Leonardo da Vinci said that a long time ago.
DaVinci of course could have said it this past weekend if only he had lived a few more centuries. He could have witnessed the worst of America, a country discovered some twenty years before his death, and one which evolved over time to become the leader of the free world but which has fallen mightily, decimated not merely by a disease, but by ignorance, selfishness, and stupidity.
Right now there are Americans—millions of them—suffering in unimaginable ways. These are people who have played by the rules: worked hard, raised families, paid taxes, tried to be good citizens by subscribing to an inherent belief that a liberal democracy should do the most good for the greatest number of people. It's an active process, citizenry, one that we must nurture daily before it's usurped by fakes and liars and losers for whom patriotism means wearing the American flag like a rain poncho. "Things fall apart," Yeats said. "The centre cannot hold."
If it were true that the good Americans, beset by a disaster not of their own making, were the ones demanding that the country be opened up, I would not be writing this piece today. But those people suffering the most are too busy finding odd jobs and waiting in food lines to protest. Instead we are regaled by groups such as Minnesota Gun Rights and other pro-gun organizations who are equating the government's responsibility to keep people from succumbing to disease with some gun take-back movement that doesn't exist.
Funny thing about these protest groups: they never sense the need to defend their ideas with any kind of cogent and logical arguments. They're more the Twitter and bumper sticker types with cutesy catch phrases and lots of stars and stripes waving. But in a time of national emergency, it's not patriotism—it's treason.
And a particular brand of treason, almost uniquely heinous because it's incredibly stupid. Everyone knows that isolation has been effective in flattening the curve of the virus's spread—to legislate against it just when it's producing results raises the question not only of patriotism, but of sanity! One doctor claimed recently it was like jumping from a plane with a parachute, allowing it to slow your fall, then getting a few hundred feet from the ground and cutting it loose because , hey, it worked well enough when I needed it.
Let me point out one very simple fact for those who have trouble grasping concepts like testing, or who think community spread is something for bagels: about of 90% of Americans have NOT been exposed to the coronavirus. Any of us to think we have it licked and it's time to reopen the country as a result are inviting a new outbreak that will make this one look like a head cold.
It gets worse...even more odious. Some protest leaders are "doing the math," calculating the number of people who may die in order to reboot the economy. One percent? Maybe two. Why that’s "only" three- to five-million people, and since this virus seems to be attacking minorities most viciously, and since the poor who cannot isolate themselves are most likely to contract it, well those protesters with time on their hands are practically home free.
Alex Jones claimed Sandy Hook was a hoax, even though 26 were murdered. Now we have people of his ilk claiming that even 30,000 dead is a hoax. Conspiracy theorists, the radical evangelical right urging people to attend services, the gun lobby, the anti-vaxxers—these are today's exploiters, the ones without the courage to work through a problem for the betterment of humanity, but perfectly willing to flex their muscles when their country is down. They can't project where they want to be in two weeks, two months, two years, but they want their freedom. And apparently they believe that hackneyed slogans downloaded from right-wing websites and Facebook pages will deter the virus.
Like the man carrying the sign in the photo below.
You, sir, do not have to choose. You may have both.