Like everyone else I am having trouble thinking about anything other than the coronavirus pandemic and the shockwaves it has sent, and will continue to send, through the system. As it began to unfold I found myself thinking, talking, and posting about it fairly constantly. In an effort to try to keep it confined to a given time and place, both physically and psychologically, I am keeping a diary of it all.
April 9: In these trying times we must look wherever we can for sound, sober advice.
just gonna come out and say it: vulnerable people are always the most susceptible to propaganda, misinformation, and conspiracy, especially in times of cultural anxiety, and if there is a way to help them out of these traps, targeted self-righteous vilification isn’t it
— Steak-umm (@steak_umm) April 10, 2020
Thank you, Steak-umm.
There were protesters at the Ohio Statehouse today demanding that the shutdown orders be lifted.
They are shouting "O-H-I-O Acton s got to go!" pic.twitter.com/2MYp87ELbD
— NBC4 Columbus (@nbc4i) April 9, 2020
Watching news coverage of it and it became clear that they were not really able to articulate a coherent basis for their protest. Sentiments such as “we are concerned about our Constitutional rights” or “they don’t have the power to do this” were repeated many times but, sorry folks, government does have the power to do this. It’s an actual, life-threatening emergency, and such things are the very reason we stopped living as unconnected bands of nomadic tribesman and began to form civilizations and governments. There are threats that require collective action and sacrifice, even if there aren’t many of them in our own living memory.
As for the “quarantine worse than virus” stuff: the protesters all stood at least six feet apart and most of them were wearing masks. If you really think the virus is no big deal, put your money where your covered mouths are, lock arms and prove us wrong, my dudes.
That stuff aside I tried my best to stay away from the news and social media today. So much of it is so dreary that I’m finding I can’t even really face it unless I’m in the best of moods.
The unemployment rate continues to skyrocket. There were 6.6 million new claims last week and now a full 10% of the nation’s entire pre-pandemic workforce has lost their jobs. The country has not seen this magnitude of layoffs and this kind of economic contraction since the Great Depression. And absolutely no one in charge seems to appreciate how dire a threat this all is.
The president is more concerned with optics. He wants the country to be “back up and running” in three weeks, with no appreciation of how dangerous that is. Congress is said to be “scrambling to put another relief package together” but they’ve been in recess for two weeks now and to the extent they are talking, the talk immediately defaults to standard ideological battles about the size of government and abortion and stuff far more aimed at political calculation and either an unconscious or knee-jerk “everything is normal” mode. No one is up to this moment. No one seems to appreciate that bold action, the sort of which we have not seen in this nation since The New Deal, is going to be necessary.
Well, two people do. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Each of whom have set forth detailed policy proposals which appreciate and address the gravity of the moment. Each of whom, however, the country basically told to fuck off in the Democratic primaries. We’re pretty screwed.
Sanders just dropped out yesterday. I’m not really prepared to wade into all of that and engage it at the moment. Given that all I can think about right now is survival and endurance in the face of a pandemic, the election feels distant to me, as if I’m viewing it from a pair of inverted binoculars.
Even if I can bring it into closer view for a few moments, navigating all of the ins and outs of our current political landscape seems so goddamn daunting.
I support just about everything Sanders supports, but it seems pretty clear to me that most of the country does not. At least to the extent that they’re willing to vote for it, as opposed to telling some pollster that they’re for it in the abstract. They do the latter more often than they do the former, by the way. It’s one thing to say that more people support socialized medicine, much heavier taxation of the rich, and sweeping environmental reforms, but it’s another thing to get the people who say they support those things to actually vote. I understand that there are massive structural problems with our electoral system, but Sanders has now had two primary cycles to get those people to the polls and he simply hasn’t done it.
In light of that, I’m not really inclined to rage against whatever dumb shit Joe Biden or Democratic officials do. I think they’re mostly worthless at best and have enabled and even collaborated with Republicans and their destructive agenda far more often than they’d ever acknowledge. But I also think the notion — held by a great many of my progressive friends — that those feckless people are orchestrating some grand conspiracy to freeze out progressives is overstated. If the past 40 years of Democratic politics shows us anything, it’s that they couldn’t orchestrate their way out of a paper bag. I think they’re mostly defensive of their position and status and fearful that doing anything remotely bold will threaten it. True malevolence requires at least a modicum of competence, and I don’t think the DNC or whatever makes up the Democratic Establishment boogeyman of the moment has done much to demonstrate that in some time. Fear and inertia is the catalyst of the moment for those people.
When I’m being honest, I have to admit to myself that most voters, even most Democratic voters, are not really motivated by the ideas and issues that motivate me and my progressive friends. I think most people want quiet and peace and want to be able to go a week without thinking about their government or the problems in the world. I think that, unfortunately, they’re willing to forego all manner of progress if someone lets them have those things for five minutes.
Whatever the case, I don’t think, on balance, they’re ready to follow bold progressive agenda. When I’m being charitable I don’t blame them for that even if I think that such an agenda will help them and the world tremendously. People vote their feelings more than on issues, and if they do vote on issues, it tends to be one or two issues that happen to animate a moment in the cultural zeitgeist rather than issues that form a part of some transformative plan. When they have done the latter, it’s been out of necessity, such as the Depression, but our current calamity didn’t get the timing right for 2020, I suppose.
So where does that leave me? I’ll vote for Joe Biden because no matter how much I dislike him and no matter how much his ascendence represents a complete failure of hope and vision, he’s not a literal Fascist like Trump, and we are at serious risk of Fascism being mainstreamed inn this country beyond the point of no return. I know I have progressive friends who can’t, as the cliche goes, “hold their nose and vote for Biden.” I don’t begrudge them and I’m not going to cajole or harass them, but in the end I do hope they come around simply because I think Trump is a literal danger to the nation and will literally cause people to be killed.
All of that aside, I stayed offline for much of the day, tuning out the news and watched a baseball game.
Baseball games usually don’t last most of a day but they do when you are watching them on video and writing about every little thing that happens in them. That’s what I did with a Detroit Tigers game from 1984 that I found on YouTube and decided to live blog over at NBC. It became less of a live blog and more of an annotation, with me hitting pause on the video every 47 seconds to write about some thing that happened with the hindsight of 36 years and with a heavy infusion of memory and nostalgia about what it was like to be a Detroit Tigers fan in 1984.
It ended up being over 6,000 words worth of writing, but they were 6,000 very comforting words, at least for for me. Everything that is going on right now requires presence. Attention to the news. Vigilance against behavior which might make you or the people you love sick. Even the most mundane activities — going for walks, stopping at the store — require an unusual and even uncomfortable level of planning and thought. Being able to just let go and disappear into a ballgame from many decades ago was a balm.
Thank you Dan Petry for tossing a four-hit complete game shutout. You did more for me today than any briefing from the Health Department possibly could.
(Featured photo: MrMiscellanious)