America declared war on Covid-19, now suddenly we're all military strategists
The Man in the High Castle posits an alternative ending to World War II—the defeat of the United States and the divvying up of the country between Germany and Japan.
I think we’re almost there, divvying up the country, though foreign powers have nothing to do with it. (Maybe Russia, but even then indirectly since that nation was instrumental in determining the 2016 presidential election.)
But now we have a nation so profoundly divided that even when a disease kills 35,000 of our citizens, we have people carrying signs that claim the virus is a hoax. And in what has to be the classic foolishness of this entire sorry episode, one Garrett Soldano, a right-wing activist, spoke recently via live stream to his Facebook group, Michiganders Against Excessive Quarantine, and said “Keeping healthy people at home is tyranny.”
To which I say, define "healthy people."
A statement like his harks back to Donald Trump’s original mistake of making the coronavirus some analog of the flu. Years of simple observation have taught us that people with the flu don’t need testing: they have the flu. They’re coughing, feverish, achy, sometimes congested, sometimes on the verge of or in the first stages of pneumonia. They don’t have to tell people they’re sick. It’s obvious.
But people with Covid-19 have no symptoms, or mild symptoms, or occasional symptoms that may appear as a sinus infection, a stomach ailment, a headache. Or they may suddenly become deathly ill and die in a matter of hours. Unless Mr. Soldano possesses a medical acuity far beyond that of other experts, he cannot tell the differences among pre-symptomatic, asymptomatic, post-symptomatic, and non-affected virus carriers without an accurate test. He can guess who's healthy, but with a 14-day incubation period to deal with, his guesswork could spell trouble for two weeks and a whole series of two-week periods after that.
Soldano is not alone. In Michigan and elsewhere people are gathering in large, virus-laden groups to protest local government reaction to the virus. By now you’ve seen the picture below from Ohio. It’s not just spitting into the wind—it’s spitting into everyone else’s wind too. With real spit.
In the most recent survey, 66% of Americans agree with the restrictions placed on us involving social distancing, the wearing of protective masks, and remaining at home when possible. And even more think that we shouldn’t simply throw open the country on an arbitrary date. So these protesters in Michigan, Ohio, etc., represent a very small portion of American society, but their noise is exacerbated by social media and right wing-nut radio. (Infowars host Owen Shroyer has claimed that reports of large numbers of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. are actually “Chinese Communist propaganda.")
And Laura Ingraham, star of her own world, enlisted the “expertise” of Dr. Phil (McGraw)—no longer, incidentally, a doctor...unless Dr. J is one also. Dr. Phil's appearance engendred the following tweet from a real doctor.
There was a time when society relegated public stupidity to its proper place in society—supermarket tabloids, conspiracy-theory chat rooms, and northern Idaho. But now we have to ferret it out ourselves, as individuals. We can't expect the president to warn us of behavior that may be inimical to our health—that behavior comes from his supporters.
We all want the country to open, to get our jobs back, to eat out, attend proms and graduations and summer picnics, but with no testing and a disease that often produces no symptoms, the prospects of doing so my May 1 are slim.
Even worse, doing so hastily may condemn us to many more months of misery, further dividing the country. America is better than that, or was. We may have to prove it daily from here on in.