As my state of residence ushers in Phase 3 of reopening the economy amidst signs that we are flattening the COVID-19 curve, I am bracing myself for a surge in cases later this month. Most of the globe fully expects a second wave come this fall. So, this potential bump in virus spread is a fairly new development.
Just mere weeks ago as I write this, many of us left-leaning persons watched in disgust as people, the majority right-leaning, protested against the governors’ mandates to shelter-in-place. We were horrified as they stormed the castles, many of them carrying firearms, and shoulder-to-shoulder while bare-faced, as they decried the over-reaching government that kept them from going to church, eating at restaurants, drinking at bars, and even getting haircuts. Gasp! Keep the baskets full of vulnerables at home so that the rest of us can LIVE. Essentially, infringing their Constitutional rights to move freely. They got in the faces of public officials when there is a pandemic that attacks the respiratory system. And they expect us to trust that they will heed the CDC guidelines and be responsible citizens? We should be grateful that our government is looking out for our safety. We are trying to prevent a virus that is killing innocent people. How dare they risk setting us back and destroying all the sacrifices we’ve all made to keep the virus from spreading?
President Trump supported the protesters.
Just a mere two weeks ago, yet another innocent black man was wrongfully accused, detained, then died in police custody. This was especially heinous due to the brutality of the murder (yes, it was murder). George Floyd was suffocated in medieval, torturous fashion. He was literally pressed to death with knees on his neck and along his body as helpless onlookers yelled at the cops to let him go. The Internet provided the world free access to a snuff film that we watched over and over again. The faces of the smug officer and the lifeless victim are permanently singed in our minds. The video was so irrefutably damning and vivid that one can even see the urine that streamed out of George Floyd’s bladder when he became unresponsive. It should be a slam dunk case for the courts. The outrage over this busted through the political divide. Republicans and Democrats, for the most part, agreed on something.
Hundreds of thousands of people across the country took to the streets in protest, mostly unarmed. Many of them, if not all, left-leaning. The police department is too powerful and not held accountable, and is infected with systemic racism. They are supposed to serve and protect, yet they fail miserably over and over again, and they are now being called to the carpet. This government is over-reaching and infringing on Constitutional rights to move freely, not to mention a slew of other Amendments. Black people can’t do something as mundane as go to a store to buy a pack of cigarettes without the risk of being killed for it. This protest is essential in saving the lives of black people and driving the point home that, yes, black lives matter [too]. What started as a peaceful protest turned violent in places because of instigating fringe groups and criminals taking the opportunity to damage property and loot. Some of it was a symbolic and literal destruction of the oppressive system, some was just for the fuck of it. That was counterproductive and nearly drowned out the message that (still) needs to be heard. After 400 years of racism, this country has had enough. This is a message of such importance that the pandemic became secondary. Even though many protesters wore masks, social distancing was an impossibility. The collective voice resonates more strongly the larger the group is. It would be even louder if those voices carried arms, but that is antithetical to their view. That shift in priorities did not go unnoticed by more, let’s say, passive observers. How dare they risk setting our economy back and destroying all the sacrifices we’ve all made to keep the virus from spreading?
President Trump condemned the protesters. Called all of them thugs. Gassed them out of his way, even. Leave it to Trump to tip his base-pandering hand with literal and symbolic racist responses to protests against racism.
Fascinating. I admit a frustration with people whining about haircuts, et al. I am grateful that the local governments are looking out for us where the federal one is asleep at the wheel. They lay down ground rules because a lot of people can’t be trusted with personal responsibility, much less concern for other citizens. How can we NOT have a commanding government when a large part of the population refuses to even protect themselves? This pandemic is awful and we all have to make sacrifices, but crying about it doesn’t make it go away. It can actually make it worse since a virus could be transmitted through their infantile tears and the spittle from screaming in everyone’s faces. These patriot wannabes may need a Civics lesson. Their rights don’t go beyond their noses. They demand the right to move freely, and even unfettered from the recommended protocols to mitigate virus spread. The government can’t tell them what to do, but what they fail to realize is they can be punished if they hurt others. You can go over the speed limit, and possibly get away with it. If you are caught, you will be fined. If you kill someone in the process, you will go to jail. Go ahead, don’t practice said protocols. If you infect other people through your defiance, prepare to pay the price.
Besides, this is not a permanent condition. This too shall pass. Also, it is a face mask, not a burka or a funeral shroud. It is just a way to help ensure your rights stay where they belong.
Still, these protesters have a point. The government is really too powerful, and we elect and pay them to serve us, not to order us around. Do they have to risk spreading the virus to make that point, though?
