The Slatest

Reckless Person Correctly Identifies Why He’s Being Reckless and Why Everyone Is Going to Be Mad at Him

The driver of a red sedan sticks his middle finger out his window.
This anti-lockdown protester in Atlanta in a photo from April is not the same man quoted in the Washington Post article, so far as we know.
Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images

The Washington Post has a story about an upscale mall reopening in Georgia, and the breakout stars are two guys drinkin’ beers and musing about how it’s no big deal for them to be out while a virus is circulating, because they’re not old and/or black enough to die from it:

“I think you have to live life,” said Jeff Lampel, taking a sip of beer.

“When you start seeing where the cases are coming from and the demographics — I’m not worried,” agreed his friend Scott Friedel.

Lampel, continuing, told the Post: “I know what people are going to say — ‘Those selfish idiots are killing our old people!’ ”

They’ll say it because it’s correct, Jeff! Thanks to nationwide closures of public spaces, the adoption of social distancing and mask wearing norms even among many Trump supporters, and belated advances in testing capacity, the United States has gotten to an equilibrium in which the coronavirus is spreading at a rate that’s causing significant mortality among Americans of retirement age, especially those in disadvantaged communities, but not causing widespread fatalities among younger people. An outbreak in Lampel’s area of residence would likely be controlled before it wreaked major damage in his age and socioeconomic cohorts, but not before a number of “old people” died.

This laissez-faire beer enthusiast’s declaration extends an unwelcome trend in the discourse of admitting that you have the impulse to do something that others believe to be harmful or inappropriate, but doing it anyway. Another person associated with this trend is President Donald Trump. In April, he introduced federal guidelines telling the public to wear masks, but added, “I just don’t want to wear one myself,” and has not. On Monday, Trump said that he has been taking hydroxychloroquine—which the Food and Drug Administration has warned Americans not to use outside of clinical/hospital settings because of the “risk of heart rhythm problems”—as an improvised defense against the coronavirus. The White House doctor, Trump said, “didn’t recommend it. No, I asked him, ‘What do you think?’ He said, ‘Well, if you’d like it.’ I said, ‘Yeah, I’d like it. I’d like to take it.’ ”

It is too late for Fred and Mary Anne Trump to do so, but other parents need to start teaching their children that “everyone else is doing it” and “everyone else is not doing it” are equally unsuitable reasons to jump off a bridge.

For more on the impact of COVID-19, listen to What Next.