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Memorial Day 2020

May 25, 2020

Memorial Day 2020

I wasn’t always like this. I wasn’t always obsessed with the daily news. I don’t really like being like this. For decades, I paid only casual attention to our national politics, because there didn’t seem to be all that much to be concerned about. I think most Americans were like that. And maybe that was the problem.

But this country wasn’t always like this either. For me, things shifted in a fundamental way after 9/11, when the Bush/Cheney administration instigated a war with a country that had nothing to do with the attack, based on lies about WMD. I thought then that it couldn’t get much worse than that, but how wrong I was! Now we have an administration that lies about everything.

Today we have at least 100,000 Americans dead from Covid-19. That’s more Americans than died in wars in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan combined. But this time there is no external enemy, even if Trump tries to fabricate one by blaming China. The enemy is Us–the dark side of our national fetish of individual freedom at the expense of what the Constitution called “the general Welfare”, made worse by our country’s enduring racism. It is literally killing this country.

How does a national catastrophe like this become a litmus test for political loyalties? It begins with denial–the assertion of our governing administration that the virus wasn’t a threat, that it would miraculously go away, that it was all under control, that it could be kept out of the country, that we were well prepared with no shortage of vital equipment, that it would be over by Easter or Memorial Day or the 4th of July, that we can go back to living normally as if it never happened and wasn’t still spreading across the country.

It takes a president who subverts and contradicts his public health experts on every possible occasion, exaggerates and lies about testing for the virus, and shrugs off any responsibility for the federal government to create and carry out a national plan and procure and distribute supplies and equipment and funds to beleaguered states on the front lines of the pandemic. A president and his acolytes who want to keep the numbers down because they look bad.

It takes a network of paranoid paramilitary groups and online conspiracy mongers backed by very rich and powerful people like Betsy DeVos to threaten armed insurrection because social distancing somehow imperils gun rights.

And it takes a President and his subservient party who see the pandemic in blue-state-vs.-red-state terms and who just really don’t care about the segments of society that are bearing the brunt of the casualties. It’s a lot easier not to give a damn if you think that the virus is only killing people in states that aren’t going to vote for you anyway. Or in states that will vote for you, that it’s just confined to places like meat-packing plants where the workers being sickened are mostly immigrants or black people, not “regular folks” as a Wisconsin supreme court judge put it. Or in prisons, because nobody cares about them, and they’re mostly black or brown people anyway.

Oh yeah, the old folks. That’s a little trickier, but let’s get real. They’re in God’s waiting room already and a drag on the economy. If they’re in nursing homes, they’re probably not voting anyway. If they die, maybe their kids will be upset for a while, but they’ll inherit what’s left of the money before it’s all spent to keep the olds alive, so they’ll get over it. And the dead will all be in a better place.

Besides, what’s important is being able to do anything you damn well please. It’s all about freedom. Never mind the harm you’re doing to other people through your negligence and self-indulgence. It’s fine! We got this! It’s done!

So sure, hit the beaches and link up the party boats on the Lake of the Ozarks and party like it’s 2016 and pretend to give an occasional thought to the fallen in wars fought by this most belligerent country on earth.

But while we’re at it, let’s take a moment to remember the tens of thousands of lives lost unnecessarily to Covid-19 because of our government’s inaction and willful neglect, and the tens of thousands who will die in the coming year. And try to remember a country that used to be better than this.

“We’re all in this together” is just another lie.



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