I could say that if it wasn’t for my high-risk husband, I would be out there protesting against racism. I could say that I am sitting this one out because I want to do my part in controlling the spread of COVID-19. While both truth, peaceful assembly is just not my thing. I protest through the arts. I am an armchair activist, I suppose.
That said, I fully support railing against the lack of police accountability, and the racism that, unlike viruses, has no vaccine to prevent its spread, much less a cure. How can we have a government that doesn’t protect its people equally when a large part of the population refuses to even protect themselves? Do they have to risk spreading the virus to make that point, though?
The answer to that question in both cases is, yes and no. Yes, because now more than ever, the government needs strong checks and balances, and the citizens that elected them have a responsibility to put them in their place. This is a time of reckoning, and failing infrastructures need to be knocked down and rebuilt. No, because everything is crumbling around us because of this pandemic. Congregations of people, be it through peaceful assembly, religious services, or any gatherings, put us at risk. The virus doesn’t care about the Constitution. It is programmed to survive and propagate. We need to get over ourselves. This is not about you or me. It is about us.
We have a conflict of interests, and it should be okay to acknowledge that and recognize that there is not an eloquent solution. One size does not fit all and there should be no us versus them. Yet, we don’t relent, because we have to win. So much winning, yet, nothing but losing. Our ideologies are so steadfast that we refuse to bend against them, even if it is against our own best interest. We demand to move freely, even if it means catching a virus that could take away our ability to move, and possibly permanently. We demand the police be abolished, even if it means we have no way to be protected from anything or anyone that means us harm. The tears and spit in these protests are just as transmissible, regardless of the cause fought. Even the blood of patriots can carry the virus and infect. The goose and the gander defend one while judging the other for ultimately doing the same thing.
The left criticizes armed and unarmed people who risk virus spread to protest for their Constitutional rights. The right criticizes the unarmed left who risk virus spread to protest for equal human rights. It is, in a word, hypocritical. There are no degrees in hypocrisy, nor does it matter which cause is more important. Both sides played judge and jury, and neither has the right.
If it isn’t obvious, I am a hypocrite, as well. I complain about churches that defy the government mandates, but in the same breath, I support whatever it takes to plunge the vaccine needle into the jugular of all racists. Herd immunity is essential to Make America Great Altogether. It goes beyond ideology for me. It is visceral. If our Great country didn’t treat people of color like shit, we wouldn’t have to make a choice between evils in order to stop the injustice. News flash! We aren’t that great.
I just wish the protesters on the left exercised their Second Amendment rights along with their First. It would really tell the government who is boss. Just like some of the first protesters did to demand their haircuts. Guess what? They are getting them now, and without curfews or property damage. That is a whole different subject, though. It seems like the ongoing protests against racism are making some headway, albeit less quickly and effectively. Still, between the two movements, our governments (at least locally) are starting to pick up on the hints that they need to shape up or ship out.
Now if you will excuse me, I need to hunker down and isolate myself against the next wave.
Freedom to Lose Your Religion
What a world we are living in. Everything has been disrupted because of a hidden enemy. The devout might call it the Devil’s work; scientists may call it a submicroscopic infectious agent; everyone else calls it a virus. Regardless, it is putting our collective lives on hold. By necessity, we are reduced to surviving so that we may live again later. As God’s flock, responsible citizens, decent human beings . . . whatever motivates you, we must all do our part in defeating COVID-19.
I planned to start this off with a bit of scripture about sacrifice. So, I did an Internet search, “Bible passages with sacrifice.” As with anything related to religion, the results are dissatisfying.
“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13.
“For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.” Luke 9:24
“To do what is right or just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.” Proverbs 21:3
I was really hoping to drive the point home about the importance of sacrifice during this time. Doesn’t religion preach just that? Back in the day, the congregation was expected to empty their pockets into the church offertories if they wanted eternal salvation. Their last coins were tithed to the ferryman who would take them to afterlife. Or something. Isn’t that the very definition of sacrifice? Oh wait, no. That’s just stupidity.
Back to the verses. The aforementioned examples and others like them tell completely different stories. The first two, in particular, resonate with current events. Many conservatives are extremely eager to open up the economy. How does one do that in the midst of a pandemic? How about suggesting elderly people leave their homes and sacrifice themselves on the front lines so that the rest of the ‘healthy’ world can get back to normal? If that doesn’t work out, just keep the basket of vulnerables at home while the rest of the world can live their lives again. Never mind that it is not how communicable contagions operate. As John said, “. . . lay down one’s life for one’s friends,” and Luke echoes that sentiment, “. . . whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.” Got that, old folks, and immunocompromised, and cancer survivors, and disabled veterans, and those with co-morbidities? You’ll be saved either way! Win-win!
