Coronavirus is exposing America's shameful selfish streak

It is our great fortune that we haven’t much been called upon to make real sacrifices since World War II. We’re not just out of practice, though — the concept of the “greater good” has taken a real beating in recent decades, in favor of a mythical rugged individualism that claims the virtue of self-sufficiency and dismisses any sense of responsibility to each other as a form of socialism.

The end result: “This is America. And I’ll do what I want.” And everybody else can go to hell.

In the absence of leadership to guide us, it has ended up the responsibility of individuals and business owners to look out for their communities. In my hometown of Lawrence, Kansas, a popular downtown eatery announced late Saturday it is voluntarily shutting down for two weeks — because customers were still filling the place. Other establishments soon followed suit, or cut back to delivery-only options. In New York, a Time correspondent ran past brunch hot spots in Brooklyn carrying a sign telling customers to “Go the (bleep) HOME.” More mandatory restrictions are on the way this week, but too often, our elected leaders have been slow to do what is necessary, if painful.

This crisis is likely to get worse before it gets better. We Americans can better help each other if we are prepared to make sacrifices for each other over the next few months. It seems we have forgotten how. The time to relearn is now.