial of the facts is necessary to argue that it’s time to lift restrictions.
Suspicion of the World Health Organisation
This one has always felt a bit weird to me, since the WHO is international and strikes me as neutral and factual most of the time. But every time I get an alert from Twitter that a WHO briefing has started, the first few replies to the briefing tweet are people complaining that the WHO is in the pocket of some country or leader or another. “Its a big plannedemic scamdemic” reads one of the replies from today. (Lifehacker articles get this treatment, too; just take a look at this post from today about WHO recommendations for reopening.)
Often the comments about the WHO include an overtone of anti-Chinese nastiness. This Washington Post article on the politics between the White House, CDC, and WHO speculates that the President wants to blame China but has to redirect that blame for political reasons, and ends up lashing out at the World Health Organisation for hiding information.
Individuals flouting rules
Not everybody is engaged in an explicitly political blame game. Sometimes, instead of targeting a government or policy, we turn against each other. And so I’ve seen people arguing loudly that individuals are to blame for future waves of the outbreak. These might include individuals who walk on the footpath without masks, or who go to the beaches that are now reopening in Florida.
And while this sort of blame is not wrong, it feels (to me) angrily misplaced. Our biggest problems include the governmental fumbles that led us to a rampant virus without tests or any way to get a handle on contact tracing. (I guess that’s who I’m blaming.) I, too, cringe at the sight of people jogging maskless in a crowded park, or hosting visitors on Easter Sunday.
But I also understand the desire to get out of the house, and I think our annoyance could be more constructively focused on people with the power to make more sweeping changes, like financial assistance so people aren’t feeling so much desperation.
Anyway, that’s me. Where do you see blame being flung around? What questions or misinformation keep coming up? What do you wish we could do with all of our angry/nervous energy?