The third example blurs the lines even more of what sacrifice means. To do what is right or just is more acceptable . . . to the Lord. Does that mean it is right and just to congregate, place your spit on the clergyman’s hand while you eat God’s body, and share the same cup of his blood, all while ignoring the social distancing rules and shelter-in-place mandates? Is the chalice AND wine disinfected after each set of lips touches it? The CDC states that COVID-19 can survive and be transmitted for up to three days on metal surfaces. Not to mention, living in an infectious broth of high-viral-loaded sacrament taken directly into one’s unprotected system before even the smallest immunity can be built up from an incremental or peripheral exposure. You know, how the immune system works.
Perhaps God is battling the actual creator of this virus. Who could that be? In this beautiful world our Lord created. Not the sacrilegious Darwin. Not godless China. The Church Lady knows who I mean. Could it be . . . SATAN? While this fight to the death carries on (probably for the next year), does one have to pray in order to avoid becoming infected? If so, God might be a little tied up for a bit while pulling a rope-a-dope on the Devil. What if one becomes infected? Can prayer heal better than a therapeutic vaccine or treatment made and administered by God’s own children, to God’s own children? What happens if one dies? Can one call in a prayer favor, at least to explain why thou hast forsaken me?
This pandemic must be another one of those WWJD tests. What would Jesus do? He did lose his shit on the merchants and moneychangers in the infamous Cleansing of the Temple. He fashioned a whip and went all Indiana Jones on those greedy motherfuckers. How dare they turn a place of worship into a den of iniquitous profit? (That should only be on designated market days to raise money for new stained glass windows, damn it!) There is some “lost” evidence that Jesus got in a few murders in his profligate “Infancy.” Those tales were conveniently omitted in both testaments, but they are important to observe. Because, that little loophole has been coming in handy.
Like flying a plane into a large, occupied building, it is noble to sacrifice others in order to score points with God. The gullible idiot really took a gamble right there. That is a risky bet for some centuries-old text that has been interpreted in various batshit ways. Whatever gets one to achieve the ultimate reward, am I right? I dare anyone covered in Christ’s blood to jump in a pool of sharks in order to save oneself. Go on, I dare you. Where’s your Messiah now, bitches?
Here’s the thing. This is nothing new. Religion is the scourge that keeps on scourging. It oppressively places its thumb on women, sticks it up their vaginas, and fucks them good and hard. Shockingly, it is not until the past decade that we kinda stopped being okay with that. Even then, we can’t get all women on board to fight that madness, much less men. It doesn’t seem like a highly contagious, non-discriminating virus will be a compelling game-changer. Especially considering the chatter from certain religious figures that, yes, they are going to hold public services during sacred holidays.
I write this in the wake of Easter, as there may be more wakes as a result. The reality is that it won’t be just the religious dissenters who sacrifice; they are taking their fellow humans down with them in Biblical fashion. Why? Because, this will give the virus more reasons to stick around and party on our goblet cells. (How many angels can dance on the headstone of a grave?) It also means that not only will there be more people infected, there will be more deaths. That is devastating enough to give a convincing reason to sit this one out and stay home. In addition, our lives will remain on hold much longer than originally forecasted. We don’t even know what is on the other side of this pandemic. It certainly isn’t a fantasyland complete with pearly gates.
Since we’ve politicized and non-secularized an apolitical and secular pathogen, I find myself reaching to the Constitution for guidance.
Laypeople take the First Amendment’s message quite literally by freely interpreting it. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . .” I am not a legal scholar, but I believe it is saying that government should keep its nose out of religion. As well, they will not “abridge[ing] the freedom of speech.” Again, we have the freedom to have our voices heard. Religious freedom, yes! Free speech, boo-yah! Does this mean we can practice our religion to our hearts content, and say whatever we want to?
Apparently not, as the Constitution recognizes that rights end at the tips of our noses. Don’t believe me? One of many examples of First Amendment violations is when speech is an immediate threat that breaches peace. If what you say incites violence, then the right is forfeited. Same goes for religion. If a faith ritualizes sacrificing virgins at the altar, or molesting them behind it, don’t we expect the authorities to put the kibosh on that? Rather than practicing religion in a public gathering during a time that the government has temporarily mandated social distancing for the protection of the greater good, maybe the right thing to do is to sacrifice one’s dogma for something that actually serves the whole of humanity.
Again, if you don’t believe me, I invite you to observe two situations that result in widely accepted abridgment of Constitutional rights.
