The U.S. has had it so good for so long that it is easy to fall into the trap of believing that we really are chosen by God or something like that, that we are somehow cosmically entitled to be the richest, most powerful nation on earth, and so all we have to do is carry on as usual and everything will turn out all right. Unfortunately, everything is not going to be all right this time.
It has now been over three months since the Covid-19 epidemic began, and the U.S. still doesn't have widespread testing in place. Lockdowns are still sporadic and widely ignored. Hospitals are already starting to be overwhelmed. The President is talking about getting everything back to normal by Easter.
It ain't gonna happen. We have only to look at Italy to see what our future looks like. Italy has been on lockdown since March 9 -- more than two weeks ago -- and their numbers, both confirmed cases and deaths, are still going up every day. Wuhan was on lockdown for two months before the situation began to improve.
So even in a best case scenario, where we lock down the entire country tomorrow, we're looking at the beginning of June before we have a realistic prospect of getting back to normal. But of course that is not going to happen. It's not going to happen because Donald Trump and his Republican enablers have their heads buried in the sand. They still believe that American exceptionalism knows no bounds, that we are the chosen of God and are therefore exempt from the laws of physics and biology and economics.
I have bad news for them, and for you: we are not exempt. But because we are proceeding on the assumption that we are, a lot of people are going to go bankrupt, and a lot of people are going to die.
Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick has (in)famously suggested that all these deaths are perfectly fine. Here's the quote:
No one reached out to me and said, ‘As a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that all America loves for your children and grandchildren?’ ... If that is the exchange, I’m all in. That doesn’t make me noble or brave or anything like that. I just think there are lots of grandparents out there in this country, like me, I have six grandchildren, that what we all care about and what we love more than anything are those children. And I want to live smart and see through this, but I don’t want the whole country to be sacrificed…I’ve talked to hundreds of people, Tucker, and just in the last week, making calls all the time, and everyone says pretty much the same thing. That we can’t lose our whole country, we’re having an economic collapse. I’m also a small businessman, I understand it. And I talk with business people all the time, Tucker. My heart is lifted tonight by what I heard the president say because we can do more than one thing at a time, we can do two things. So my message is let’s get back to work, let’s get back to living. Let’s be smart about it and those of us who are 70-plus, we’ll take care of ourselves. But don’t sacrifice the country, don’t do that, don’t ruin this great America.I have to admire the man's skill at taking what would normally be an unspeakable suggestion, that we intentionally condemn hundreds of thousands, possibly millions of people to die slow and painful deaths suffocating on their own bodily fluids, in order to preserve the lifestyles of the rich and famous, and making it sound not-entirely-unreasonable, even noble (notwithstanding his humblebraggy insistence to the contrary). But this is the way of demagoguery. It never sounds overtly unreasonable. You have to actually think in order to see it for what it is, and apparently there are vast numbers of Americans who are no longer capable of this.
(At the risk of stating the obvious, it's not just people who step up to the plate and volunteer who are going to die. The virus does not discriminate on the basis of patriotism.)
Funny how no Republican ever suggested that the victims of 9-11 should be written off in the name of preserving freedom and economic prosperity. The conservative devotion to the sanctity of human life has some very peculiar Ts&Cs.
I can't help but wonder just how deep this conservative capacity for denying obvious truths runs, but we're about to find out. You think things are bad now? You ain't seen nuthin' yet. In the next few days, the death toll from the virus in the U.S. is going to exceed that of 9/11 (2977). A few weeks after that it will exceed the direct U.S. military casualties of the Iraq war (4,491). Very likely, unless we radically change direction in the next week or two (and I don't see that happening) we will very likely exceed the total number of civilian casualties in the Iraq war (hundreds of thousands, but no one ever actually counted them all). A final tally in the millions is not out of the question.
I wonder if there will ever come a point where Donald Trump's supporters will realize that much of the pain to come could have been avoided if the pandemic had been taken seriously early on rather than being dismissed as a Democratic hoax. We spent a trillion dollars attacking Iraq because we thought they might have WMDs. Now that we are actually under attack by the operational equivalent of a biological weapon, Donald Trump is still dithering about what to do about it, indeed, whether anything needs to be done at all.
Remember this in the coming weeks and months. Things are about to get worse than you have ever imagined they could. People you care about will probably die. You could die. This is not all Donald Trump's fault; he didn't start the pandemic. But he actively fanned its flames long after it was apparent that it was burning badly out of control, and long after people sounded the alarm.
I'm writing this not because I think it can have much of an impact on what is to come, but in the hope that once this blows over and the conservatives cry, "But we couldn't have known" (which I am sure they will) I will be able to point to this post and say: no. We were warned. We were warned about the pandemic, and we were warned about Trump long before the pandemic started. It's too late to avoid catastrophe this time. But maybe, just maybe, next time we will listen.