We can’t say that the state of the American political scene wasn’t messed up before, but now with the lasting pandemic it might just be worse than ever. The U.S. today is an increasingly polarized nation in regards to all things political, that much was evident in the last few elections, but the COVID-19 outbreak has only caused things to escalate to a point of absurdity.
Because of the nature of the virus, it has pretty much wormed its ways into nearly every aspect of our lives. Things get a little awkward when I am trying to be an advocate for safe practice and vaccinations and I come to find my own family and friends are a part of the anti-vaxxer movement (which is a whole epidemic on its own but that’s a different story).
Don’t get me wrong here, I have always been a supporter of having whatever opinions you want as long as they aren’t negatively affecting others and you can actually provide justification for your claims, but with this pandemic that has become one big messy grey area. Americans are butting heads on all things COVID-19 daily, and, granted, disagreement isn’t something new to Americans but it is reaching a new level that’s just plain ridiculous. At first, they were funny, but now when I see a video of some middle aged man having a full on meltdown over mask mandates I feel a little sad for the state of our country.
The difference in opinions, while highly problematic for stopping the spread of the virus, isn’t all that unexpected. Especially in the early days of the pandemic, false information was easier to come across than accurate information and was bound to lead to confusion and disagreements.
Former President Donald Trump, the acting president of the time, was constantly being flagged on social media platforms for misinformation. I am understanding of the fact that it was a chaotic and confusing time in the beginning, and it still is, but the man was quite literally suggesting injecting disinfectant into our bodies as a remedy for the virus. You cannot tell me that’s not a recipe for other wacky conspiracies and misunderstandings to spread like wildfire.
Lack of information allowed disagreement on the facts to spread at an unbelievable rate, with political elites failing to find common ground regarding who was at most risk, the reasonableness of COVID-19 protocols and whether or not the public should trust the vaccine. On top of that there is a serious lack of science in understanding the virus, with countless sources of information, all with differing messages and claims. State officials, the White House and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention all put out individual statements that more often than not contain differences, only spreading more confusion and breeding differing opinions on the pandemic itself.
The country has been divided on almost every aspect of the pandemic since the get-go. It began with whether or not closures should happen, if masks were actually effective or if the test results were really all that accurate. The same disagreements still exist now but add on whether or not the vaccine is safe, if it is helping or if it's just a government microchip experiment to track us.
Regardless of the official statements made by our nation’s leading health professionals and politicians, distrust based on political biases is causing lack of belief or willingness to follow any COVID-19 protocols amongst Americans. Personal bias and differing experiences with the pandemic make the polarization of public perception of the pandemic all the more palpable. Whether or not you personally have caught the virus or seen how badly it has affected family and friends changes how each person feels about COVID-19, as well as how the country and our peers should be responding to it.
Look, form whatever opinions you want, but let’s not lose our heads here. Fact check your information and let’s stop blindly believing everything we hear, because more often than not it is not going to be 100% true. Also, let's just start being good neighbors to our fellow Americans okay? If someone feels more comfortable wearing a mask or would feel more comfortable if you wore a mask, just do it, it's really not that big of a deal. On that note, if wearing a mask is the biggest inconvenience in your life, check your privilege and priorities because quite simply you sound ridiculous. Lastly, just get vaccinated. Do you know how many other vaccines they give you before you’re old enough to retain memories? That’s why things like polio and the black plague no longer run rampant. It's not a conspiracy. It's science.
Let’s all agree to put our egos aside and find a measly amount of agreement that will be the real key to putting this all behind us and then we can go right back to disagreeing just for the sake of it. If all of this seems outrageous and not feasible to you, chances are you are the problem.
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Lauren (she/her) is a political science major from Baltimore.