THE ENEMY WITHIN …

I really hate being right all the time. Imagine how annoying it is for my wife.

I wrote, a couple of weeks ago, that once the first patient with Coronavirus died in the U.S, the marches and protests would start. Well, they have started – not out in public, with signs and slogans, but online and in the media.

The blame has begun.

The government didn’t provide enough virus tests, quickly enough (I actually agree with that). They didn’t restrict travel quickly enough. They haven’t given us enough information, quickly enough. The president called it all a hoax (which he actually didn’t do, if you understand the context of his statement. But he DID use the word hoax in a sentence and that’s probably not a good idea when talking about illness, publicly  – oh, and you’re the president).

Then some are freaked out by the president wearing a MAGA hat to one of the press conferences (which I saw but thought nothing of. He was clearly dressed casual and probably didn’t have the extra hour needed to get his hair in that iconic state of being. I’ve been there. That’s when it’s hat time. And I’m sure he only has MAGA hats in his closet. As a fellow dude, that was my thought, anyway).

The point is, we get to question our government and criticize it when we feel it isn’t serving US as well as we would like. This is a fundamentally great thing. It’s a fundamentally essential thing. And this nuanced little turn, where the state answers to the people – NOT the other way around – is going to ultimately save lives and keep people safer in the long run.

The most interesting thing about the varied responses to the Coronavirus panic (and it is a panic) is how people have directed their anger. We find it easy and satisfying to direct our anger toward the President of the United States. Fair enough. If you run for that office, you get the arrows that come with it. But almost no one wants to direct their anger toward the actual culprit – The leaders and system of Communist China who didn’t (or couldn’t) address this quickly enough to stem it from becoming what it has become.

Let me be as crystal clear as a human being can be: there is nothing about the Chinese people or the Asian race at fault, here. My statement is NOT about the people or their culture or their race or their value as humans. But a SYSTEM that doesn’t allow for criticism of its leadership and doesn’t force any feet to any fire, BY the people, is a great place for a crisis to bloom.

Viruses are not racists. They don’t check the physical features of someone or what country they reside in, before entering. They’re just looking for healthy hosts. Kind of the way we think of planets. Could we live there? That’s all a virus asks.

And this virus is finding hosts all over the world. And people are freaking out to discover that they are prime real estate. And they want their governments to do something about. And every government on planet earth is working on it in some form or fashion. Yes, even Donald Trump and his administration is working on it.

As of this writing, the United States has fewer cases and fewer deaths than most of the other infected industrialized countries. Of course that could change in a few weeks. But here’s a fact that cannot be overlooked or washed over: the top down, command-and-control, state-runs-everything system in China basically failed the entire world. Obviously NOT because they are Chinese (I’m actually pissed off that I have to keep qualifying this. But trust me…I DO. Oh yes – I do – and it still won’t matter. I’ll still be called a racist). Their system failure should be the biggest takeaway from this current crisis.

But the takeaways have been numerous. Here are four others that have stood out to me:

I’ve sort of always known this first one, but I’ve learned it all over again …

1. All the happy talk about compassion and inclusion goes out the window when someone thinks their life is in danger.

I mean, we here at The View love you, but get the hell out of our studio until this thing is over and we can all go back to talking in terms of “theory” again. Yes, we here at Good Morning America believe in all of you. You’re wonderful people. Now, DO. NOT. TOUCH. US. Buh, bye. We here at the NCAA and NBA love all the fans and couldn’t do it without them, and we’ll wave at them through the TV screens. Don’t come here.

People love to pronounce themselves as righteous saviors until they’re facing danger. Then they (most of the time) do what survival dictates. Jesus doesn’t. That’s why I still love and follow him. But I digress …

It’s almost as if all those people who raised their hands and said, “Hey, should we maybe vet people who come into this country? Should we maybe have a border and not just allow entire caravans of people we don’t know anything about, to walk across willy nilly?” don’t look as xenophobic and racist as they once did. It’s almost as if they were just thinking about what could happen in a situation EXACTLY like this one. Who knows …

As far as this second one goes, I’m not an “anti-vaxxer” (per se – although I have nagging questions) but this new virus has shown us all that …

2. No matter what you get inoculated for, there’s always the thing you don’t see coming lurking in the distance…and it’s usually the thing you have to worry about the most.

Viruses mutate and weaken. That flu bug that killed all those people during WWI is still around, apparently. But it’s not what it used to be. It’s the new virus we can’t seem to stay ahead of – not last year’s.

