Have We All Stopped Caring?

A COVID casualty we seem hard-pressed to ignore

I am an essential worker. Same as any other nurse, doctor, drive-through operator, grocery clerk, or anyone else whose job does not come with the built-in luxury of being able to accomplish it from home. This is not to downplay the importance of those who can work from home, but rather to differentiate between those essential workers who have been locked in the thick of it for the past two years and those lucky enough to be able to more or less isolate themselves from the pandemic. But that does not mean that any one group has felt the impact “more” than the other, but rather we have all felt the impact differently.

We have all felt the impact of business shutdowns, lack of staffing at restaurants, school closures, and supply chain disruptions.

We have all been forced to wear masks in public spaces and maintain a safe distance from others.

We have all watched as hospitals have filled beyond capacity while the very people needed to treat the patients have walked out. We have all experienced schools reopening to staffing shortages exacerbated by the Great Resignation and COVID outbreaks.

In America alone, over 800,000 people have died as a result of this one virus. With numbers like that, it means nearly every single one of us knows someone personally or is connected with someone who personally knows someone who has died of COVID.

We are all in some way impacted by the tragedy.

Every one of us processes emotions differently. So it is not entirely surprising from an anthropological standpoint that people stormed the United States Capitol last year in response to the election not turning out the way they had wanted it to. It is not shocking that there are people who are so frustrated about wearing a mask that they yell at the counter help and storm out. It does not fly in the face of conventional wisdom that there are groups who take these things very seriously and wear the masks, get the shots, take all possible precautions, and go above and beyond to protect themselves and others out of fear of the impact on their health and well-being.

A little empathy would go a long way in helping us collectively work through our emotional responses to the past couple of years for sure.

But I honestly think we have just simply stopped caring.

A prime example to how little we collectively care is what many watched on New Years Eve. Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen did shots on live TV, Cohen went on a drunken rant, and CNN neglected to filter the live Twitter crawl running underneath.

And the response was basically, “oops.”

Years ago, there may have been massive fallout. But now, we do not care. It is just not that big of a deal. And, to be honest, this really is not that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things. But this attitude has carried over into our emotional responses to the pandemic.

People think it is ok physically assault teachers over wanting kids to wear masks in schools. People think it is ok to walk into businesses and confront employees because something is not going the way they feel it should. People think it is ok to use a phone call with the President of the United States on Christmas to Eve to tell him to go f — himself.

People have stopped caring.

And this is the greatest casualty in the past two years: compassion. Caring. Sensitivity.

Respect for others.

As someone working in an industry that requires in-person interaction, I have been yelled at, cussed out, threatened, and insulted. And I work in an eye doctor’s office. But cashiers, servers, teachers, nurses, are all receiving the same abuse. And all from the very people they are trying to help.

And collectively we shrug it off like a slip-up on live TV. It is as if we are making an active decision to not care that we do not care.

But we can be better. Next post, we will take a deep dive into how we can do so.

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