‘Z’ Didn’t Start the Fire

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Published October 15, 2020
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The Montclarion
Katlyn Pruitt | The Montclarion

If you have gone outside in the past few months, there’s a good chance you’ve seen a group of teenagers walking around without masks on. Living near a high school and two middle schools, I’ve seen plenty.

There’s also a chance that you’ve seen news stories about parties getting busted by police. There were many of those parties around the country throughout the summer including some right here in Essex County.

The first few times I saw these things occurring, my immediate reaction was, “What are they thinking? Don’t they know what’s happening?”

Now I can’t help but feel there is a reason for this nonchalance beyond the tired trope of “kids being kids.” People find it easy to blame adolescent apathy for the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in the United States, without wanting to know why kids don’t seem to care in the first place. Simply dismissing it as the reckless nature of youth is ignorant.

As of today, there are over 7 million cases of COVID-19 in the United States alone. If immediate federal action had been taken in response to the virus, it is entirely possible the United States could have avoided what is quickly becoming the worst public health crisis in a century.

Instead, President Donald Trump attempted to minimize the threat posed by COVID-19 to preserve his image and avoid causing a public panic, according to journalist Bob Woodward in his book “Rage.”

“I wanted to always play it down,” Trump told Woodward in March when the pandemic became a serious health risk in the United States. “I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.”

Since then, the president’s attitude doesn’t seem to have changed. The rest of the world has spent the last several months looking on in horror as America’s federal government deals with COVID-19 by not dealing with it at all.

Katlyn Pruitt | The Montclarion

Katlyn Pruitt | The Montclarion

With no concrete plans for a vaccine and infection rates on the rise as the weather grows colder, the current outlook is objectively bleak. The current nation’s youth, Generation Z, is set to inherit this teetering future, or whatever is left of it. We dread the years ahead more than anyone.

Simply put, frustration with idle, thoughtless leadership is a plausible motivator for flouting the coronavirus. The situation doesn’t seem to be getting better, so what’s the point of caring?

Young people today are more socially and politically conscious than ever before. With the internet and social media at their fingertips, there’s plenty of material to inform their opinions in the world around them.

Those among Gen Z who can vote at least have some semblance of control. They want leaders who can guide them through the woods and speak on their behalf, not over them. Those who are not yet of voting age may feel voicing their discontent is all they can do.

I am not excusing young people for their behavior, nor am I encouraging it. However, it is wildly unfair to place a burden of blame solely on their shoulders when all they can do is hope for the best as the world around them crumbles.

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