Safe Spaces and Our Response to the Coronavirus

Written by Philip Mauriello Jr., Managing Attorney of Arete Law A.P.C. and host of the California Underground Podcast

Scrolling through social media, speaking with other people, or just watching the news, you wonder why our response to this virus has been so much different than in past pandemics. Swine flu, bird flu, SARS, Ebola, they all came and went without massive shutdowns and quarantines of healthy individuals.

It dawned on me the other day while I was standing in line at the local Post Office. Everyone in line was spaced out their appropriate six feet until another person walked in and asked to get by to their PO Box. Now, the person in line could not move up because that would violate the six feet rule for the person in front of them, six feet back and they would be violating my six foot radius. Instead, the person in line just stood there while the other fumed over him not moving to give them six feet. That’s when it dawned on me: this person didn’t care about anyone else’s safety except their own. As long as their safe space was protected, to hell with anyone else. 

In a world where we see college campuses setting up safe spaces for people where they can hide from dissenting points of view, it’s becoming more and more common for these individuals to screech at people who invade their sacred safe spaces. This attitude has now permeated most of society. That which offends/harms me is intolerable and must be stopped at all costs. MY safety is of the utmost importance. MY fear that something bad might happen to me is more important than your lack of fear and willingness to take a risk. 

This mindset has come full circle now with the outbreak of this recent pandemic. You see countless people shout down protestors or those who wish to get on with their lives. They phrase it brilliantly to sound like they have compassion. “You wanting to reopen or go back to work puts the whole community at risk!” Change out ‘whole community’ with ‘my personal health and safe space’ and it starts to make sense. These individuals lob ad hominem attacks from their safe spaces like soldiers tossing grenades from trenches at those who might in some tangential way harm them. 

It wasn’t until recently did most people care what others really did. It was not until this notion of safe spaces did everyone start to pry into the personal business of others. “Your thoughts are hate speech! You must be stopped!” No longer can people live and let live, they now have to stomp out anything they disagree with or are threatened by. Apparently, the current threat is someone going back to work or reopening their business. Forget the consequences to that person or anybody associated with them, this single person might be harmed and therefore the whole world should bend to their will. 

It sounds ridiculous, because it is. Your fear should not have any effect on those who are not afraid to return to some form of normalcy—it’s peak selfishness. To presume that an entire community of people must sit idly by and wait for you to get over your fears so that the rest of us can return to normal is selfish, pure and simple. This is projection at its finest. They hurl insults and accusations at normal people saying that they are selfish or inconsiderate. When in reality, depriving people of their rights simply because you feel threatened is not only selfish, it’s childish.

The ultimate irony here is that no one is forcing these safe spacers to go anywhere. If you feel safe and cozy from this virus in your home, then you are free to remain where you are. No one is coming to drag you out of your safe space. 

But what if their decision to leave their safe space hinges on whether they get to keep their job or not? When the government handouts dry up and the deferred bills start coming due? Well, then they might feel something they’ve never felt before: empathy for those they have shouted down.