American society lacks empathy


Illustration by Ana Lorant

Ebony Purks, Staff Writer

While countries like Italy and China have been on lockdown for the past couple of weeks, American spring breakers were crowding bars and beaches, blissfully enjoying their vacation as people across the world were fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. Many American citizens have been continuously ignoring cautions from health care officials to social distance to protect themselves and others from contracting the novel coronavirus. People across the globe have been dying for weeks now because of the virus and continue to get sick in alarming quantities daily. Despite warnings from health care officials and reports of worsening conditions in countries like China, Spain and Italy, Americans have not stopped ignoring the severity of what is going on in the world. This unusual circumstance the world is experiencing is highlighting the lack of empathy embedded in American society and exposing how dangerous American individualism can be.

At some point amidst the chaos that was beginning to ensue in America, a small group of people across the country decided to take it upon themselves to hoard supplies like toilet paper and paper towels, even though having those items in abundance is not going to protect them from getting sick; as a result, even more people began hoarding supplies because it made people suspicious of government officials hiding the truth about the severity of the virus. Consequently, this forces the elderly, parents with families of four or more, and workers living paycheck to paycheck to fend for themselves. 

The first bunch to hoard supplies thought nothing of how their actions were going to affect anyone else, or maybe they didn’t care. The hoarding of supplies is the biggest example of American individualism I have ever seen, displaying a complete lack of empathy for others. In the meantime, lines continue to wrap around H-E-B stores, and people have to be outside grocery stores as early as 6:00 a.m. to get resources for themselves and their family all because of a few selfish people who didn’t think of how their actions would affect others. 

Moreover, on an Instagram live video, Vanessa Hudgens said being quarantined until July because of the coronavirus was “bullshit.” With an indifferent tone, Hudgens suggested we shouldn’t care so much about people dying from this virus because death is inevitable. That thought process alone is incredibly selfish. For someone with Hudgens’ platform to go on Instagram to complain about how this pandemic is preventing her from going to Coachella is a reckless abuse of influence. The elderly and sick do not exist to be discarded for others’ convenience. The pandemic was serious at the time of her Instagram live and increased in severity by the day. Someone with Hudgens’ privilege can more than afford to take some time off and stay inside to protect others. Hudgens’ dismissal of the virus, while thousands were watching, perpetuates the clear lack of empathy of American culture.

Similarly, the president has contributed to enabling reckless behavior around the country with his rhetoric surrounding the virus. President Trump made a comment suggesting the coronavirus killing 1% of the population is better than if it killed 4% or 5%. Obviously 5% is a bigger, and in this context, more destructive, number than 1%, but America’s population is roughly 327,000,000; 1% of that would be 3,270,000. 3,270,000 Americans are treated as disposable liabilities in this country. That kind of rhetoric is unacceptable from a president because it sends the message from the highest office to Americans that they can act as they please because the virus is likely not going to affect them.

Perhaps this pandemic is bringing out the worst in people. Or, perhaps this pandemic is exposing an underlying aspect of American culture that lacks empathy. The total death toll around the world right now is over 30,000, and by the time you’re reading this article, it may be more. There are nurses, doctors, food service workers and more putting their lives on the line to protect people during this pandemic, only to be repaid with disregard and intentional recklessness. Understandably, this is a new and hard time for so many people. Many people are without a paycheck right now, losing loved ones and separated from their families. For the sake of your fellow man, please stay inside and think about others.