“We’re all in this together” has become a unifying, inspirational slogan during the COVID-19 pandemic — but when coming from a celebrity, it can sometimes sound downright tone-deaf.
You may have seen the widely circulated YouTube video sarcastically thanking Ellen DeGeneres and other celebrities for their attempts at expressing solidarity with the rest of us. I laughed when I saw that video, because I get it — it’s irritating to see someone with much more than you have talking about our common lot.
How sympathetic can we be when a multimillionaire is complaining about being stuck in their mansion? Celebrities’ well-intended attempts at inspiration offer little comfort to essential workers on the front lines, those who have lost their jobs, and people directly affected by COVID-19.
Maybe the problem with hearing “We’re all in this together” from celebrities is that “together” can imply that we’re all experiencing the same reality right now. We definitely are not.
This pandemic is affecting us differently based on many factors — income, race, sex, age, occupation, geography. It’s hard to find anything in common between the experience of, say, an older African American working-class male who’s an essential worker in New York City, and a young affluent white female who works from home in rural Kansas. Longstanding social inequalities are even more apparent now, as the vulnerable members of our society tend to be hit especially hard both by the virus and by the fallout from social distancing.
But does having more physical comforts during this trial mean a person is unaffected by it, or that they’re not suffering in some way? The rich and famous are still susceptible to the virus; even access to better healthcare doesn’t guarantee a happy ending. And while their houses may be larger and fancier than ours, the wealthy are still cut off from their normal lives and from many of their loved ones. They might also be struggling like you are to get their work done while home schooling their kids. Truly no one is immune in this pandemic. We’re not all having the same experience, but we don’t have to shame someone for spreading some joy the best they know how — even if it’s from their mansion.
And though there are striking differences in how we’re experiencing the coronavirus pandemic, in a broader sense, we really are in this together because together is the only way out of this pandemic. It’s only by each of us doing our part that we can slow the virus — and lower the risk for all of us.
Yes, hearing “we’re all in this together” can strike a nerve when it comes from someone who appears to be skating through this experience. But the truth is that we never really know what another person’s life is like, and what challenges they might face that we’re not aware of. And while we’re not all having the same experience, we are all in this together.