The scariest part of America's reckless reopening

What’s particularly worrisome, though, is that at this juncture, Americans appear unwilling to care even when the consequences are not remote: when they are, in effect, as intimate as they could possibly be. While consumer activists have long tried to prompt citizens to be mindful about their spending — to hop up to the second or third rung of the ladder — it is starting to seem like even the first rung is too big an ask. With the coronavirus shutdown lifting, Americans are proving unwilling to alter their habits, seeking out opportunities to have their hair cut, or eat in a restaurant, or see a new movie regardless of the stakes. Trailers for Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, which is still unbelievably slated to be released on July 31, ought to run with risk disclaimers the way prescription drug commercials do on TV: Side effects of seeing Tenet in theaters may include fever, shortness of breath, body aches, drowsiness, loss of taste or smell, an increased risk of leg and foot amputations, and may cause death. Talk to your doctor about if Tenet is right for you.

Still, it seems unlikely even that might stop people; there’s simply a pervasive sense of it won’t happen to me. You would expect that when a person’s own life and well-being is what is in jeopardy, they’d finally be compelled to act differently. But seeing as that’s not largely been the case, based on our rapidly rising numbers, it is daunting from an ethical standpoint to hope that the general public might ever take the next step. If we can’t act in ways that are compassionate toward ourselves, how will we ever develop empathy for the strangers who our actions could — will — also hurt?

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