We have this little thing called, “Felony Disenfranchisement”. Quite simply, if one is convicted of a felony that results in incarceration of more than a year and/or a fine of over $1,000, said convicted felon could lose rights to vote in elections, depending on the will of the jurisdiction. There are gray areas regarding the severity of the crime, but I trust we all agree that we don’t want a murderer or violent abuser the opportunity to elect/reelect a candidate or incumbent we find unpalatable. It doesn’t matter that voting rights are covered in at least four Amendments. If you break the societal covenant, you forfeit some rights as a citizen as punishment.
Still not convinced? The 1968 Gun Control Act Title 18 provides for “prohibit[ing] anyone convicted of a felony and anyone subject to a domestic violence protection order from possessing a firearm.” Not only does a murderer, pedophile, and in this case, a domestic abuser, lose a laundry list of Amendment rights while in prison, they lose their Second Amendment rights in perpetuity. This domestic violence is qualified as “a misdemeanor,” by the way. This means that the Felony Disenfranchisement parameters from above don’t even need to be met. The government can take the firearm away while slapping the hand that held it. It seems extreme, but it does mollify those who prefer that the Second Amendment be stricken from the record.
Therein lies the rub. Gun sales, and attempted ones, are through the roof right now. People just don’t feel safe. We fear the invisible enemy that is COVID-19, and all we can do is wash our hands, wear masks, and stay away from each other. We can’t shoot the virus dead, but we have the right to protect ourselves from those who breach the protective barrier and threaten our safety.
Doesn’t that sound like what religious people who just can’t find the will to stay home are doing? They spread the Word along with the virus, and they assume they have the God-given and Constitutional right to do so. Atheists, agnostics, and intelligent religious people be damned.
First Amendment violation, anyone? Abuse your religious freedom, then see if God shows up on your behalf as a character witness in court. Or, maybe those who put others’ lives at risk should—as felons and domestic abusers do—lose the right that they are abusing.
Twenty Seconds Later
I am not enjoying my life right now.
I’ll just start off with that. Cut to the chase, because, I don’t know how much time I have.
None of us do.
Why waste it with words that, at best, are distracting? Communication is the key; do not mince words, nor leave openings for interpretation, inference, or misinformation. And especially in our fine MAGA country.
That said, this might get wordy.
I started writing this to Radiohead’s best album (in my opinion), A Moon Shaped Pool. The first song, the great “Burn the Witch” has an especially apt line:
“ . . . it’s a low-flying panic attack.”
Yep, that is where I am right now, where millions of people are. Our collective nervous system is working overtime firing off the hormones that stoke the fight, flight, or freeze response. If we stay put, we don’t know the magnitude of the beast we aim to fight. If we choose flight, well, where to go? So, do we do nothing at all?
Ships are not docking. Planes are grounding. Trains might not leave the depot. Public events are being cancelled. Schools, and even the borders, are closing.
And so it goes.
I’m talking about the Coronavirus—specifically, its latest strain, COVID-19. I don’t know about you, but I just call it “The Virus” for brevity.
It’s not like we are being kept completely in the dark. The media is trying their darndest to keep us informed. They are burning the midnight oil to report what this perplexing bug is up to. They turn the mantle over to the scientists to give us the facts while the reported cases increase exponentially, and the mortality rate rises. The statistics are getting more alarming, and all we can be definitively told at this point is to take simple mitigating measures.
Don’t touch your face, disinfect surfaces, cough and sneeze into the crook of your elbow. And the pièce de résistance? Wash your hands frequently for at least twenty seconds. Lather up while singing “Happy Birthday” two times should do the trick. Why not put a cheerful spin on killing the killer before it kills anyone else?
And Twenty Seconds Later . . . I am still freaking the fuck out.
It would be poetic for me to add that I am typing on my keyboard with dried, bloodied hands. That is an exaggeration, as I’ve been wearing nitrile surgical gloves during the day. It is much safer for me to wash gloved hands than furiously scrub my own sensitive skin raw, which would make me more vulnerable to infection. At this point, I don’t care if I look ridiculous.
So, why the panic? The amount of cases as of this writing is only, ONLY in the low six-figures, with several thousand fatalities. That is only, ONLY a bit over 3%. Not too shabby, eh? We’ve encountered worse. More people died from AIDS-related illnesses than will be expected with this virus. Why is COVID-19 getting so much attention, enough to give millions around the globe incentive to modify their daily lives? I can’t speak for other countries, but I certainly can assess the reasons for panic in the U.S. of A.
Stupidity. Incompetence. Avarice. They work together, synergistically. Like Snap, Crackle, and Pop, they are the essential ingredients of the fortified cereal that is a global pandemic.
