Civilization – Lockdown Day 75

We’re quite a ways into this pandemic now, with still a long way to go, but many places are starting to reopen. Some slowly and methodically, guided by data and science, others all at once, willy-nilly. No state has achieved the suggested levels of cases, testing, and medical capacity to reopen, but lack of federal support for the unemployed and small businesses has caused economic pressure to reopen early. So now we are in a situation where we have gun-wielding pseudo-militiamen storming capitol buildings, governors being hung in effigy, and security guards murdered for asking people to wear a mask in a store.

The pandemic is clearly not bringing out the best in some people.

But the one image that has remained seared in my brain is the protestor holding the sign: “Sacrifice the Weak, Reopen TN”.

I find that notion horrifying. Who gets to decide who comprises “the weak”? Are the weak my parents, who are in their 70s but still working? Is it my 40-year-old friend who is on chemo? The child I know who is has an auto-immune disease? Is it the grocery store worker with asthma? The manicurist with the heart defect? Please, define for me just who are these “weak” people you want to sacrifice? Who are these people who, for you, hold absolutely no value in our society?

I cannot believe that America, home of “out of many, one”, has come to this.

Years ago, anthropologist Margaret Mead described what she thought was the first sign of civilization. Her answer surprised people. It was not an artifact or tool—it was a 15,000 year old healed femur bone.

Stunned, the questioner asked what was so important about this bone. Mead replied that in the animal world, a broken leg meant death. Absent modern medicine, it takes about 6 weeks for a broken human femur to heal. That meant that someone tended to this person for 6 weeks—protected them, nursed them, fed them. They didn’t just leave them to die. And that, she said, was civilization.

I’m glad that poor guy with the broken femur didn’t live with the person with the sign.

We in America seem to need a remedial lesson in society, in the notion of communal responsibility. We need to unlearn the toxic selfishness that has become such a part of our culture and relearn the idea of “a greater good.”

In June 1944, American soldiers ran into almost certain death to save democracy.

In June 2020, American “patriots” won’t even wear a mask to save Grandma.

I honestly don’t know where we go from here. How we cleanse the ugliness that has shown itself. How we heal the divides that have shattered us. How we give our children a better world than this one.

I suggest we start by emulating the empathy and compassion for others that those people showed 15,000 years ago. You know—back when we were civilized.


  1. I’ve meant to comment as what you said is oh, so true. Since reading this, an officer has killed a man, and I suspect that same officer was one of the folks who refused to wear a mask. This killing has sparked violent protests and understandably so. I would love to see us go back to the empathy and compassion showed 15,000 years ago.
    Barbara of the Balloons

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