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Monday, July 13, 2020

On being made stupefied by the end of the world

OK, I admit this: during the chloroquine craze, I did deliberately and as a prophylactic, drink a goodly amount of gin and tonics. (No bleach, tho.)
"The dimensions of what we have fucked up in this country are beyond any coherent explanation." -- Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, 20 years ago

I am just starting to emerge, gradually, from a time when I have felt as un-creative as I have felt in my entire life. Hopefully going forward I can increase the posting rate from once a month to, I dunno, twice a month? "A writer is somebody for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people," wrote Thomas Mann. (This sentence is his only known output from the year 1925, I am told.) But we have to believe we are magic, right?
Maybe you have this feeling also, the sinking, nauseating, enraging feeling that We, The People, have been dramatically let down in a historically catastrophic fashion by our government. I am not talking about our local county governments - in both Ulster and Dutchess, I think execs Ryan and Molinaro and their staffs did well in realizing Covid was a crisis, setting up testing as quickly as they could, keeping people up to date and making themselves available for questions - from anybody, not just journalists - over Facebook. Nor am I talking primarily about the state - the results of Andrew Cuomo's leadership speak for themselves, even more loudly now as states with less-skilled governance rack up cases like Tommy racks up points on pinball machines
Because I neither stan nor cape for the man, I will say our governor made a couple of mistakes. First was not locking down sooner, which would have saved, as per a Columbia study, thousands of lives. De Blasio was right to call for the stay-at-home order when he did call for it, but the mayor was also wrong because he obviously yet inexplicably has not yet learned that if he wants Cuomo to do something, he has to advocate for THE EXACT OPPOSITE THING. I mean, c'mon BDB, you must know that by now.
Second was sending Covid cases back to nursing homes - under a lot of pressure to balloon hospital space in seconds, maybe he had no real logistical choice as to where to put them. But it turned out to be lethal for thousands and will be a political cudgel whacked against him for years. This story is the best I've seen so far on the matter.

No, I am speaking of our federal government, which as a whole has heinously botched its most basic function, the purpose WTP can with full justification expect it to do for the kind of money we are made to pay for it: Defend us from deadly threats. Now, not everyone at the federal level should be included in this failure, to be sure: once the president banned him from the stage at briefings, Dr. Fauci's been a lot more free to speak a lot more bluntly about what the consequences of re-opening too soon could be. (He ain't been proved wrong yet on that one.)
Rather, I am speaking of both the president and the Centers for Disease Control. The CDC's bungling of its own test kit - which we had to do by ourselves because no one else in the whole wide-ass world is better at this than our own CDC, right? - delayed having enough tests available at the outset of the breakout, when chances of containment were best. 
But then we have the president, and oh boy what a president he's turned out to be. Stupidity and humility complement each other in a way, as a humble person at least realizes what he does not know and tries to find someone who does know. But stupidity and arrogance multiply each other. There's nothing quite so dangerous as the leader who thinks what he doesn't know doesn't really matter, or who thinks he can rhetoric and spin his way out of it. Ain't no bullshitting your way out of a pandemic, Mr. President. No tweet, no meme in the world, even the ones the Russians come up with at their Internet Trolling Factory in the city formerly known as Leningrad, makes any difference to the virus, which transmits itself in utterly predictable ways, well-known to science. 
Donald Trump, like many of us, including myself, had a hard time in February and early March getting his head around the magnitude of what was about to happen. (I really thought life would be back to normal by Memorial Day weekend, lol.) But he gets paid to get his head around it, or at least be smart enough to listen to people who can get their heads around it. But he ignored it when he could and minimized it when he couldn't, for the most crucial month. When he finally did get his head around it, or at least realized his chances for re-election are endangered by it, he seemed to go into a weird panic mode and scrambled, sometimes in real time at press conferences, for a miracle cure. Hydroxychloroquine, bleach (both taken orally) and ultraviolet light (taken internally) all came and went. And as of this writing, July 13, 2020, he persists in paying the experts little heed in favor of retweeting noted immunologist Chuck Woolery claiming it's all a hoax to sink Trump's campaign. It's been like what would have happened if John F. Kennedy had listened to Curtis LeMay and went ahead and bombed Cuba during the missile crisis. 
America has been lucky and/or blessed by having the right people in charge at critical points in history, starting with George Washington, then Abe Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt. Looks like our streak ran out. I was going to write that Trump was the karmic debt that's come due, but that both diminishes the wisdom of Americans past who voted Lincoln and FDR into office, and lets we Americans of today off the hook for our atavistic, nihilistic collective elevation of the dumb angry meanness that is Donald Trump.

Life comes at you fast. So does death. I have no idea really how many people in America will be dead of the coronavirus by the time we get it, if we even can get it, under control. Just to make a projection, I will project a little, but not a lot, over 200,000. This could be Pollyanna-level optimism; a model  just out has us reaching that point in November, and I am pretty sure people will continue to die of the Covid until/unless a vaccine gets in enough of us. For your future reference, 1 percent of the U.S. population is 3.28 million people, which sounds like a plausible total for confirmed cases by the end of the year. (NOTE: LOL it turned out to be the actual total for cases at the end of the day I wrote this!)
But yeah, rendered stupefied by the end of the world -- at least the one we all used to know and, if not love at the time so much, at least maybe in hindsight see its good points?
There's no possible way to predict with any assurance of accuracy how things will be when the virus is over with. I have been told it is therapeutic to envision a better world on the other side, so sometimes I do that. But I can't stay long, as it seems too unreal. The best any of us can honestly say is to say we don't know, because we really can't know.
Live look-in at Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis getting the latest
Sunshine State Covid-19 numbers. (Sorry, Elton John.)
But we can know that hard times are ahead. Congress has made barely a peep about extending the $600-a-week unemployment supplement when that runs out at the end of the month. When that goes away, a lot of people are going to hurt; even more if states like Florida and Texas have to shut down again. (Also as of this writing, looks like the Golden State has pulled the plug on its reopening and cancelled in-person school in some districts for the fall at least.) CNBC reported last night that 32 percent of U.S. households didn't make, in full or in part, their housing payments this month. That's the fourth month in a row that a new record for that has been set as various state and local eviction bans begin to expire. Maybe the federal government will come in riding to the rescue; certainly new relief packages have been at least proposed in the House, but seem to have no chance in the Senate. Go figure.
While some people will return to their jobs, someday, a lot of us no longer have those jobs to go to and will have to figure something else out, as will the many small business owners who just didn't have the resources to make it through a prolonged period of no income. 
A bunch of unemployed, homeless and angry people, feeling that Uncle Sam has failed to live up to his part of the social contract, all hitting the streets at once? Could be in this scenario maybe more than statues get toppled.


  1. Dan Barton has said it again! These statistics are mindboggling.
    Please keep writing!


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