LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Should we let our neighbors die for the Dow?


Mr. Mark Dickinson (letters, April 11) urges us to face death with equanimity and good courage. That is an admirable stance, alongside prophets and saints of the world’s great religions, and revered philosophers. But less lofty motives seem to be driving some of us to assume this stance now, in connection with the current pandemic specifically.

I do not recall many such calls for philosophic equanimity, or turning the other cheek, in response to the nearly 3,000 American deaths from terrorism on Sept. 11, 2001 — and the COVID-19 death toll for New York state alone has already more than tripled that number. Is the loss of thousands of American lives to be calmly accepted only when it furnishes no pretext for invading other people’s countries? (Granted, some deplorables are finding pretext in the pandemic for violence against Americans who look a bit different from themselves, but I have yet to hear or read of any serious proposal to invade China.)

Some recent calls for resigned acceptance of mass mortality, coming from the highest levels of government, too clearly arise from concerns about stock portfolios. If we are merely content to let our neighbors die for the Dow, then we are hardly placing ourselves in the exalted spiritual company of Marcus Aurelius, Socrates, Krishna and Jesus.

Brian Donovan, Albany, N.Y., is professor emeritus of English at Bemidji State University.

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