The number six million has popped up twice in recent weeks.
As a nation, we passed the six million mark in Covid cases. This is an ephemeral number that’s heading for seven million at breakneck speed. But there it was: six million cases.
For anyone of Jewish heritage, the number six million jumps off the page. It is, of course, the approximate number of Jews who were exterminated in the Holocaust, a number deeply embedded in modern Jewish lore and, to some extent, the wider global culture. While most of the Holocaust survivors have now passed on, their children, grandchildren, and the wider world of Judaism still carry the horrors and humiliations as a persistent background hum to their lives. I’m sure RBG knew that hum well.
Even for those far removed from the event itself, even for those as secularly inclined as I, there is real and lasting pain. But more than that, there’s the nagging reminder that anti-Semitism has always enjoyed widespread popularity, even if we’ve never personally experienced it. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.
So hearing that number associated with any human tragedy is bound to get our attention.
The number of actual American deaths by Covid is nowhere near that number. It’s at 200,000, roughly three percent of total cases. Remember that three percent number — we’ll come back to it.
Because it was the second time the number six million popped up, courtesy of some deft research by RachelMaddow’s team, that really set off alarm bells.
Rachel was taking us down the rabbit hole of Trump’s “herd immunity” scam. She was pointing out that this wanton quackery has become, in fact, the de facto policy of our federal government. In other words, this is the administration’s action plan, the one we’ve been waiting for since February.
In Rachel’s telling, the herd immunity policy is the brainchild of Dr. Scott Atlas, who’s not an epidemiologist, but he plays one on Fox. Atlas has convinced Trump that the way out of this Covid mess is to do essentially nothing to prevent the infection of 65 percent of the US population. The hope — which is both absurdly slim and prodigiously lethal — is that this would render the entire population immune.
The holes in this wildly reckless premise are too many, too massive, and too macabre to go into here, but Rachel took us through the whole thing, as only she can.
But when she walked us through the arithmetic, things got truly ominous. Because to carry through this insane plan — to sit back and somehow allow the infection of 65 percent of our 350 million people — we’d be looking at 210 million cases. Thirty times what we have now.
And at our current death rate of three percent (remember?), that would bring the total number of deaths to guess what? Six million.
Six million people dead.
Just think. This is the current virus mitigation strategy of the United States of America. Forget masks. Forget social distancing. This is the plan as it stands now. An extra Holocaust’s worth of death. A final solution.
Of course, this time the death would be spread more equitably — Jews wouldn’t be singled out as usual. This virus is an equal opportunity killer, though it tends to favor the poor.
I understand I’m making a specious connection, making too much of an unhappy coincidence. Six million is, after all, just a number, with no intrinsic significance beyond its indelible stamping on our collective consciousness.
But even so, there’s an element of bitter irony that the coincidence brings to mind. Because who among us doubts that six million fresh deaths wouldn’t even penetrate the consciousness of our current president? Who among us thinks any number of dead, even in the many millions, would even interrupt his golf game?
Trump is the opposite of human. His pathological inability to backtrack on anything he’s said or done — never mind how nonsensical, cruel, or depraved it might be — must be considered a clear and present danger to the human race.
Trump is a disease vector, a fire hazard, and an economic catastrophe of staggering dimensions. But what he seems to aspire to is mass murder. It might be the one thing he’s actually capable of doing.
I don’t think he’ll be able to fulfill the mission. The full six million is probably beyond even him.
But the record is there to be broken. Who doubts that he’ll try for it?