A friend told me that she had to call the fire department today for the woman delivering her groceries. The young woman had accidentally locked her baby in the car when she got out in front of my friend’s house to make the delivery. As it is sweltering outside in Florida right now, it was a bona fide emergency to unlock the car.
As you bitch and moan about how day cares and schools should be closed, remember that keeping kids at home all day is not a practical option for many working parents – especially the parents in low-wage households. There’s a mother chauffeuring her baby to strangers’ houses in all kinds of neighborhoods, at all times of day, who doesn’t get to spend quality time with her kid because she’s under the gun to get places on time so she can get the money her family requires to survive.
I have pointed out in earlier posts that most Americans, regardless of what they say or post on social media, are not particularly terrified of the coronavirus. They love the drama of it, the politics of it, the ability to establish uncomfortable rules for people they don’t like. But they aren’t terrified of it… because if they were, they would be behaving much differently.
On any given day, there is a line of people waiting to buy their petunias at Lowe’s. Maybe they wrap their face in a silk scarf or a mask made of t-shirt material that doesn’t even contain sweat. In moments of intellectual honesty, they probably understand those materials do not do anything to protect them or others. But they feel perfectly fine picking out flowers and mulch in the middle of this Super Deadly Plague. They don’t actually fear for their lives.
Imagine if the news told you there was an active shooter at Lowe’s. Would you still stop by to purchase petunias? No, because you’d be legitimately terrified of being killed. That’s what you really perceive as taking a meaningful risk.
But those same people are perfectly fine with a young, working poor mother leaving her kid in the car in hundred-degree heat to bring them takeout. Because it’s not a sacrifice they have to make. Just like many senior citizens are perfectly fine with kids missing two entire academic years of school because they have already gotten their education and career over with.
That is what Hannah Arendt meant by the banality of evil. Evil is a lot of boring and selfish people making boring and selfish decisions without a second thought for the consequences. And it is amazing how effectively awful behavior scales up with no serious justification at all.