Today is All Souls Day when the dead are remembered and prayed for. In México it is Day of the Dead—Día de los Muertos—a celebration when distant family members return home as fully as they do for Thanksgiving in the United States. Mexican families gather to decorate their graves, share pan de muerto and mole, and recall the deceased. The ofrenda or home altar is adorned with flowers and articles reminiscent of the deceased. Gifts of food, tobacco, liquor, and other items are given to guide the decedents’ spirits back to the family.
Today is Day of the Dead—and there are so many dead this year. More than 230,000 have died already, nearly 1,000 each day and rising. Many have died needlessly. Their certificates may list COVID-19 as the cause of death but official indifference is the real culprit.
The virus is rampant because to many believe in the libertarian fantasy that no one is responsible for anyone except himself; that each person is sovereign, and government must not compel anyone to act for the common good. That must be voluntary. Over and over, its practitioners oppose mandating masks to stem the spread; oppose the use of science to guide public health policy, and claim that any restriction on individual activities is a form of tyranny. This cult is killing us. It’s a terrible fever dream.
Like it or not, we all must live together. And we may all die together as well. The virus has decimated sparse rural villages as easily as densely-packed cities. It is indifferent to politics and religion. It touches everyone. Those who wear masks, and practice social-distancing try, with good grace, to accept the need to sacrifice some of their liberties, careers, and freedom of movement as the price of saving lives.
Unfortunately, too many governors and mayors have capitulated to the undefined notion that “individual responsibility” alone will guide citizens to take appropriate actions; that undefined “common sense” is a better guide than medical science, and any restrictions on personal liberties for the common good is utter tyranny. They are abetted by the hyper-religious who claim their faith will protect them and, if they die, that’s God’s will.
Claims of “personal responsibility,” “common sense” and “God’s will” are all excuses to evade one’s responsibility to one’s neighbor; it’s a child-like desire to treat the virus as a personal inconvenience and not as an existential threat. The certificates death will indicate COVID-19 as the immediate cause, but that simply masks the criminally negligent indifference that puts personal convenience ahead of the social good.
Anyone who truly accepts “personal responsibility” sees how his welfare depends on fostering the welfare of others, and limits his freedoms in order to promote the well-being of others. Unfortunately, much of the political prattle about “personal responsibility” is merely self-justification for doing little or nothing to protect one’s neighbors. So, as the number of dead add up, every day will be a day of the dead, and their spirits will haunt us for a generation.