is the author of the novel Nigh and journalist who covers art and culture. He has previously written for outlets such as Breitbart, LifeZette, and BizPac Review among others. Follow him on Twitter @WritingLeeman
A row between a conservative former model and the congresswoman’s followers on whether it’s evil to be eating out amid the dreaded coronavirus outbreak shows the central problem the US faces today, and one far more threatening.
In the midst of a media cycle that only seems to have coronavirus on the brain, terms like social distancing have become popular among politicians and social justice warriors looking to preach through Twitter.
Though the US has faced nowhere near the consequences of some other countries in regards to the coronavirus, folks have still been panicking, stockpiling hand sanitizer and toilet paper and keeping away from the usual public places they may usually go, such as movie theaters, restaurants, bars, etc.
But what’s really troubling is that the same toxic binary mentality citizens apply to politics and just about every other aspect of life today has been at the center of the coronavirus response. A perfect example of this occurred Saturday night when conservative ex-Miss Nevada Katie Williams went viral for pushing back against a tweet from New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez that shamed healthy Americans for “crowding bars, restaurants and public spaces” in the middle of the coronavirus outbreak.
“To everyone in NYC but ESPECIALLY healthy people & people under 40 (bc from what I’m observing that’s who needs to hear this again): PLEASE stop crowding bars, restaurants, and public spaces right now. Eat your meals at home,” Cortez tweeted. “If you are healthy, you could be spreading COVID.”
Cortez is not the only politician to promote basically self-quarantining yourself at the moment. Politicians like Texas Senator Ted Cruz — who likely can’t find another issue to agree with Cortez on — have also promoted people staying away from public places, even if they are healthy.
Williams, who has called out the “hysteria” surrounding coronavirus in the past on Twitter, in turn responded by boasting about eating at a Red Robin that was “crowded.”
“I just went to a crowded Red Robin and I’m 30. It was delicious, and I took my sweet time eating my meal. Because this is America. And I’ll do what I want,” Williams tweeted to Cortez, clearly a partial attempt at trolling both the congresswoman and the idea of shaming others into quarantine.
That however didn’t sit well with many liberal users on Twitter, who flocked to roast Williams in the comments — and those responses are quite telling. They show a country stuck between two extremes: complete panic with a dose of self-righteousness and brazen disregard in the name of trolling.
“You are evil!” one Twitter user told Williams.
“Selfishness is a very ugly character defect,” tweeted another.
She was also called “one of the dumbest people in America” and a “sociopath.” Failed presidential candidate Marianne Williamson even responded with shock that seemed a bit overinflated considering all Williams did was hit up a burger joint.
As depressing as these reactions are, especially considering the entire US has had a grand total of 60 deaths from the coronavirus and the virus has clearly been overblown by panicked masses, they should not be surprising.
Others have also weighed in on the debate of whether now is the right time to be going out in public places or not.
California Congressman Devin Nunes told Fox News on Sunday that the current moment is a great time for healthy people to go out and support “working people in this country.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, who sits on the national task force put together by the president to combat the spread of the coronavirus, meanwhile told CBS’ ‘Face the Nation’ on the same day that he “personally” would not be going out to a restaurant at the moment.
The comments from both men dropped on the same day that California Governor Gavin Newsom urged bars and other businesses to close for the near future, and Illinois Govenor J.B. Pritzker actually ordered the partial closure of restaurants and bars in response to the coronavirus.
Who’s right? Who’s wrong? The truth is, it doesn’t really matter. There’s no solid guide for how the next few weeks will play out with the virus, so to firmly plant your flag on one side of the aisle and wave your finger at the other side is just foolish.
Tribalism between two camps though — and lately even between their factions — is the go-to way to debate and judge in today’s social media-fueled culture.
If you support Donald Trump or are conservative, be prepared to be labeled racist, homophobic, sexist, and everything in between. If you support a liberal or Bernie Sanders, you’re a snowflake, a communist, or even a ‘Nazi’.
Williams is even familiar with this extreme cultural judgement that has become so prevalent in the US, as she claimed last year she was booted from the Ms. America Pageant for her outspoken conservative views.
There is no grey area anymore. Just black and white. And this same knuckleheaded-mentality is becoming all the rage with coronavirus.
Cortez is not wrong for acting cautiously in the face of a pandemic with an uncertain future, but Williams is also not wrong for doing exactly what she has the right to do as an American. The country is not on lockdown, and if everyone bought into the ‘cancel everything’ mentality of ‘social distancing’ extremists then who knows what would really happen to the US’ economy?
Beliefs today though cannot come without judgement of another. If you believe the coronavirus is a window to reality’s ‘Walking Dead’ then everyone who dares to venture outside of their homes and put money into the economy is evil. If you believe the virus is inspiring hysteria not earned then everyone staying home must just not like America.
Just like in politics, many US citizens have a lot to learn when it comes to the coronavirus. Everything does not need to be binary. Two seemingly opposing things can be true at the same time. Cortez and others can stay home out of caution, while others like Williams can choose to grab a burger and fries and avoid hysteria. Neither is irrational. What’s irrational is jumping on a bandwagon and shaming all those who disagree with you, but that is sadly the norm in the US today, even when it comes to a pandemic experts still arguably know little about.