Our Boston suburb, which imposes a two-acre zoning minimum to keep out the riffraff, has hung a “We’re all in this together” banner across the main road. (We can restore the Black Lives Matter banner eventually?)
What about on a national scale? Are we actually all in this together? I talked to four friends from the aviation world in the last few days. One is isolated on 40 acres of oceanfront with 12,000 square feet of interior space, a dock with a sailboat and a power boat (not in the water yet this season), jogging trails, a tennis court, a hotel-size home gym, etc. One is isolated on 90 acres of ocean inlet with more than 8,000 square feet of interior space, a pool, a tennis court, a dock with multiple boats. One is on 20 acres of oceanfront over in Europe (in a country that is smart enough to do load balancing of patients to hospitals). One is in a city in a southern state with ample health system capacity. He’s on more than 2 acres with more than 13,000 square feet of interior space.
None of the Americans are in states where the University of Washington doom prophets forecast any shortage of hospital or ICU beds.
We use the same “lockdown”, “stay-at-home”, and “quarantine” terms for all Americans, but the experience of this life can be vastly different for those at different income levels. In non-plague times, when rich and poor Americans go for a walk they might have fairly similar experiences. Right now, however, even if the rich started out in a medium-sized city apartment they’ve often managed to escape to an uncrowded vacation destination, e.g., the Hamptons, Nantucket, or Maine. No matter how tight the lockdown gets, the rich can usually get ample fresh air simply walking around on their own private property.
I’m thinking that this variation in experience of lockdown is driving some of the ruling class’s high comfort level with lockdown. It is one thing to hear about a single mother, her boyfriend, and three kids from previous sex partners all crammed into a 3BR in public housing nearly 24/7. But can people with massive suburban estates actually understand what a Victimhood Studies professor would call “the lived experience” of this quasi-family?
Thomas Friedman, writing in the New York Times, on March 26, 2020, demanded that the Great Father in Washington issue a “shelter in place” order. Leaving aside the issue of whether any state governor would be required to comply with such an order, let’s consider what Mr. Friedman’s life would be like under “shelter in place.” He lives on 7.5 acres in Bethesda, Maryland (a 1/4 acre lot there is now considered lavish). He and his wife (the daughter of a billionaire) demolished the house that was on it and built an 11,400 square foot mansion. What relationship does Mr. Friedman’s “lived experience” of sheltering in place on 7.5 acres and 11,400 square feet have to that of a middle class family stuck in New York City in a 2BR?