Notions of American kindness during and after the pandemic have expanded far beyond the Golden Rule.
A friend from Eastern Europe told me she learned about our obsession with “being nice” during her senior year in high school while living in the Midwest as an exchange student. In order to be well-loved in the United States, above all else, you must be kind, she observed. When she makes plans with Americans, she questions if they are asking her to “grab coffee” just to be nice, or if they actually want to meet.
I was skeptical about her observations at first, but then I considered the way we describe the people we like. “She is so nice,” we say. You never hear, “She is honest and direct.” It often seems we prefer being nice over being genuine.
Manipulating Americans en masse is simple if we can be convinced that something we are doing — or not doing — is unkind. Video rental businesses understood this well in the 1980s: “Be kind, please rewind.” So we did.
But during the pandemic, corporate media inundated the public with messages dictating what to do in order to be “kind” — directives much more intrusive and disruptive to life than simply rewinding videotapes or returning grocery store carts to the corral. Many in power pointed to “the science” to argue we had to isolate ourselves, maintain an arbitrarily determined six-feet social distance, keep our children out of schools, wear masks, and take an experimental shot. If we did not comply, we likely were killing someone’s grandmother. And really, what could be unkinder than that?
Even asking questions became socially unacceptable. When we scrutinized the effectiveness of these policies and vocalized concerns about citizens’ freedom under what was basically martial law, we were called selfish. When some raised concerns that the Covid shot was understudied and could cause severe health complications, they were chastised as “anti-vaxxers.”
President Joe Biden informed us just how unkind it was not to get the shot when he referred to Covid-19 as “a pandemic of the unvaccinated.” Repeatedly, we heard messages from the president and many others that we needed to be kind — Americans must do what they are told, wear their masks, and get vaxxed.
The propaganda to weaponize American kindness was overwhelmingly effective. Meanwhile, the media largely ignored early reports of myocarditis as one of the side effects of the shot. Big Tech even joined the “kindness” crusade by creating algorithms that prevented social media users from seeing vaccine skepticism.
Many believed Biden when he said Covid-19 was not transmissible with the jab, and many Americans felt comfortable mingling after months of isolation. At certain social gatherings and venues, guests were required to show vaccine cards — few things say “celebration” more than “Show me your medical documentation.” Ironically, this pervasive social requirement was in an effort to seem “kind.”
However, it is clear that one side of these debates has a monopoly on what constitutes kindness. When the students of Fairfax County, Virginia, were allowed to enter schools maskless in March 2022, many were afraid of retribution from teachers and peers.
My son, one of the few maskless students in his school at that time, was bullied for his choice. Another student told him to “mask up and cover your ugly face.” On the same day, my son’s classmate called her mother during school because she was terrorized in the cafeteria for not wearing her mask. This is the type of “kindness” associated with virtue signaling.
As we’ve moved past Covid, many commentators have highlighted the policy mistakes and crackpot “science” disguised as “kindness” throughout the pandemic. One suggested “amnesty” is needed to move forward together. In order to grant a pardon, though, we have to reach a public agreement on what was said and how it was wrong. It’s impossible to offer forgiveness to policymakers who refuse to acknowledge wrongdoing.
I am still waiting for an apology from our school district for illegally suspending my sons for 39 cumulative days on “dress code” violations for not wearing masks. Despite my appeals, the school district refuses to expunge the suspensions from my sons’ records. School board members should know that kindness includes apologizing for mistakes.
Because of our “unkind” advocating for equal opportunity, social justice activists call us “white supremacists.” When we stand up for equal opportunity in admissions to colleges and to Fairfax County’s magnet Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, followers of the ironically racist “anti-racist” doctrine ridicule Asian Americans as “allies of white supremacy.” The insult is false and manipulative — there are few more effective ways to say someone is “mean” than to call him a “white supremacist.”
Some, such as Fairfax County’s school board members, also believe “kindness” means denying biological realities, or at the very least, staying quiet in their dissent. Males claiming to be women are entering female locker rooms and bathrooms regularly. Many female students in secondary schools feel unsafe using facilities during school hours. Even after the 2021 sexual assault incidents in public schools in Loudoun County, Virginia, American politicians continue to uphold so-called “transgender rights” over female safety.
Former NCAA swimmer Riley Gaines talks about how NCAA officials pressured swimmers to be “kind” to Lia Thomas, the “transgender” swimmer born a male, who was allowed to share women’s locker rooms. Meanwhile, some school districts are changing scientific words in public schools’ sex education curricula from males and females to “assigned males/females at birth.”
If we publicly assert that we have problems with any of this, activists are quick to disparage our character. They call us bigots, or even transgender children killers. Activists manipulate emotions by claiming that if transgender teens don’t get everything they want, they or their transgender friends will kill themselves. In Fairfax County’s school board meeting speeches, we have been told this ad nauseam — nice people don’t kill transgender children. Kind people stay quiet and allow males to enter female spaces.
This is the ultimate weaponization of kindness.
Undoubtedly, we are better served when we scrutinize what kindness entails — and it has far more to do with virtue than niceness. For example, preserving freedom for future generations of Americans is virtuous; protecting civil liberties for our children is the right and kind thing to do. Our kindness in practice must be based on such virtue if we are to remain pensive and discerning.
So when we say to our acquaintances, “Let’s go for coffee,” it would be preferable if we were being both genuine and kind.