"I'm going to reflect on the reoccurring feeling I have of impending doom," CDC Director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky recently said, adding, "we have so much reason for hope, but right now I'm scared."
And well we might all be, because, given the chance to see the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, if only we persevere with what needs to be done to get us to the end, so many instead have opted to try to break out through the tunnel walls, risking the flood of another covid surge. So we hear about and see pictures of people traveling here, there, and everywhere, "partying" (a contemporary word that seems to cover a multitude of bad behaviors) and otherwise endangering themselves and everyone else. And it is not just youthful "spring breakers" who are to blame. however much they may be a big part of the problem. Of course, the obvious question about "spring breakers" is, why are they still having "spring break" at all? Given the obvious malignancy of allowing "spring break" in a time of pandemic, why are schools and institutions of so-called higher learning not keeping students home, in class, or glued to zoom sessions instead of encouraging them to roam around the country causing such mischief? It is not just "spring breakers" who are to blame, but all those who have enabled that despicable and destructive custom to continue.
"Spring break" aside, there is also the widespread political problem of irresponsible officials abolishing mask mandates and otherwise encouraging risky behavior. How public health precautions like mask-wearing and getting vaccinated became politicized is something historians will look back on as undoubtedly one of the main contributors to the length and severity of this pandemic. That this has become a particular problem in this country is, of course, unsurprising, since it is one of the axioms of the classical liberal tradition (intellectually rooted in Hobbes and Locke and associated with important strains of American political thought and popular culture) that identifies as among the highest human values irresponsible individual freedom and liberty from government, which is understood as essentially coercive. So much of our political tradition has been rooted in the equating of government action with compulsion and coercion, and the consequent exaltation of individual private liberty at the expense of the common and public good. For some, the very point of refusing to wear a mask, for example, seems to be to display one's contempt for the common and public good.
And that is how, even with the light already visible at the end of the tunnel, we risk flooding and drowning in the next surge.