Margaret Renkl’s Lessons from COVID


A sign promotes mask-wearing at a bar in Houston, Texas, March 9, 2021. (Callaghan O’Hare/Reuters)

What did our society get right, and wrong, in responding to the pandemic? What to make of the regional disparities that “many statisticians, virologists, and public-health experts” call “the greatest conundrum of the pandemic”? Was there ever any good reason to wear masks in sparsely populated outside spaces, or to mandate it? Did insisting on such behavior undermine other, less questionable, public-health advice?

New York Times columnist Margaret Renkl has nothing to say about any of this, but she evidently drew some key lessons in time for Memorial Day:

Using the first-person plural to talk about “our” failings is a handy technique for attacking other people in a wildly judgmental and generalizing way without owning the aggression.

Questioning other people’s patriotism is entirely acceptable if you’ve picked the right people.

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Nothing is more important than berating one’s political/cultural enemies; certainly examining any evidence isn’t.

Be sure, in the course of blaming these enemies for hundreds of thousands of deaths, to express sadness at the “division” in our society.

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