Every now and then, some person will come along and say something rather silly, and it will cause other people to respond. Naturally, the Internet makes it easy to, and somewhat encourages us to, post our “hottest” take in an effort to generate reaction. This is not, however, one of those times, and while some — including possibly the author of the take — might like you to believe otherwise, there is something more malicious at stake here.
2020 was, I believe we can all agree, a trainwreck that was lit on fire and then hit with a fist of Holy Judgment that culminated in the devastation that is 2021. There was a lot that we had to live through. If you add it to the last 20 years, it’s been a very tiring era for the current generation of young adults.
Be that as it may, it is historically downright offensive to suggest that anything the people of today have suffered is even remotely comparable to what previous generations of Americans have suffered in the past.
And while the tweet below does not directly compare the current generation to previous generations, left implied is the idea that we have gone through something so extraordinary that it has made us tougher, which is a take that previous generations can only look on and laugh at.
(WARNING: Strong language.)
Americans: Congratulations. You have now lived through a Depression, a devastating pandemic, and an attempted authoritarian takeover of your country.
You are now officially Tough as Fuck.
— Noah Smith 🐇 (@Noahpinion) April 18, 2021
Let’s take each claim in this tweet one at a time, shall we?
Since the American Revolution, there have been fifty recessions (some of which were full-blown depressions). That’s roughly one every five years. Fifteen of those were from the Great Depression and onward. The COVID-19 recession has been going on for over one year, and it is the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.
However, we are likely nearing the end of that recession. Economic numbers are getting better, more people are getting vaccinated, and things in many places are returning to some form of normalcy.
The people who lost work due to COVID-19, however, were not as economically left behind as those in the Great Depression were. There were government mechanisms in place (rightly or wrongly) to prevent evictions, increase unemployment insurance, provide businesses with the means of keeping their businesses open, and so forth. Businesses adapted in many ways, and quickly, so that services could still be provided.
During the Great Depression, people lost their jobs, their homes, their money, and their families as they were forced to move, build shacks out of whatever was available, and wait for government assistance. It also took a major world war to bring the economy roaring back. We don’t need a global war to force an increase in industrial output today. We have the means to keep going, and for the most part, people are.
Sure, there are folks struggling because teachers’ unions refuse to allow schools to re-open, forcing parents to go broke on childcare, and there are certain cities and states whose leadership is extending the economic crisis by forcing businesses to remain closed. But across much of the country, we did survive. None of that makes us tough, though. We’ve advanced beyond the point of being as devastated as we could’ve been even twenty years ago.
To the second point, yes, we survived a major, global pandemic. And we did so through American innovation, the cutting of regulatory red tape that allowed for research and development to quickly come up with a vaccine. The use of science and technology to keep as many Americans alive as possible is unprecedented. Yes, too many lives were lost to the COVID-19 pandemic, and we could always do better, but America has survived.
What keeps this pandemic from receding fully is the incredibly bad messaging from the White House and Democratic officials who want to continue to scare Americans by telling them that they might still be able to carry the infection, that they still need to wear masks even while vaccinated, and that a less than one-in-a-million chance of getting blood clots is enough of a reason to pull a vaccine until the elites talk about it a bit.
They are making it seem like there is no point in getting the vaccine, which in turn will extend the life of this pandemic. That doesn’t make us tough. That makes us foolish.
To the third point, this “attempted authoritarian takeover of the country” is giving a whole lot of credit to a bunch of rather foolish people who lacked the firepower or means to take over the government in any form. And while you could argue over how much influence Trump’s words had on the crowd on January 6, it is very difficult to prove they were a threat to the working order of the country.
So to claim that somehow a bunch of lawless lunatics in a mob at the Capitol could have somehow flipped the government to a Trump-based regime is to have read The Handmaid’s Tale and think that you were reading an account from the future. There is no evidence that it could have gone any way other than it did. It could have been tragic, but it would not have taken over the country. Us watching that chaos unfold doesn’t make us tough. It makes us angry and exasperated.
This belief that somehow what we are experiencing is something unique and powerful is historically ignorant. Yes, we’ve been through some tough times, but it’s nothing compared to what Americans of the past have experienced, and it’s certainly not anything that makes us uniquely “tough as @#$%.” It is an experience we’ve overcome, but it’s not really one that has made us all that much tougher.