OK, America. Who are We?

We Looked at Me/We and Freedom/Community. Where Did We End Up?

Earlier this week, we looked at sometimes competing values as we fight the pandemic. We have been in this thing long enough now to come to some conclusions. But before we do that, a slight diversion. Let’s talk about dreams.

Dreams About the Pandemic

Others have noted that more frequent and more vivid dreams seem to be a byproduct of all this isolation. It appears I have succumbed to this symptom. I have recently had two dreams on judging how we are doing as a people. One dream is based in Nature, the other involved aliens (yeah, little grey guys).

The Nature dream was that the legend of Gaia (the earth itself as a connected, intelligent life force) is true. In the dream, Gaia had come to the conclusion that our species was not developing as it might be. Gaia had some hopes when the world climate change treaty came about, but it has been downhill since then. We are poisoning Gaia. We know that, but we continue to do so.

So, Gaia released a virus to slow us down and to begin thinning our ranks. Sure enough, in a matter of days, much of the world’s environment got a lot better. Now she watches to see what we do from here. If we don’t get the hint, the virus will mutate and begin eliminating humans as a major force on the planet. Wouldn’t that be something?

The Alien dream actually had two versions that played out in my head. This was exhausting; I rarely dream at all, at least as I can remember. In one version, the virus was hitting us hard. The Aliens are watching how we deal with it. If we respond well, they will offer us a cure. They are keeping score.

Version 2 was a bit more sinister. Aliens brought the virus as a test. If we do well, they will reveal themselves and help us advance. If we respond poorly, they let the virus do its work. They offer the planet to a new potential dominant species looking for a new home.

I need to stop eating spicy food too close to bedtime.

So Where Are We in Reality?

Let’s start with the good news. Not much of it, you understand, but enough to celebrate. First, the human response to all this on the retail, personal level is so often so powerful. People are taking great risks to help others. Many are helping neighbors and strangers alike.

There are countless examples of courage, generosity, and kindness. There are people fighting this in the most hopeless situations imaginable. They do so with dignity and courage that is beyond words. There are countless examples of local government trying so hard. It’s enough to make one proud of our species.

But then we turn to the bad news. We do not have enough space here for it all, but here are some leading candidates. At the top of the food chain? Governmental “leaders,” here and abroad, absolutely incapable of dealing with any of this. Some of them see it mostly as a personal standing issue (anyone come to mind, America?).

There are those in the private sector who see this as an opportunity to gouge the world, and so they are. There are those in the poltical shadows who fan resentment. They seek to build neofascism and to undercut democracy.

And there are the growing crowds who demand the “liberty” of a hair cut or a drink at a bar. They are egged on by the aforementioned shadow actors, but for many it was not a very difficult push. The science of viruses and pandemics is actually not all that complicated.

One wonders how is it possible that someone does not understand this? Is the threat not real because you cannot see it? That we have people like that in 21st Century America is mind boggling.

Really, America?

In many ways the ugliest side of all this is that in the push to open the economy too soon, we commit the greatest sin. We force our most vulnerable citizens to starve or risk death at work. What kind of a country allows that to happen on a massive scale? The other part that is so discouraging is that so many of us say we are at the breaking point of compliance. We “can’t take it anymore.” Separate out those with medical or economic disaster facing them- they have a real case.

The rest of us? We have been slightly inconvenienced – for about six weeks. And yet, social distancing is fading, masks are actually getting rarer, and we all want to rock and roll. Six weeks is too long?

In so many places, we are setting up nicely for a second wave that will be devasting. And largely self inflicted. Well over 100,000 Americans are going to die from this – perhaps way more than that. All because we have feckless leaders at the top and easily distracted, self-centered people all around us.

What Goes Around,…

Others have noted that this is what happens when you disparage science, government, and community for so long. Add to that the feeding of a constant sense of angry resentment. Could sweeping change brought by the November elections begin the road back to who we should be? I am hopeful, not at all sure.

Gaia, little Grey Guys? Stand by. It may be time to do your thing. We are looking increasingly unworthy as a species to occupy this planet.

  Bill Clontz

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6 replies to OK, America. Who are We?

  1. Great post this morning, Bill. I too am amazed how people are equating their “inconvenience” with a loss of their liberty and how much they are suffering. Goes right along with James Bennett’s op-Ed in the NYTimes this morning—

    “Take the debate about achieving both economic vitality and public health. Surely everyone wants as much of both as possible.

    Yet a small but passionate and attention-snatching minority (with an assist from the White House) has managed to hijack what should be a conversation about figuring out the right balance. They’ve turned it into a cartoon, an either/or proposition in which even the suggestion that people should wear masks in public becomes a jack-booted assault on individual liberty….”

    • I find especially unacceptable the resistance to the mask as a matter of personal freedom. The damn mask is not for you, it’s to protect others around you, since you could be a carrier and have no idea of that condition. How self-centered can we get?

  2. Well with 7 Billion people on the earth, perhaps there’s a small culling going on that’s maybe not all bad? Of course I’d hope to not be one of those culled! While looking at statistics we many times fail to look at “where”. I saw an interesting statistic this morning. 52% of the counties in the US have had no Covid deaths; 14% have had one and 14% have had between 2 and 5 deaths. If you total these it says 80% of the counties in the US have had 5 or less deaths. The population centers are where the deaths are occurring.

    • You would want to be careful and not fall into the sort of thinking the administration has been making. “Most counties have little or no infections.” The problem with that is most counties have little or no testing, and so often have no idea what thier infection rate is, especially among the non symptomatic who are still dangerous as carriers. We are finding as well that a lot of people died of this thing many weeks ago, before we knew what was going on, and were not classified as victims of this pandemic.

      The disease really doesn’t care much about boundaries like county lines. We are just now starting to see this thing spread into rural areas and the midwest with a vengeance. By the way, did you see the news today that since Georgia decided to open up its economy, its infection rate is already up over 40%. I would bet a lot that we will see a very substantial second wave of this thing before the first wave is fully cleared. We are going to pay a terrible price for the federal mismanagement of just about everything in this fight.

  3. Bill, it’s not a conversation about infection rates or testing, it’s number of deaths. Pretty solid numbers

    • True as far as that data point goes, but the virus is not spreading at equal rates at all places at the same time, and is just now reaching some places for the earliest exposure, especially the most rural areas and much of mid America territory . A number of those low/no cases locals will look very different by 1 July, I would bet. Time will tell. I have to wonder as well if some early deaths were misdiagnosed because no one knew this thing was around. I noticed much of the early numbers have been revised upwards over the last couple of weeks based on that factor. But I agree, we may well find uneven distribution as a possibility once this first round is over. Unfortunately, based on all the too early opening up decisions, the second round may overlap the first in some areas. Not always the smartest species, are we?

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