The signs at the beaches here in Central California, caution people to be aware of sneaker waves; “Never turn your back on the water,” they warn, lest a rogue wave wash over you and carry you out to sea. Here in the Bay Area we know all about sneaker waves, those rare large waves that appear at their own menacing whim, a deadly outlier in a series of smaller waves. You might be wading in a few inches of water when, without warning, a large sneaker wave suddenly sweeps you off your feet and pulls you out to a watery death.
We turned our backs on COVID-19; we got complacent and before we knew it a sneaker COVID wave swept over California and the nation. New highs in cases, new highs in positives, soaring hospitalizations and a death toll that’s spiraling unchecked. All of this in just a few short weeks.
In America, which is supposed to be one of the most scientifically advanced countries in the world, a major segment of the population and some of its leadership (and I use the word leadership loosely) are at war with science and medicine. In America people are getting sick, are getting hospitalized and are dying in numbers previously unheard of while leaders push back on medical experts, recite the quackery of pretenders on YouTube and incite public doubt over the science. It’s a poverty of reason.
In America, which is supposed to be the richest country in the world, citizens have been pulled out to a sea of financial desperation; drowning and literally in survival mode with no help from a government that’s been hired and tasked with the job of serving the people. Leadership from where it really counts, has ground to a halt. It’s been a combination of deer in the headlights, clown car confusion, bickering and outright dereliction of duty. It’s a poverty of leadership.
It all starts at the top, or so the saying goes, but the American President gave up on coronavirus long ago. He viewed the virus as a threat to his reelection and it was. It didn’t have to threaten his reelection but instead of facing the crisis he downplayed it or pretended it didn’t exist. Why? He probably realized that it was a crisis beyond his scope. It isn’t part of Trump’s nature to have empathy for the sick, the dying and the downcast. Crisis management doesn’t sit in his largely empty toolbox. Had Trump channeled FDR instead of Herbert Hoover, he might have been reelected.
But the president went missing. Trump has scarcely issued a peep about the coronavirus for months. He’s been absent from the Coronavirus Task Force meetings, absent from delivering messages of any real substance and absent of showing any real concern as regards the pandemic and a suffering America. The virus didn’t cost Trump the reelection. His failure to confront a crisis cost him reelection.
Prior to November 3rd, Trump concentrated almost solely on his reelection; touring red states and holding super spreader events while setting up the scenario of a rigged election should he lose. At the same time the only thing America heard from Trump about the pandemic was complaint, “All you hear is COVID, COVID, COVID.” How could a virus have the effrontery to take the spotlight off of his highness, the Donald?
Since the election Trump has been in an AWOL sulk, going on a virtual woe is me/it’s a fraud tour and thereby radicalizing all but the most reasonable of Republicans (assuming that reasonable and Republican doesn’t constitute a contradiction in terms). It’s a disgrace that there have been no significant demands coming from the Republican leadership admonishing Trump to finally, in his last weeks in office, actually take some action in rallying the fight against the pandemic.
And what has the Republican leadership been doing? Hiding. Cowering. Afraid to get on the wrong side of a lame duck, one term, disgrace of a president. It’s not as if they’re afraid of angering a Lincoln or a Franklin Roosevelt. Nope, they’re shrinking before a two bit con man and former game show host who’s made a mockery of the presidency. It’s a poverty of courage.
Breaking News: In Reno Nevada Renown Regional Medical Center has been so overwhelmed with COVID cases that it is using a parking structure to accommodate an overflow of COVID-19 cases. As of December 1st, 198 COVID patients have been treated in the parking garage since it opened. Donald Trump termed the story a hoax. Not a peep from Republican leadership to rebuke Trump for this outrageous claim.
Meanwhile in a sadly commonplace example of moral bankruptcy that only this current Congress could sink to, both the House and the Senate have hung the American people out to dry in their failure to come up with any kind of aid package. This is at the feet of both Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell who are paid to actually negotiate, find solutions and facilitate agreement rather than to engage in a nonstop contest of bickering, finger pointing and brinkmanship.
In this season of thanksgiving I and my family are thankful that we have not been affected financially by the pandemic. I cannot imagine what it must be like for Americans who are suffering and in despair to know that their salvation is in the hands of a frozen, cowardly, bickering Congress that won’t do it’s damn job.
As of this writing one group of legislators from both parties, I suppose you could call them renegades for being bipartisan, has banded together to come up with a 900 billion dollar stimulus/aid package. But it’s on shaky ground. The bill isn’t big enough for Nancy Pelosi and it’s far too much for a Scroogian Mitch McConnell. And so these two so called leaders once again hold up the process so that they can continue on with their four year long pissing contest.
In a statement that is sickening in it’s irony Mitch McConnell said, “We just don’t have time to waste time.” Mitch, what in the actual fuck do you think you’ve been doing for months? It’s a poverty of progress.
Meanwhile in South Dakota and Florida the governors in those states, Kristi Noem and Ron DeSantis, respectively, seem hell bent on committing what can only be described as negligent homicide by taking a “what me worry” attitude about COVID. Both Noem and DeSantis are firm in their refusals to initiate statewide mask mandates. Their basic slogan has been, “We trust that the American people are smart enough to do the right thing” – because nobody in America texts and drives.
Noem’s spokesperson Maggie Seidel stated in an email, “The facts are simple: mask mandates, harsh lockdowns, massive testing and contact tracing haven’t worked – in the United States or abroad.” So there you go. “Party on Wayne.” “Party on Garth.”
At least Noem hasn’t issued mandates against local mask ordinances as DeSantis has done in Florida. Recently DeSantis, in a press conference, lashed out at a reporter who asked the governor if he would reconsider a mandate.
