With support from the University of Richmond

History News Network

History News Network puts current events into historical perspective. Subscribe to our newsletter for new perspectives on the ways history continues to resonate in the present. Explore our archive of thousands of original op-eds and curated stories from around the web. Join us to learn more about the past, now.

Today's Biggest Act of Patriotic Love

(CNN)In recent days around the country, small numbers of protesters, organized by (among others) a number of well-funded right-wing groups and egged on by all-caps tweets from the President, showed up around the country to denounce social distancing measures. Some carried Confederate flags or automatic weapons or signs indicating their affiliation with anti-vaccination ideology or conspiracy-theories. Battle cries included, "I need a haircut" and "I hate having to get two iced teas in the drive thru," the latter from a man missing free refills in sit-down restaurants.

These cris de coeur may pale in comparison to Patrick Henry's "liberty or death," but white men with guns marching in the streets always generates media attention. It would be easy to watch the footage and think we're a bitterly divided nation. In fact, we've rarely been more united. The silent majority of Americans, at great financial and emotional cost, are staying home.

This vast majority is doing something amazing right now. By strong margins, according to recent Pew research data, Americans support social distancing and are worried that states will be pushed to lift restrictions too quickly. Distancing is the most impressive civic-minded act I've ever seen in this country.

The overwhelming collective commitment to social distancing reveals a patriotic urge toward the common good. It's a story about not doing things, taking place in absences and solitude, so it is easily missed, especially as each of us tries to figure out how to make it through each day. Moreover, the burdens we face in distancing are not equal, whether because of poverty, lack of freedom of movement in one's communities, myriad forms of discrimination, the situations inside our homes -- or whether we have homes at all. But the bulk of us are all doing what we can. We mostly are listening to our best leaders and to scientists.

Read entire article at CNN