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Zirpoli: Most Americans are being smart and patient

My favorite COVID-19 protester was a woman holding a big sign that read “COVID-19 is a Hoax” while wearing a protective mask. Perhaps she was hedging her bets.

Her schizophrenic behavior blended well with the other protesters in the crowd who wore MAGA hats and signs demanding “Freedom.”

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Freedom to do what, I wondered. Freedom to bring illness and death to their family and friends? Like the president they worship, it is all about them.

In times of crisis, some people worry about their family and friends, while others worry about themselves.

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Yes, many people are afraid of losing their businesses and income. I get it. Like so many others, the agency I lead has had to send employees home to collect unemployment. The ability to pay our bills is a daily concern. However, no one wants to infect family members, coworkers, clients, or friends.

Our economic well-being is directly related to a healthy community and the quicker we stop the spread, the quicker our economy will recover.

Only then, will people want to socialize at their favorite restaurant.

I recently watched the movie “Empire of the Sun.” which was about a British boy who was separated from his parents and held in a Japanese camp during World War II. The people in the camps lost their homes and all of their possessions. For years, they were forced to live in horrible, crowded camps with limited food. Not months, but years. Many died from disease, starvation, and from the forced marches, they endured while moving from one camp to another.

By the end of the movie, I was thinking about how lucky we were to be living “only” in the middle of a pandemic, not a world war like so many people did during World War II. They endured nightly bombings and gave a new meaning to the term shelter-in-place.

For most of us, we still live in our own homes, shop at the grocery store, and have access to necessary medicines. While possibly separated from our adult children or elderly parents due to social distancing, we can visit with family and friends on Zoom or Google Hangout or Facebook, or call them. During World War II, separation meant years apart with little to no contact.

Today we have those protesting their state governors with signs reading, “I need a haircut.” Poor babies. The restrictions have been in place for less than two months and already they are crying “Uncle!”

They would not have lasted long during the harsh restrictions of World War II. Lucky for us, we were not counting on them to fight the Nazis back in the day.

“Give me liberty or give me death” read another protester’s sign. Of course, if they keep gathering in groups, some of them are likely to get their wish.

Just ask the kids who partied on the Florida beaches during spring break. While they enjoyed their “freedom,” many of them intruded on the freedom of others by bringing the virus home to family members and friends.

I’ve learned in life that some people just don’t get it until they get it. That is until something affects some people directly, they are unable to have empathy towards others or make sacrifices for the common good. It is all about them until it is about them.

The protesters are not making things better for themselves or others.

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By prolonging the spread of COVID-19 they are prolonging the economic hardships we must all endure.

Meanwhile, many Americans are bearing even greater hardships while trying to keep us safe. Two married Detroit first-responders, for example, one a police officer for 25 years and the other a firefighter for 18 years, lost their 5-year-old daughter to complications from COVID-19. I’m sure that both of them will wonder, for the rest of their lives, if one of them infected their daughter while trying to serve their community. Talk about sacrifices.

COVID-19 is not a hoax. It has killed over 50,000 Americans and we will soon surpass one million confirmed cases while testing only 2 percent of our population. Even with limited testing, we are identifying almost 30,000 new cases per day. Those who don’t know they have it continue to spread it to others.

An Associated Press poll found that 87% of Americans thought that the shelter-in-place directives where they lived were “just right” or “not stringent enough.” Only 12% believed the directives where they live “went too far.”

Most Americans are smart, patient, and want to do what is right for the common good.

Tom Zirpoli is the program coordinator of the Human Services Management graduate program at McDaniel College. His column appears Wednesdays. Email him at tzirpoli@mcdaniel.edu.

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