Stupidity is ignorance with the ability to know better, but ignoring it. A culture should know better than to throw wild animals in cages, stack them on top of each other, and let them fester in their own feces and filth. People should know better than to prepare and consume food around said filth.
Incompetence is just stupidity in practice. And there are many incompetent people. Stupid people who ignore the facts. Stupid people who defend other stupid people. Stupid people who can’t control themselves. Stupid people who can’t be bothered with modifying their behavior, even just temporarily. Stupid people who buy disposable masks en masse hoping it will protect them, despite all the evidence presented to the contrary. Stupid people who build forts with packages of toilet paper.
A government should know better than to punitively silence its experts from voicing the consequences of ignorant acts. A government should know better than to place importance of their party over its people. A government should know better than to feed its citizens falsehoods in the hope that panic will be assuaged and the money will continue to flow into coffers, pockets, and PACs. Avarice “Trumps” ethics.
People should have known better than to vote that government into power in the first place. Yes, I am talking about you, Trump voters.
In fairness, it was either him or the other shitty candidate. Many of the ones who chose death by fried chicken grease are experiencing some serious buyer’s remorse. Good. We all make mistakes, and it is important to acknowledge them. If Mr. POTUS got that memo, he discarded it as he does anything that contains words strung into coherent sentences. It wouldn’t matter since the pathological narcissist is incapable of admitting to anything except how wonderful he is. Who knew our supreme leader is literally Supreme? >>insert sarcastic, long-suffering sigh here<<
In case some of you are still clinging to your party and its specious ideas above all else, allow me to point out a few essential aspects of his leadership style. They might be covered in Art of the Deal, but I would have to read it to confirm. That is a hard pass for me.
Blame everyone but yourself, especially if they don’t worship you. Admittedly, Trump didn’t cause the spread of this virus, but he certainly isn’t contributing to stemming its flow. That would require effort that he just cannot expend. Despite never sleeping, as the force of nature that he is, he just doesn’t have the energy or bandwidth. It would severely cut into his Twitter time and YUUUGE rallies where he can blame Obama, et al, for the policies that make his job so much more difficult.
Throw your minions under the bus, but most importantly, keep your hands clean while you do it. Poor Mike Pence. This is probably not what he signed on for when he agreed to be his Vice President. Why would Trump put a guy in charge who is well known for bungling a major public health crisis as governor? Simple, Trump is smart enough to see we are on the brink of a shit storm, and he needs to put a patsy front and center when it all hits the fan.
The man—VP Pence—leading this charge, does not believe in evolution, the precise theory that explains why this virus is propagating. He is probably silently cursing himself during his nightly self-flagellation, begging his lord and savior for forgiveness because he is helping save his country when it deserves to burn in Hell for allowing vile homosexuals to marry. Prove me wrong. Have you ever seen him without a shirt on? I strongly suspect we’d be greeted to a fleshy canvas of scars and fresh welts. Bet me. Until he disrobes for our country, the state of his torso is the Schrödinger’s Cat of religious mortification.
Remarkably, he is taking his new role under the bus very seriously. It is too soon to say he is doing a heck of a job, Pency, but he actually seems to be putting forth a valiant effort, complete with admitting his own mistakes along the way. Whatever else his motivation, he is pretty intelligent and knows that this is not the hill he wants his political career to die on. We’ll take it. Still, his efforts could be for naught if his boss keeps flapping his gums. Which leads me to the main play in Trump’s rulebook.
Pander to your glassy-eyed base, and by default, lie. The quantity of Trump’s lies during his three years as president are into the five figures. Yes, there are people out there whose job it is to keep a running total. What would motivate him to stop lying now, since it seems to be working for him? The man certainly seems impervious to consequence. Like an orange Energizer bunny, he keeps lying. No matter how many times he’s contradicted and how defiantly he crosses his arms in response, the pattern will continue. And whom do you think his followers believe in the face of all evidence to the contrary?
The virus is a Democrat hoax? Of course! Fake News? Nailed it! It’s just another flu and will die off in the spring? Whew! The virus is contained? Yay! Wishful thinking? Nah! The Emperor has what now? Uhh. . .? We’re blind? Fuck you!
You can’t cure stupid, ignorance is bliss until the truth bites you in the ass, and greed is anything but good.
And so it goes.
If anyone is wondering why there is a panic, it might be because we don’t trust our government. Nor do we trust those who would re-elect that government. Just a thought. Our hope is that there will be light come November. And Trump will go mad, see the error of his ways, and love his other daughter Tiffany. Oh, the audacity.
Until then, I’ll make like Lady MacBeth, and continue to wash my hands of the whole, bloody mess.