The Daily News took a social media beating the other day when we published a guest column that apparently rubbed many folks the wrong way.
The author wrote about being bewildered by some of the hoarding choices made by fellow shoppers at a local market, especially in the face of what he has determined to be a “massive media scare.”
Clearly, there’s something about the coronavirus pandemic — or at least some elements of it — of which he is wary. And he’s not alone. Doubters and resisters are everywhere.
Looking at the reader comments on the column, clearly there are aspects of the writer’s perspective of which many people are equally wary. Vehemently so.
Despite requests to take down the original guest column, we left both it and the dissenting comments where they were.
This health crisis has taken much away from us as a society. Jobs, for some. Retirement savings. Loved ones. And simple pleasures such as gathering with friends.
One thing it hasn’t taken, however, is our right to our own opinions. Not just having them but expressing them. And the right to question. The right to refuse to idly accept what we’re being told. It’s what Americans do.
As a vehicle for reporting the news in our news sections and engendering conversation and interpretation in our opinion sections, we’re glad of it.
But aside from the coronavirus, something else seems to be spreading as well.
It’s a fast-moving wave of judgment. And it’s ugly.
Social media is full of damning posts from would-be virologists bellowing about what you should and shouldn’t do to avoid it and once you’ve contracted it. Parents are under pressure about how to craft the perfect homeschool experience. Some people are being shamed for carrying on with everyday life, whereas others are being shamed for not carrying on with everyday life.
As of Saturday at least, neither the state nor the county are on mandatory lockdown such as California, New York and Illinois are. But we all have been asked to stay at home as much as possible and to not even venture to work unless we are essential employees at essential businesses.
But who are any one of us to say who is essential or not, aside from the glaringly obvious? The guy down the street who heads out to work in the morning looking nothing at all like a doctor or a police officer, EMT or other first responder just might be the guy who makes sure your trash gets picked up. Or who keeps the city water flowing to ensure you can flush when you want to. Or who delivers your elderly neighbor’s medicine.
It’s simply not for any one of us to judge whether he ventures to work or shelters in place. Just raise a coffee cup, say good morning, and wish him well.
We’re all in this together. We’re already mandated to physically distance ourselves from each other. The last thing we need is to compound that distance on a deeper level by judgment or snobbery or ignorance.
• Margaret Battistelli Gardner