And that means that we have to, at some point, embrace the uncertainty of it all and realize that we cannot protect ourselves from everything, no matter how hard we try. We should try. But we ultimately won’t. And that’s okay. It has to be okay or we will go insane…which is kinda what we’re doing now. Anyway …

This next one is one of the most impotent ones …

3. Our very way of life is more nuanced and delicate than we think.

This is why large, sweeping statements for “change” aren’t as easy to do as they are to say. And sometimes, maybe they shouldn’t even be tried.

It just rolls off the tongue to say, “Let’s get off all fossil fuels.” You could even make up a rhymy little chant to it: “No. More. Fossil. Fuels – Go. Back. To. Plows. And. Mules!” (what can I say – I love to rhyme things).

It’s easy to talk about how we should all “reduce” our consumption or travel, or how we should limit this or cut back on that. Well, we are watching what happens when we do just that, in real time.

And what happens? In just a matter of weeks, markets crash, businesses go under, wages dip, layoffs happen, concerts vanish, sporting events wane. And what happens when all of that happens? Dreams die. The human spirit contracts and doesn’t move forward. People start reacting out of fear instead of love.

Eliminating something or changing something or restricting something in theory is very different from actually doing it in reality. Once we all run out of toilet paper, we will be begging those diesel powered, environment killing, trucks to deliver it to us once again. And we will cheer their arrival. Then we will go back to talking about how we need to get rid of them to protect the planet. It’s kinda what we do.

Finally, this is the last and biggest takeaway that continues to baffle me the most …      

4. We continue to hear what we want to hear and spin it the way we need to spin it to fit into our own belief system, EVEN in a global crisis.

This makes me realize that we are probably not actually even wired for unity.

Two people can (and will) listen to the EXACT same press conference and get two completely different things out of it. And the strange but logical conclusion of this is how we project it all back on social media.

All of the little sub texts are in full force: if you declare that this is all panic mongering, you are clearly a supporter of the president and an enemy of the media. If you implore us all to take this seriously and stop posting snarky comments about something so dire, you are clearly in the MAGA resistance and on the side of “science.” And the sides and teams are all so obvious, that it has stopped even being entertaining.

The push-and-pull of the panicked versus the cavalier isn’t really serving any of us very well and it’s just adding to the chaos.

The bottom line is this: unseen forces are unseen until they are seen. I was never sure what George W. Bush could’ve actually done to stop 9/11. No one ever saw it coming. Not like that. I’m not sure what Barack Obama could’ve done to stop Ebola. Presidents aren’t on-the-ground health officials. And they don’t always get information until it’s too late.

I don’t really know what more Donald Trump could in this current situation. I do believe the test kits should’ve come online sooner. And I definitely plan to find out why the FDA took so long to make that happen. That’s one of the civic recourses we are allowed to access, here in a free society. And it’s a good thing.

In the meantime, we can vote people in or out, depending on which 70-plus-year-old man we think will best handle the next crisis like this. Not there’s anything wrong with 70-plus-year-old men. Those are just all the choices we have left at the moment.

One day, the Covid 19 virus will be in the history books. What will the chapters include? Who knows. I am certain we will see deaths we didn’t want to see. That’s horrible. We will get answers to questions we didn’t even know we had. That’s probably good. And some of us will get fevers and coughs and probably recover just fine.

The chapter we’re writing now, is the one where humans get rattled and afraid and freak out and cling to their deeply held belief systems tighter than Tom Hanks held onto Wilson, in Castaway.

And speaking of Tom, may he get well soon. May we all get well soon.   

R

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6 thoughts on “THE ENEMY WITHIN …

  1. I simply love you and I have failed to find your take on any one thing, so far, that isn’t solidly true and important to think about. Ione Trahan

    Sent from my iPhone

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  2. I am not a fan of any state-first, people-second government in any country. And I’m also not racist (although I too get tired of having to say that to people, even though I do self-examine myself regularly on that point to be safe). One thing I do have to give props to the Chinese people for (and I also include the Coptic Christians in Egypt and other oppressed people around the world in this): if/when they DO try to speak truth to power, they are ALL IN! They are risking their lives to do so, and probably their families’ lives too. Us pretending-to-be-brave people have free license to hide behind blog comments (me too), and I have so much respect for the lionhearted individuals living under daily oppression who ain’t gonna bow down to no idols, regardless of what it costs them.

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