So many of us are parked in front of our television sets these days, more out of necessity than desire.
After hundreds of hours of viewing, of clicking the remote because I’m too lazy to walk the 3 feet and manually change the channel, of enduring another season of “Real Fishwives of Wherever” because I was too clinically depressed to change the channel, I’ve come to this conclusion:
The commercials and PSAs are worse than the plague.
It started slowly, in the earliest days of the pandemic when TV networks would slip in a ten to fifteen second “thank you” to the health care workers, flashing pictures of them in masks and begging us to “Stay Safe and Stay Home” for them.
But then I started seeing tributes to grocery store workers, bus drivers, food delivery folks (those maniacal kids who drive like they’re racing at the Formula One so we can all get our take out sushi on time) and I thought: Hmm, this is a bit much.
Yes, I know they’re performing a valuable service and I am profoundly grateful for the way they’ve kept us on the edge of normality. That said, the cloying tones of the tributes are getting to me.
We can excuse and appreciate a little overkill when expressing gratitude to the men and women who - let’s be honest - have no choice but to do the dangerous jobs they’re doing. They need to work, as we all do, and their dedication is admirable and in some cases super-human.
But I sincerely doubt they appreciate the television ads telling us “We’re all in this together.” Because we’re not.
I doubt the bus drivers who have to deal with passengers who bang on the front doors and refuse to use the back entrance care about the song Alicia Keys wrote praising “essential workers.”
I doubt the hair salon owner who was publicly shamed by mayors and governors is inspired by multi-millionaire Hollywood and music moguls holding virtual concerts about how “we will survive this.”
I doubt the kids who haven’t had the ability to play with their classmates on playgrounds appreciate being told that “It’s like when the little kids got polio when great grandma was young, so you can deal with it!”
I doubt the brides who saw their weddings canceled and couldn’t get deposits back, or the pregnant mothers on the verge of giving birth in lockdown conditions, or the father of four whose savings are running out, or the immigrants at the border fleeing persecution and blocked from applying for protection, or the clinically depressed who sit alone in their rooms longing for human contact, or the elderly shut-ins who lived for weekly visits from family, or those deprived of daily Mass and daily communion with their faith family, appreciate hearing “we’re all in this together.”
Because we are not. This pandemic has cleaved us along partisan lines, reinforcing our preexisting biases and hostilities. If you hated Trump before this, your hatred is magnified tenfold. You blame him for poisoning people. You accuse him of causing the virus. You despise his supporters with a white fury.
If, on the other hand, you love the man, you are inclined to see legitimate criticism of his administration’s missteps as conspiracy theory. You justify the unjustifiable (like retweeting calls for Anthony Fauci to be fired). You play around with the epidemiological numbers.
In other words, we are not in this together. We are as far apart as we can be. And it is folly to pretend otherwise, just so we can feel better.
No matter how many times you try and remind us, we won’t be able to forget that some of us have all we need to survive another year like this, and some of us have lost our livelihoods forever.
Some of us are managing to keep our mental health on an even keel, and some of us are plunged into the abyss. Some of us are making threats against Trump on Facebook and some of us refuse to believe he’s done anything wrong.
Some of us take buses, and some of us drive around in our Lexuses, with the windows up and our masks on.
So no, we are not all in this together. Can we please stop running ads that perpetuate this fairy tale, and figure out how to survive as one nation, under God, divided, but still working on it?
Flowers is an attorney and a columnist for the Delaware County Daily Times, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.