Since it’s official founding nearly two and half centuries ago, the United States of America has led a charmed life. Every potential threat, regardless of size, seems to just come and go. Even more amazing is how quickly the country emerges from each crisis, becoming stronger than ever! Whether the coronavirus can be added to that list remains to be seen, but early indications are alarming, with stunning, unprecedented economic damage in particular. But it’s not the disease itself that has ravaged American life overall, tragic as the loss of life has been in certain areas. Instead, it’s become a self-fulfilling prophecy, as big as our lawmakers, media, and selves have treated the virus with the seriousness of a new plague. While remodeling society based on the worst case scenarios, we are living in a reality that would have been unthinkable as recently as the beginning of this year- and as this blog post is being typed, this year is still not even half over!
The very fortunate truth is that so far, the disease now known as COVID-19 (after the Chinese government expressed displeasure to The Powers That Be at the term “Wuhan Virus”) has not been nearly as bad as we were told it would be. And just to be clear, this is not to say that it hasn’t been awful. In a few select pockets across the eastern half of the United States, it surely FEELS like a worst case scenario, for those who have to deal with it upfront. But the fact is that as of now, COVID-19 has been far closer to the other deadly viruses of the early 21st century, such as SARS, Ebola and H1N1, than it has been like the Spanish Flu, the deadly disease of the early 20th century. But that hasn’t stopped the comparisons, no matter how increasingly misplaced they appear to be.
HOW WE GOT HERE
As the Federal Government (aka “The Trump Administration”, although this post is trying to stay away from specific partisan politics as much as possible) did not initially take the threat posed by coronavirus seriously- China travel ban notwithstanding- the reaction had to be that much stronger, once it was undeniable that the virus was about to hit our shores. In mid-March, led by Dr. Anthony Fauci, we were told that we needed to enact the policy of “social distancing” to “flatten the curve”. Two phrases that had no meaning in American life were about to become more popular than “We The People,” in more ways than one.
In my first blog post on the subject slightly over a month ago, I openly admitted to having no idea how much damage the virus would cause, but was very quick to criticize the measures taken to allegedly slow it down. It seemed like no matter how much damage the virus was about to do, the (from my point of view) overreaction was about to do more lasting damage to our way of life than the virus ever could, particularly with our economy. It just didn’t seem like such extreme measures could save many lives, without wrecking so many more- and that’s assuming that these measure COULD save as many people as they were claiming to begin with!
No matter how strongly I felt early on, though, I literally lived and breathed the events as they unfolded, doing my best to keep an open mind that maybe there was something that I didn’t understand about what was happening. More than a month later now, I feel even MORE justified in my early warnings and misgivings, than I did when I made them in the first place. In all honestly, though, I do recognize how out of hand the situation could have gotten, had an overwhelming number of people needed critical care, overwhelming hospitals past their breaking point. Initially, I underestimated this. But here’s the thing- for the most part, that’s not what happened.
While there were a few dire areas, most noticeably New York City- and, to a lesser extent, New Orleans and Detroit- these have been the exception, not the rule. The doctors and nurses who heroically worked- and are STILL working- through these conditions, putting themselves at risk in the process, truly are heroes, no less than the firefighters of 9-11. But throughout the country- and this is beyond dispute, by all accounts- the enormous number of hospital beds readily available all across the country have not been needed. Many so-called “elective surgeries” have been put on hold to direct resources to handle the coronavirus, causing stress for the medical practitioners who perform them, as well as the patients who need them.
But while the highly contagious virus itself created far less devastation than expected in the United States, the countermeasures created quite a bit more. Rather than start to relax some of the unprecedented restrictions on the American economy- not to mention life itself- some governors doubled down. In Michigan, Governor Gretchen Whitmer banned home gardening supplies from many stores, as well as various other goods, deeming them “not necessary”. Hunting and fishing were also banned as non-essential activities in some places throughout the United States, apparently stemming from the urban mentality that food comes from restaurants. And in Los Angeles, with a very strained budget, expensive bulldozers were sent in to fill a skating park with sand, just in case a rogue skater or two wanted to get some exercise. As all this happened, many Americans- although not ENOUGH Americans, in my view- became restless. As some of us suspected, the two or three weeks that we were initially told would flatten the curve was little more than a trial run. As the curve was flattened and the death toll predictions were decreased daily, the return to normal life was postponed, regardless of how flattened the curve became. Very quickly, the time frame changed from weeks to months.
