Letter: Where is altruism today?

Many are exhibiting the "independence" of toddlers today.

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As COVID-19 numbers have risen across the country and lately, specifically in North Dakota, South Dakota, and now also in Minnesota, I have noted with dismay the total disregard by many people of safety measures designed and proven to lessen the spread of the virus. Why? To prove that a person’s independence cannot be messed with?

There are different kinds of independence. There is the independence that is shown by knowledgeable, accomplished and responsible individuals, who are valuable assets to their communities and businesses. They are much admired and much appreciated.

But there is also another kind of independence. This is the independence that people see in toddlers. This is the independence that comes to the forefront as 2-year olds attempt to express their wants and exert their wills. Behavior is often very selfish and self-centered. “Me do it!” and “I want it!” or “It’s mine!” If thwarted it is often accompanied by temper tantrums, and demonstrations of power such as hitting, kicking, pushing and shoving, without regard to the safety and welfare of anyone else. Often they refuse to listen to anyone who tries to explain why this behavior is not acceptable. Caring and unselfish behavior, needs to be learned as the child grows and matures.

The ability to set aside ones wants and desires for the sake of the betterment of the community has been necessary in the development of civilizations. It’s called altruism. The United States benefited from the altruism of veterans during armed conflict, the underprivileged benefit from the willingness of others to share what they have in order to make life better for those who, for some reason or other are not as privileged.

Where is altruism today? Where is the desire to help our vulnerable neighbors, our struggling local businesses, our exhausted health care workers? Not wearing masks is just increasing and prolonging the unpleasantness for everyone. Not wearing a mask and not practicing social distancing is not the kind of “independent”
behavior that is flattering to anyone.


Jo Kantrud lives in Vergas, Minn.

This letter does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.

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