I started posting these rants on March 22 of this year. A little over six months ago. I wanted to put down some sort of account of life in the time of the plague, which even then was looking like an inflection point in world history.
I didn’t know my writing would get so political, and while I had suspected that Trump would not be an astute manager of a major crisis, I’ve nonetheless been dumbstruck at the depths of his depravity. I am not alone.
The first post I wrote was of my dread making a final trip to the supermarket, before what surely would be weeks of staying home. Weeks.
What I didn’t notice at the time was what now seems as obvious as it is insane. Nobody was wearing a mask. We were being advised against it. We were being told it wouldn’t help, and it could hurt. Were we naïve or just trying to be good citizens? Probably both.
We’ve come a long way. But my wife and I have been in a state of semi-lockdown ever since.
We’re lucky, still. We’re still living at around 80 percent of our previous life. Our neighborhood feels the same. We live one mile from a major medical center that was slammed with Covid in April, yet we have no knowledge of anyone who has even tested positive. I’m no longer afraid of supermarkets, and early-morning grocery shopping has become a guilty pleasure.
My rage comes totally from the outside world. The internet shows me — in more detail than is good for me — a country in free fall. Pain is everywhere, in varying degrees. The powerlessness of it all, the knowledge that there is nobody at the controls, is almost more terrifying than the virus itself. It’s hard not to feel a deep malaise, even on a good day.
I am fortunate to be able to channel this rage by writing about it. And, paradoxically, to enjoy writing about it. While I make the occasional half-assed attempt to expand my audience, the truth is I’m writing mostly for selfish reasons. It keeps me from going batshit. That said, I am deeply grateful to be read by anyone.
So now that we’ve been living with this deadly virus for six months — and this even deadlier president for four years — what have I learned?
I’ve learned that the pandemic is a work in progress. That I will probably be living in this strange, stripped-down version of life for at least a few years, maybe more. Even in a best-case scenario, my chances of being allowed into Canada, even next summer, seem only fair. Europe feels like never again.
I’ve learned that the virus ruthlessly punishes stupidity, especially in government officials with more ideology than sense. Red state governors are still determined to follow Trump over a cliff, dragging their constituents kicking and screaming behind them. It’s worse than indecent, it’s murder. In some places it amounts to genocide.
I’ve learned that the virus is at least as racist as the Republican party. That it comes down particularly hard on people of color, the very people who make up the backbone of our healthcare system, and possibly our whole economy. And it’s only Democrats who care.
I’ve learned that the virus loves Fox News. A disease vector in its own right — a super-spreader of lethal misinformation — the virus couldn’t ask for a more effective advocate. Its viewers are trained, Pavlovian style, to tune out all factual content. They insist Covid is a flu and a hoax — how it can be both is unclear — and their blindness is as astounding as anything in my lifetime.
I’ve learned that whoever said “Never let a crisis go to waste” knew well what they were talking about. When a catastrophe this existential can be botched this badly, we are clearly in need of reinvention. What we’re doing is not working. If we waste this moment — and we might — the damage could be irreparable.
Finally, I’ve learned that the virus doesn’t thrive in a responsible citizenry. That it may have taken us by surprise in the early days, that it spread among us before we knew what was happening. But once we got the hang of it, once we knew what needed doing, good citizens with effective leaders came through. The virus loves complacency, but my state, for one, seems to have weathered the worst. Knock wood.
This is one of the few bright spots. That even a country this broken can muster, in most of its population, a sense of civic duty that had seemingly grown rusty from underuse. With six months of the virus behind us, and an unknown number of months — or years — in front of us, this rediscovery of the basic obligations of citizenship will only grow in importance.
It will surely be necessary. It may not be sufficient.