Has The Social-Distancing Culture War Already Begun In Lafayette?
As COVID curves begin to flatten and mandates become more relaxed, we now face a new challenge.
Slowly but surely, the economy is beginning to open up with social-distancing guidelines that include things like wearing masks, limited capacities, and measured distance restrictions. Most people (raises hand) fall into a category that believes that public health is paramount but also know that we have to figure out the safest way to get our economy going again.
Contrary to popular (internet) belief, those two ideas can exist at the same time.
But let's be honest: We live in a society where the extremes often take center stage and as we take the next steps in this COVID-19 saga, I personally believe we are now entering the Social-Distancing Culture War era.
On one side of the extreme, you've got a group of folks who stay covered in hand sanitizer and think the idea of any public interaction is insane and that everyone is jumping the gun on this entire process.
On the other hand, you have a group that actually finds delight in breaking the "rules"—going out of their way to do the exact opposite of whatever the guidelines suggest in a defiant response to this "stupid hoax."
For those of us in the middle, it only adds to the frustration of this entire pandemic. Just the other day, I witnessed an interaction between two acquaintances, and I literally watched one pressure the other into greeting him with a handshake. It was almost like one of those scenes in a movie where the henchman for some mob boss pats down a visitor to make sure they're not wearing a wire.
But in this case, the "wire" was any and all precautions taken due to the coronavirus.
If you would have asked me a month ago I would have totally told you that social distancing was one of the first parts of American life that weren't sharply divided by some type of party line. Guidelines like handwashing and avoiding crowds were something that we all seemed to agree upon. Even in the midst of a pandemic, it was oddly refreshing to see everyone on the same page for once.
In the last few weeks that consensus has definitely faded as continued lockdowns have eaten away at our patience, causing tempers to flare. Local business owners understand that distancing measures are essential to containing the spread of the virus, but they just want to be given the chance to get back to work, even if it means abiding by strict COVID-19 guidelines.
Beyond the politics and the blatant refusal to "fall in line," there are many who genuinely have to work because they simply can't afford not to. The debate on how we recognize and address the demands that come with our economy while fighting a global pandemic is as legit as it gets.
That's what brings us to our current chapter of this pandemic: How do we handle the "self-righteous" people on social media who scroll through timelines and stories, publicly shaming anyone who isn't sheltering in place? Should we accept the fact that this "tattle culture" is simply part of our climb out of this coronavirus nightmare? Do we simply look for the good intentions behind "snitching," or do we judge the judgers?
What about those who ridicule others that stay locked in their homes? Should we take issue with them bullying people for reporting businesses who aren't in compliance? Do we view them as insensitive, or as people who put the value of money above the value of life—or do we simply accept that their "you can't tell me what to do" attitude is a byproduct of their uncertainty mixed with the fact that their backs are against the wall?
And do I even need to mention the conspiracy theories?
In the next few weeks, we are likely to see more of the governor's "Stay Home" order lifted, and I'm fully prepared for the extremists to continue fanning the flames of the social-distancing culture war that we've already begun to see. There are many who have felt the worst effects of COVID-19—be it through the loss of loved ones or the financial burden that has affected us all—and I think it's important for us to be mindful of that before passing judgment on our neighbors.
I do think it's important to remember that non-compliance complaints don't constitute an emergency that requires you to call 911. Also, know that "blasting" a business or other individuals on Facebook can be reckless too, especially since videos and photos often don't tell the whole story. We saw this exact situation unfold at a local Mexican restaurant in town on Cinco De Mayo.
As discouraging as it may sound to anyone who wants to snitch, most government officials around the country have said the best thing we can do during these confusing times is to not fight amongst ourselves at a time when everyone's anxiety is already so high. If you truly feel like a situation is harming you or could potentially harm or threatening others, please check with your local or state authorities, follow the proper protocol, and let the professionals handle it from there.
As we step into the next "phases" of this COVID-19 pandemic, my best advice to you is the advice that will take myself: Let's be kind to one another, let's be understanding of one another, and let's continue to control what we can—which are our own actions.