Barbaric Yawp

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I don’t know that Walt Whitman would have agreed with yesterday’s protestors, but I didn’t get within a block of them and made no effort to take photos.

I suppose I “miss out” by not Facebooking, to verbize the English language. Call me old-fashioned, but I like to get my news from reputable sources: newspapers, TV, word on the street. Which is how I learned about the big news planned for Gunnison yesterday.

My bank teller said, “I’m wearing yellow! We’re with you!” I was wearing sunglasses and a mask, so it probably wasn’t clear that I had no idea what she was talking about. Big protest, planned for 6:30 at the corner of Main and Virginia.

I’m still not completely clear on the point of the protest. It was aimed, I believe, at the county commissioners and our public health director, and I guess what we’re upset about is that they’re allowing us to re-open (note to the federal administration: that’s sarcasm).

The timing of the protest seemed impeccably stupid, coming about 36 hours before retail stores are going to be able to welcome limited customers, and on the very day the director of the Crested Butte chamber pulled off the daytime equivalent of an all-nighter to get re-opening proposals for several assorted business sectors in front of the public health department.

These proposals were put forth by the business owners, collated by the chamber director and a volunteer or two. They seem like very reasonable proposals that hopefully will receive every consideration by the county. For instance, restaurants are asking to get staff back the week before Memorial Day, to be able to partially open for that weekend, although hopefully no one is expecting typical crowds.

(I’m assuming the bike races usually staged that weekend, which draw mountain bikers from all over, have been cancelled; we just heard yesterday that all the print jobs we were going to be doing for Crested Butte’s Fourth of July have all been taken off the table, along with the events themselves.)

I get that people are angry, and stressed, possibly without any income at all. I am noticing, as I walk past it, that the food pantry appears to be open all day every day and not just the select hours three days a week it normally operates.

But I’m not sure what good comes from standing shoulder-to-shoulder, mostly unmasked, railing at county officials, especially when so many of the things these folks seem to be so blindingly angry about are beyond county control.

The virus, for instance, is a global problem, and for those willing to look, there are an entire globe’s worth of approaches to it, some of them with far more successful outcomes than others. Then there are the worrisome places, like Singapore, which thought it had done a successful job of mitigation, only to see a resurgence.

Don’t forget federal requirements, which admittedly seem to change by the day based on an indifferent administration’s whims and complete lack of understanding of what exactly the word “pandemic” even means.

[Here is my new theory, after learning that a negative coronavirus test makes you mask-proof: the reason the president thinks there are plenty of tests is because he, or at least the people in his immediate vicinity, which seem to be the only people he knows about, are getting tested a lot. They’re getting tested; that’s all we need to know. Testing is beautiful. Perfect, even.]

Then there are state edicts, and all these things — global, federal, state — have factored into the county’s decisions and requirements. Has the county’s response been perfect? Hardly. Has anyone else’s? No matter where you look, people are still sick and still dying. But I guess since they’re not people we know, this whole thing comes down to the economic harm being done to me, right here and right now.

This is not an insignificant thing. The week’s unemployment numbers came out today: we’re “down” to another almost 4 million left jobless. That brings the total to 30 million people —

[Once upon a time a couple weeks back I told you, based on my reading, that we’d surpassed the largest state in the country, numberwise, but this morning CBS corrected me: the unemployed now match the population of Texas. We’re getting there, but my early reading was ahead of itself. Sorry for the misinformation.]

— and at least one think tank in the country believes that new number could be short by somewhere between 9 and 14 million, due to people who haven’t filed and can’t get through their overwhelmed state systems.

The country’s first quarter, which only really dealt with virus fall-out for less than a month, contracted by almost 5 percent; the predictions for the second quarter are all over the map, but a 30 percent decline does not seem unreasonable. Well, of course it’s unreasonable, but anticipated. Well, hardly anticipated . . . I’m sure there’s a word that works, somewhere.

And if this news doesn’t make you frightened, desperate and, yes, mad, then probably nothing on Earth is going to move you. But maybe try channeling that anger a little more productively and, if I may be so bold, with a tiny bit of thought.

The board president of the Gunnison chamber, in her e-mail to members, listed the concerns that she had been hearing the most. One of them was that recipients of the Paycheck Protection Program want someone to defer the use of that money to when employees can come back to work, not the day it arrives.

Here’s the thing: you can rant at your chamber staff and board all day and all night about that, but it’s a federal program. There is not one thing your chamber can do, or your county officials, or even your governor, outside of the thing you can do as well: lobby Congress. Focus, people, and while you’re doing that, you might try to keep in mind that all stipulations for the program were laid out before you even applied. The thought behind the program was that it would keep people employed even if there wasn’t work for them.

Now, as it becomes clear that no matter how much wishful thinking we put into this, and in spite of the president’s insistence, the virus is not just going to magically disappear because it’s inconvenient (is it just me, or do other people think we’re taking a positively medieval approach to this?), it should also be clear to everyone but Mitch “All I Care About Are Judges” McConnell that eight weeks of assistance is not going to be even close to enough to get businesses back on their feet.

But the county can’t help you much with that. This is the same county that many of these same people threw a fit about spending money on a jail, a courthouse or really anything. “It all works out if you just let all of us solve our own problems without government interference, but while I’m on my Facebook soapbox complaining, why isn’t the city’s new financial grant available to businesses that aren’t inside city limits and don’t pay any city sales tax?”

(Government: bad; government grant money: good. Why isn’t there more of it?)

I imagine it’s hard to think, or even listen to yourself when there’s such an angry roar between your ears, but it seems to me there are ways to help yourself and those you profess to help, like buying something from a downtown business even if you can’t go in the door, or participating in your business sector’s re-opening proposal, or maybe even just paying attention to the wider world around and learning where one jurisdiction ends and another begins.

Or you can stand on a street corner and hurl invective at your neighbors. I hope it makes you feel better, because it isn’t helping a dang other thing.

Today’s public service announcement:

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