CHAPEL HILL – A recent opinion editorial appearing in the Washington Post by Joseph Stieb, a teacher at East Chapel Hill High School, is equal parts clueless and disturbing. Stieb sees Americans’ resistance to government enforced and constitutionally questionable Wuhan virus restrictions has trouble wrapping his mind around why they would react in such a way. He views this trend as “problematic,” and think that problem is best solved, essentially, by forced sacrifice of individuals, their rights, and their prosperity to the collective.
From the op-ed:
“[…] One NBC News poll conducted from March 11-13 showed that only 56 percent of Democrats and 26 percent of Republicans thought their daily lives would change significantly in the near future, and more recently a poll showed that more than three out of four Republicans believe the media has exaggerated the risk of the virus. Only 61 percent of Democrats and a paltry 30 percent of Republicans planned to stop attending large public gatherings. Business owners in Washington, D.C., Illinois, Nashville and Philadelphia have pledged to defy government orders to shut down. The Republican governor of Oklahoma, Kevin Stitt, notoriously tweeted a photo of himself and his children at a restaurant on Saturday, proclaiming “Eating with my kids and all my fellow Oklahomans . . . It’s packed tonight!” These divides leave Democrats especially furious that their political opponents aren’t taking the crisis seriously.
While further mandatory restrictions will hopefully change this outlook, we must understand why it has been so difficult mobilizing Americans to slow the spread of the virus through social distancing. One could point to a host of causes: the death of expertise, the stovepiping of information sources, the rise of post-truth politics, the lack of paid leave for many workers and the Trump administration’s failure of leadership.
Yet, another factor is at play. For the past three-quarters of a century, Americans have largely not been asked to sacrifice across the board for the good of the country. They’ve been told they can fulfill their responsibilities as citizens by being consumers – buying stuff to keep the economy humming was all it took to be a good American. This makes the sacrifices now being requested feel alien, causing many Americans to bristle.“
This is the clueless part. Where could this American resistance to compulsion possibly come from?!
Stieb lists some of the reasons he can think of that Americans would resist such draconian controls on their lives and livelihoods, which all drip with the simultaneously haughty and oblivious quality of Leftist academics, complete with a bashing of Donald Trump. He then dismisses them for a profound conclusion: It’s because individuals haven’t suffered enough in the name of the common good. Americans must relearn to sacrifice to the collective, he asserts, and for that reason he seems eager for more forced isolation, more closed businesses, more lost jobs, and more disruptions to our way of life.
No where in his list of reasons does this teacher with a PhD in history from UNC Chapel Hill think to acknowledge that Americans may ‘bristle’ at forced quarantine of the healthy and arbitrary forced closures of businesses because, well, WE ARE AMERICANS.
The entire idea of America; our founding; the precepts written in our governing documents; the very spirit of America itself; and, Americans’ unique understanding of a condition of liberty, are diametrically opposed to a heavy hand of Big Government running and ruining their lives. Nary a mention of our entire American cultural basis.
It’s not as if this didn’t occur to Stieb. To the contrary, he seems intimately familiar with this sense of Americana, and he resents it.
“[…] The rise of the mall and other privatized shopping centers in the place of old downtown centers in the 1970s and 1980s, and then the rise of Internet shopping replacing the mall in the 2000s, removed crucial sites of public interaction, let alone discourse.
Following these economic and cultural shifts, the relationship between voter and elected official transitioned into a contract in which the government’s legitimacy was based on its ability to provide for an ever-expanding standard of consumption. If the people’s responsibility was to consume, the government’s responsibility became maintaining economic conditions that allowed them to do so; in short, preserving their prosperity.
By the 1970s, historian Lizabeth Cohen argues, the idea of an elected official calling for sacrifice for a common cause became harder to conceive. […]
This political trend coincided with the rise of the all-volunteer military after the debacle of Vietnam, which meant that an ever-tinier slice of the population was asked to sacrifice for the common good by serving. As historian Andrew Bacevich notes, this shift changed the democratic social contract. Instead of meaningful sacrifice like military service, higher taxes or the foregoing of certain consumer goods, Americans instead adopted the shallow, performative patriotism represented by ballpark military demonstrations, “support the troops” bumper stickers and the canceling of the Dixie Chicks. […]”
He may have had to stop himself from writing ‘dumb hicks’ at some point, but we digress.
Stieb thinks your patriotism is shallow because you have not been subjected to a military draft. He suggests you don’t really love and appreciate your country and what it stands for because you’ve not been subject to the government taking obscene amounts of your money (yeah right!), or because you’ve not been forced to live in deprivation without all those things a free market provides. Struggle certainly breeds character, but what kind of character wishes that struggle upon a nation?
A Marxist. A radical Leftist that views this crisis as an opportunity to rid Americans of their ‘hyper-individualism’ and ‘consumer citizenship’ with forced quarantine and economic suffering. That is the disturbing part, and it has gained a worrisome amount of traction in just the last few weeks.
Read the entire op-ed here, and then consider whether or not you’d want this person teaching history to your high schoolers.