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.
May 3: I woke up at 3AM and couldn’t get back to sleep. By 9:30AM I was flagging. I’m not a napper. I actually don’t like naps very much. I find that they throw me off more than they help me. Forty-five minutes or an hour of sleep put me into a fog that takes just as long to come out of as the nap takes. I’m almost always better-served by caffeine, adrenaline, or simply powering through until I can go to sleep in the evening with an earlier bedtime making up the sleep deficit.
Not today. When Allison told me I should go take a nap I couldn’t muster even the slightest objection. My head hit the pillow at 10AM and I didn’t wake up until 1PM. I dreamed the most vivid dreams imaginable. Dreams which I knew at the time to be dreams. Dreams which, as they unfolded, I could control and manipulate. I’m never able to do that, but today I could.
The sleep itself was nice, but there has to be something said for the few hours in which I had control over everything in my environment at a time when almost everything seems to be out of my control.
In the past 24 hours both my mom and Allison’s mom fell down at home. Allison’s mom got up off the couch, didn’t realize her foot was asleep, fell over, and as she did so hurt her ankle. It appears to be either sprained or broken. We told her she should go to the urgent care but she decided to just ice and elevate it and go to see her doctor tomorrow. In the meantime she seems generally OK. My mother simply tripped over her own feet on the back patio and went face down onto the concrete. She somehow didn’t hurt herself beyond some minor scrapes. Most of the damage was probably done to my dad’s heart and nerves as he watched her face-plant. She said he was still shaken an hour later.
All four of our parents are in their 70s and it’s less-than-great to fall in your 70s in the best of circumstances. That it happened to both of our mothers in the middle of all of this, when simply going to see a doctor or going to the hospital is a major and potentially fraught undertaking is certainly not what you want.
Hell, a friend ours who is younger than I am fell off his skateboard the other night and broke his arm. Even that trip to the ER seemed to be a big ordeal of isolation, precaution, and logistics. I can’t imagine what vulnerable people like our parents would have to deal with if they had to go in for something non-COVID-19-related right now. If I were them maybe I’d simply sit home with a sprained or broken ankle too. I have no idea.
The cost to immunise people around the world against coronavirus is likely to exceed $20bn, far surpassing the initial fundraising target of $8bn set for an EU-led donors’ meeting to be held on Monday, global health organisations say. International health bodies suggest the full cost could reach $25bn, once funding needed to produce doses in vast numbers and distribute them globally is taken into account. The figure highlights the financial, political and logistical difficulties ahead . . .
$20 billion is . . .
- A year’s worth of Netflix content;
- What U.S. consumers will spend on Valentine’s Day crap;
- What one auto company plans to spend on its line of electric vehicles;
- What utility companies expect to pay to eliminate meter-readers;
- What Russia spent to put on the World Cup in 2018; and
- What the United States spends each year on tax breaks for fossil fuel companies
Meanwhile, the rough economic cost of the first two months spent fighting the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States alone was estimated to be about $2.14 trillion, and that was likely a conservative estimate.
I feel like we can afford $20 billion to immunize the world from a pandemic that has already killed a quarter of a million people. If we’re short, maybe we can just ask for a loan? Jeff Bezos is good for it. His personal Amazon holdings have risen over $24 billion in the first few months of 2020 alone.
Former President George W. Bush released a three-minute video/pep talk to Americans last night. Like most former presidents he tends not to wade into, well, anything in public, but here he urged Americans to remember “how small our differences are in the face of this shared threat,” and said “in the final analysis, we are not partisan combatants. We are human beings, equally vulnerable and equally wonderful” who “rise or fall together, and we are determined to rise.”
My feelings upon watching it are so conflicted that it’s almost too much to process.
We have a habit in this country of immediately forgiving presidents for their shortcomings and transgressions the moment they leave office. Once out of power we treat them as if they’re lovable old grandfathers as opposed to men whose acts and omissions shape history for decades, often for the worse. We’re still dealing with Nixon’s and Reagan’s legacies decades after they died, yet the former was pardoned and partially rehabilitated in his lifetime and the latter was practically deified while he still walked the Earth. Clinton nostalgia ebbs and flows, but far more people pine for the allegedly carefree days of his time in office than accurately note that he was a toxic human being. It’s a pining that has screwed up Democratic politics for 20 years now. George H.W. Bush and Obama get the same treatment. An emphasis on what was popular about them, a memory-holing of their worst acts.
George W. Bush is treated much the same way and it’s more inexcusable in his case than in the case of any former president.
He’s treated as if he didn’t thrust us into nearly 20 straight years of pointless wars that have killed over a million people and which have accomplished nothing. Treated as if he did not mismanage the preparation and the relief of New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit, leaving a major American city to descend into chaos, anarchy, and mass death. Treated as if he did not enact and enable policies which led directly to the most catastrophic financial crisis this country had seen since the Great Depression. The scope of the damage George W. Bush either actively visited upon America and the world or which he allowed to happen while he stood by and did nothing is so great that it’s hard to calculate.
Despite this, he’s talked about as some kindly old figure for whom we’re supposed to have some sort of nostalgia. Since his video last night countless people — both regular folks and members of the media and political class — have offered some sort of “gee, if we only had Bush instead of Trump, we’d be so much better off right now.” It’s positively deranged.
Seriously: no matter what you take away from this episode — and, indeed, no matter how technically true it likely is that Bush being in charge would, in certain objective ways, be better than Trump — do not let your takeaway from this be “oh, I wish we had George W. Bush back.” He criminally mismanaged more than his share of emergencies and disasters in his own time. When you’re getting kicked in the nuts by someone in steel-toed boots, you can wish for something better than to be kicked in the nuts by someone wearing a pair of wingtips.
Yet, like a moviegoer shamelessly manipulated by an emotionally manipulative musical score, I feel . . . something.
Not for Bush — not by damn sight — but for the broad concept of someone in some position of authority at least pretending to care about the American people. It’s a reminder of just how fucking small an effort it takes to simply acknowledge that people are suffering and to at least feint toward caring about it, which Bush did in his video. It’s a level of basic compassion that, given the messenger, is riven with complication, but a level of basic compassion and leadership for which I and millions of Americans obviously hunger.
How easy would it be for even someone as horrible as Donald Trump to give voice to at least a few words someone else wrote for him expressing some level of acknowledgement of what people are going through? Astoundingly easy, one thinks. Yet not only can he not do even that — not only can he not rise to even a George fucking W. Bush level of expressing compassion for his fellow Americans — he swiped back at Bush today, clearly resentful that anyone of prominence would dare do so.
This whole situation is like we’ve been taken hostage by kidnappers and one of the slightly kinder sidekicks offered us a Snickers bar while waiting for the ransom drop, only to have the ringleader of the operation smack it out of our hands, turn on his accomplice and snap, “stick to the plan!” at him.