I started this yesterday, then ran out of time. I always think I’ll find this time later, and it never happens.
You know, every morning I wake up and think I might regale all of you with some non-corona topic. And then I watch the news and reality sets in: it is all virus, all the time. It’s as omnipresent and unrelenting as the wind.
Today, in my Monday moment of despair, this whole shutdown of the country seems like a colossal waste of time. People don’t care: it’s their time to go to the beach so dammit, that’s what they’re gonna do. The president is exceedingly nonchalant: “Oh, I said 60,000 deaths, but now I mean 100,000. Oh, well.” (Mostly but not completely a direct quote.)
What’s 40,000 more people, give or take? People die all the time — so what? I’ve spent enough time sitting around; I am ready to go out and see my friends and get my life back. Some stranger’s death is not as important to me as me getting to live my life in the manner to which I’ve become accustomed. “Everyone is essential,” as a protest sign says — everyone except the people I infect and kill with my essentialness.
Polls, for whatever they’re worth, keep showing this is not the majority view, but it certainly seems like care has been scattered on the same wind riffling my grass to a tinder-dry state. One match, and it all goes up: everybody’s hard effort and financial loss completely wasted as the virus, currently only under illusory control, flares up into a raging conflagration once again.
Maybe we will do better with killer bees. Did you hear this morning’s news? Asia has sent another unwelcome gift: a creature called a “murder hornet.” Their stings can be lethal, although I think it takes multiple stings (unless you’re one of those unlucky sorts for whom any sting is problematic). And their stingers can pierce protective bee suits.
The stories were all rather vague on where and how many of these hornets there might be, so we may not all have to shelter in place to stay safe from them — yet — but I’m also imagining that people who laugh at the viral hoax will be terrified of hornets. At least they can see those.
[Here’s a question: if the virus is a hoax, how are we going to whip up indignant fury at China for foisting it on the world?]
This angry swarm the president has unleashed into “polite” society only seems to be getting worse — more emboldened, if you will — as it breaks into the bright light of day, and the list of what these folks find “acceptable” grows more appalling by the day.
Yesterday a security guard at a dollar store somewhere in the country was killed. Because he requested that a customer put on a mask. The essential customer did what any red-hatted American ought to: he pulled out a gun and shot the security guard. “Over a mask!” a grieving woman screamed. “A mask!”
If you don’t like what someone says to you, it is perfectly acceptable to shoot them. Your right to be essential and live exactly as you see fit absolutely trumps any public health crap someone tries to dump on you. This is Amurica, goddammit. Wave the confederate flag, because it probably isn’t on Facebook that the South lost. One hundred fifty-five years ago.
Liberal columnist Dana Milbank recently detailed a protest aimed against — well, he wasn’t really sure what — at the Michigan capitol in Lansing. People filed with rage and hate buzzed furiously about, brandishing assault weapons, flying banners and flags: Don’t Tread on Me, Trump 2020, Build the Wall, Drain the Swamp. (Dropping $2.8 billion on a friend’s smallpox vaccine certainly seems draining.)
Former Milwaukee County (Wisc.) sheriff David Clarke was a featured speaker. He focused on the virus long enough to reject testing, the “phony” death toll and the notion of social distancing, and by the way, the surgeon general (a presidential appointee) sucks, but Clarke had other grievances: Bill Gates wants to microchip every American. Oh, and Governor Whitmer, lock her up!
This angry swarm got a shout-out from the Twit in Chief: “These are very good people.” So what if they kill a few hundred people along the way? They can do this the expedient way, blowing a hole in a minimum-wage security guard because he wants them to put on a mask, or they can take the protracted way and infect untold numbers of the non-essential kinds of Americans, because the virus always respects politics.
A prediction is out there now that we could be seeing 3,000 deaths per day by June. A financial analysis says you ought to plan on spending $14,000 if you end up hospitalized with the virus, and that’s without an air ambulance ride, which probably costs $20,000-plus just by itself. Today the president is okay with 200,000 people dying on his watch. They’re just numbers, after all.
If it’s any consolation, and at the moment it’s small, I am seeing some winds of change out in a few of these angry currents.
It turns out that not all seniors are okay being sacrificed on the altar of covid-19 for the good of the order. The blowhard at the country’s helm, not that he ever believes poor polling numbers, has lost 20 percentage points among older Floridians in the last month. Perhaps the lieutenant governor of Texas was alone in his desire to be sacrificed so that the younger generation may live carefree on their beaches while cradling their automatic weaponry. Although I didn’t see him rush out to volunteer to work security at a dollar store.
Closer to home, the local group that coalesced only about a week ago to protest the opening that was happening the next day (let’s be clear, even though that’s impossible: they were railing at local officials for not opening the county, even though parts were allowed to open a day or two later, and more parts yesterday) is now riven.
It turns out, some of them were just merchants wanting to get their businesses back, while others are of the “give me liberty and give you death” ilk, and their unholy coalition is already asunder.
Kara, doing my journalistic reporting for me, signed up for their Facebook group and noted that over the weekend, as the commentariat devolved into an angry buzz about everything in the world that isn’t Them, some merchants left the group and asked that their names not be included in any future advertisements.
So that’s something. Maybe we’re invisible, like the virus, and they’re obviously visible, like murder hornets. Ultimately, though, the hornets, while newsmaking, are probably only a mild nuisance compared to the existential threat of the unseen virus. If you care to look, you can see what it has done and can do.
But you have to care.