That’s because the shelves in the stores that I managed to enter — two of the four had cars queued in the parking lot waiting for space, so I couldn’t go in — were almost totally bare. It was a scene out of Life magazine at the height of the Cold War, showing rows of empty shelves in stores in Moscow.
The pandemic panic has its grips on the country. Despite the official advice to have two weeks of essentials — to tide you over if you have to self-quarantine — this looked as if everyone expected the zombie apocalypse and needed to stock up for months, if not longer.
If there’s a message in this, it isn’t subtle. It’s “as long as I get mine, who gives a damn if you get yours.” It might be self-preservational, but it’s selfish, plain and simple.
Things in people’s baskets overflowed. It wasn’t just food and supplies to tide them over. It was food and supplies to ensure they wouldn’t give up a thing — not the size of their portions or a meal or the volume of hand sanitizer that they planned to slather on.
Sacrifice to aid the common good seems as alien as Washington’s embrace of reality. If Americans had been this way in 1941, it’s possible that our common language now would be German.
With so many Americans likely to suffer as jobs disappear and supplies of essential goods drop with them, the attitude of the shoppers I encountered today is contemptible. It was, also, a little dimwitted: anyone afraid of infection should not be mingling in crowds. You don’t know where they’ve been.