”Ask Not What Your Country Can Do For You” was written by Joseph Mullen, an 18-year-old US native as part of the Write the World Civics in Action project.
Ask Not What Your Country Can Do For You
In my state of Florida, our governor was widely criticized for failing to act fast enough against the coronavirus. It took Governor Ron Desantis until April 1st to issue the stay at home order, which was so late that it seemed to be a bad April Fool’s joke.
Even this order has been loose, as beaches began to reopen on the same day that we had our greatest death toll of the pandemic. Pictures of Floridians attending beaches in the middle of a global epidemic led to the hashtag #floridamorons going viral.
My fellow Floridians aren’t morons for wanting a reprieve from the policies of social distancing; many Americans are suffering economically due to these restrictions, and at this point 22 million Americans are out of work. Many want social distancing lifted so they can go back to work and not have to face economic despair as the United States economy is bound to be in recession even after the pandemic ends. While it may seem easy to dismiss the protestors, many are desperate for relief from the economic tolls of the pandemic, which they see as worse than the disease itself.
However, many of these protestors have revealed a deeper antagonism, evincing further the need for social distancing. Just as many of the protestors are voicing their frustration for justifiable reasons, there have been protestors with Confederate Flags, Swastikas, anti-Semitic, and anti-Asian American displays. As a result, the protestors have quickly become dominated by far-right organizations, showing how hateful ideologies can manipulate economic frustration and scapegoat others for the crisis, making it harder to distinguish those justifiably concerned about their economic livelihood from those exploiting the anger to espouse hateful views.
It is reassuring to know that the majority of Americans are rejecting this vocal minority’s rush to reopen. For example, 72% of Floridians polled did not want to return to life as normal at the beginning of May. The majority of Americans realize the discrimination that many of the protestors espouse is no different than the discrimination of the virus itself. African-Americans have overwhelmingly been affected by COVID-19, and Asian-Americans suffer discrimination for as long as this pandemic lasts.
Our country has come together to protect the most vulnerable among us, as the social distancing orders are designed to prevent further spread of a disease that has overwhelmingly affected minority Americans. We have to keep social distancing to fight the racial inequality the virus has exploited, but many protestors have pointed out justifiably that social distancing is widening the economic inequality already prevalent in American society. There is a way to balance these two truths, in maintaining social distancing and helping those hit economically by the lockdowns, and it involves abiding by the founding principle of our government: the social contract.
America has always been a nation built on freedom, but during a pandemic, the rules change.
To the protestors: realize social distancing isn’t just in place to protect you. It’s in place to protect your older relatives, your children, your neighbors, and the most vulnerable in society.
The government exists based on the principle of the social contract – to protect the people with the consent of the governed. However, the government cannot protect us if we do not agree to relinquish some rights in times of crisis.
These protestors want to work, but as Kevin Cassidy, the US representative to the International Labor Organization said, the right to work cannot infringe upon the right to a healthy workplace. We don’t have to weaken these restrictions to stop the protests, but we do have to convince protestors, themselves suffering, that social distancing is for their good as well as the common good. According to health experts, America’s death toll will continue to grow if we do not continue the restrictions, as painful as they may be.
This situation emphasizes a clear problem: the more we use social distancing to stop the disease, the worse the economy will be hit. But we can’t save the economy without stopping the disease, and to put it bluntly, our freedoms are less significant if we are no longer alive to exercise them. Thus, we must find ways to help workers while in quarantine.
Our government can fulfill the social contract by providing economic relief to protestors, many of whom are furloughed workers. The government can start by passing more direct relief to the average worker, rather than diverting much-needed stimulus money to bailing out big corporations yet again during a recession. We can continue sending out direct stimulus checks.
While the pandemic necessitates social distancing, the government can bridge the divide and expand the social safety net to protect workers at risk of economic suffering. Together, these actions will uphold and further the social contract.
”Ask Not What Your Country Can Do For You” was written by Joseph Mullen, an 18-year-old US native as part of the Write the World Civics in Action project, a collaboration that includes Parentology, the National Children’s Campaign and Facing History & Ourselves.