DOWN THE WATER SLIDE
Now, I can’t speak for anyone else, but this was the last straw for me. I have openly admitted to not being on board with the plan from the beginning- this blog’s archives confirm that– but I was at least willing to recognize that it would take some time to see how this played out. Since we now have a sample size well over a month on this pandemic now, we have seen the initial projections become meaningless. Yes, it’s entirely possible that the social distancing- which Americans were astonishingly cooperative on, no matter how much griping there is that “people aren’t listening!”- may have played an enormous part in this. But even with that in mind, the BEST case scenario projections, which INCLUDED social distancing, were far worse than what we’re seeing play out. On top of that, thanks to the Trump Administration’s early disregard for ANY chance that the virus would be a threat, we got a late start on the practicing of social distancing. Had the coronavirus been as deadly as first thought, it would have been too late to stop the overwhelming carnage. But as of now, we’re nowhere near that.
So why the change in objective? If this wasn’t the plan all along, why did the shutting down of America go from weeks to months, without any new evidence? Why have we gone from “flattening the curve” to “crushing the curve”? Why have we gone from making sure our healthcare system didn’t get overwhelmed, to getting the number of deaths as close to zero as possible, regardless of any other factors to consider? And most troubling of all, why are we hearing about needing a vaccine to get back to normal (?!) only AFTER the disease turned out to be less of a threat? These are questions nobody of prominence is asking. The mainstream media is consumed with reminding everyone of how flat-footed Donald Trump and his allies were in the beginning, while the conservatives are fixated on putting all the blame on China and the World Health Organization.
But that’s only part of the story. The media will do what the media always does- peddle fear, sensationalism, and political bias- but the complete change to American life would not be successful, without a public so willing to go along with it. Instead of asking questions about the change in objectives, the media have managed to paint the protesters and their allies as selfish “covidiots”. Recruiting beloved celebrities, such as Larry David and Samuel L Jackson, the “Stay at home!” message has become deeply ingrained into American culture now. With the initial misstep of the ridiculous “Imagine” video, Hollywood retooled their strategy to get America onboard with the quarantists’ plan, with overwhelmingly successful results.
But the entertainment industry sending out a message doesn’t automatically make it a bad thing. What DOES, however, is the scapegoating that has emerged. Instead of blaming the government for misleading us on the plan going forward, as well as the lies told early on (ie. “masks don’t work!” to “masks are mandatory!”), the fingers are pointed directly at Florida beach-goers and the protesters of the freedom-restricting laws, none who can be found in areas that have been largely effected by coronavirus. Give credit where credit is due, though- this was likely the quarantists’ plan all along. Knowing that the public would never knowingly scrap their way of life in an instant, they were told to “rough it out” for a few weeks. Once the time went by, a small but vocal minority of people would start defying the rules, at which point THEY could be blamed for the extension of the lockdown.
Okay, that might be too cynical for some people to digest, and as someone with no inside knowledge besides what exists within my own head, it’s unfair to definitively assume such nefarious intentions in others. What is NOT unreasonable, though, is to point out that this is exactly how the situation has unfolded, and many politicians (not least of all Dr. Fauci himself) have seized on the opportunity. Yes, many people are increasingly alarmed at the direction of the country, but nearly all of them are the same ones who were dissatisfied to begin with. For the overwhelming majority who bought into Dr. Fauci’s plan, the protesters and beach-goers are public enemy #1, selfishly making life more difficult for the First Responders. Some even accuse them of causing death! This is why the image of a racist moron, screaming at someone who appeared to be a health worker of Asian descent blocking traffic, to “go to China” has resonated. This is exactly what the mainstream media had been looking for, as it encapsulated their worldview so perfectly. (As a side-note, though, for those who compare it Tienanmen Square- seriously, just stop.)
But the personal animus goes even further. Politicians have been relying on informants to snitch on neighbors, businesses, and even just random citizens, who are not following the quarantine guidelines. (As Randy Marsh might say, “I’m sorry, I thought this was America!”) And, perhaps most repugnant of all, some people have openly called for the “covidiots” to actually be denied medical care. Just imagine doing this for other people who are “asking for it”- motorcyclists, drivers who were speeding- you name it. Hell, MURDERERS get medical treatment! What is going ON here?? Regrettably, not enough people are interested in finding out.
The final issue worth dealing with here, because this blog post can probably go on forever at this point (much like the quarantine- hey yo!), is who really need to be pushed back. Before the pandemic hit, America’s culture war already seemed close to a boiling point. Although most everyone did cooperate for a few weeks at first, it now looks like everything is boiling over, and it’s a zero sum game. That doesn’t mean that one side needs TOTAL victory, and the nice thing about a two party system- crooked and dysfunctional as it has become- is that both sides have enough of a say within certain regions of the country to try it out their way. At the very least, everyone is starting to acknowledge that one size does not fit all, but with a situation that is life and death, we are nowhere near agreeing to what those different sizes actually might be.