“How has that worked in states that have done it? Has that stopped an outbreak in Minnesota, Illinois, Michigan? What about New Jersey? What about all these states where you have explosions in cases?” DeSantis said. “I’m opposed to mandates, period. I don’t think they work.”
What DeSantis and Maggie Seidel said about masks would be true if it weren’t, well, false. Let’s take Taiwan for instance, a country with a population density of 1,739 people per square mile. Taiwan has gone over 200 straight days without a locally transmitted case and under 600 total confirmed cases, 55 of which were local transmissions. Seven deaths have been recorded. In Taiwan people wear masks. The United States has a population density of 93 people per square mile, is having a civil war over masks and the COVID numbers are somewhere above the stratosphere.
While Noem and DeSantis, a stubborn pair of Trump acolytes, continue to do nothing but spread misinformation and block progress, healthcare workers and local officials are pleading with the governors to take a firm stance on COVID safety and to issue mandates. But Noem and DeSantis, in their alternate realities, remain steadfast in turning their backs on dying citizens and exhausted healthcare workers. Worn out and likely demoralized, providers are soldiering on with the knowledge that a potential cavalry in the form of the governors has dismounted and gone back to barracks. It’s a poverty of morality.
Meanwhile in California and Colorado and likely other points around the nation, the politicians are tripping all over their own gaffes. California Governor Gavin Newsom left his credibility on a dining table at the uber-lavish French Laundry Restaurant where he attended a mask free, shoulder to shoulder dinner and birthday celebration with twelve other swells and high muckamucks.
According to reports the event alternated between outdoor and partially indoor (whatever that means) and violated the spirit if not the letter of Newsom’s own admonishments about COVID safety. Newsom lost me in late spring when he seemed to cave to the anti-mask lunatic fringe. Maybe at a future meeting of state governors Newsom can approach Michigan’s tough and resolute Gretchen Whitmer (one of the outliers among leaders) and ask her if she has any testicular fortitude she can spare.
And then there was Denver Mayor Michael Hancock who tweeted his request for people to stay at home during Thanksgiving. That was about a half hour before he boarded a flight to see his family in Mississippi. After being outed on social and news media both Newsom and Hancock issued the requisite boilerplate apologies. I’ll give them some credit for not including the ever obnoxious “If I offended anyone…” provision in their apologies.
San Francisco Mayor London Breed was also seen at a party at The French Laundry, a restaurant which must be the go to speakeasy for the hifalutin who want to avoid engaging in best practices. San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo admitted that eight of his family members representing five households were in attendance at a Thanksgiving celebration, but sat around three distanced tables on the back patio and wore masks when not eating, this, still in violation of state coronavirus rules.
Are these examples of heinous crimes? No, and they aren’t on the level of what Congress and Trump and Noem and DeSantis are doing – or not doing. But they are bad examples. They are examples of a “do as I say and not as I do,” mentality that are utterly tone deaf and smack of elitism. When interviewed about officials breaking their own rules struggling small business owners were incensed, many of them wondering out loud why they should follow the rules when the rules makers don’t. We’ve created three categories of response to rules and guidelines; ones that obey the rules, ones that say screw the rules and ones that makes up their own versions of the rules. It’s a poverty of responsibility.
Here’s an idea, maybe all of the mayors, and governors and legislators should take note of what their constituents are going through and forego their parties and lavish dinners. Maybe they should take some of the time that they don’t seem to be using for anything constructive, along with some of their handsome salaries that come from WE THE PEOPLE and actually help. Instead of feasting and making merry with their rich donor friends maybe they should roll up their sleeves, mask up and work the food bank lines – and that doesn’t mean show up for a 15 minute photo op.
But there is good news – a vaccine. I’m not jumping for joy just yet; not making any vacation plans, wondering how I can repurpose masks, or bequeathing my bandanas to Lexi in anticipation of the eradication of COVID-19. I don’t want to get up hopes that can still be dashed.
But already there are problems. Before the first arm has been jabbed the anti-vaxxers and other assorted know nothings are busy spreading baseless rumors, creating doubt and fear among the general public. Hard at work in their bullshit factories the nation’s crackpots are warning of everything from the more mainstream concerns of side effects to the bizarre claim that the virus was manufactured so that Bill Gates could get behind a vaccine that would inject microchips into the populace. No doubt there’s also a George Soros fable going around. It’s a poverty of logic.
Despite the fact that the coronavirus has reached record levels in the United States I don’t feel any particular anxiety or fear of catching it. This isn’t due to any hubris or feeling of invincibility. Hell, I’m 67 years old and the invincibility thing usually dies off sometime in your late twenties. I’m feeling relatively comfortable because I’m still following guidelines and I’ve grown more cautious as the pandemic has worsened over the past few weeks.
What I do feel is a mixture of disappointment, disgust and anger. While I expected nothing from Trump and was “rewarded” with expectations met, I certainly envisioned better from Congress and the rest of the leadership. It’s been infuriating to see the despicable, heartless disregard for Americans by the likes of Mitch McConnell and other Republicans such as Texas Governor Dan Patrick who floated the idea of American seniors “sacrificing” themselves to the coronavirus in “exchange for keeping the America that all America loves for your children and grandchildren.” I point out Republicans because by and large it has been members of that party who’ve followed the lead of Trump who has shown no compassion, no leadership and no resolve. It’s disappointing, disgusting and maddening to see an American President surrender in the face of a crisis. It’s been appalling to to see health care providers, many who face a future of living with PTSD, disparaged and “rewarded” for their work and bravery with a lack of appreciation.
We are indeed fortunate that a vaccine that by all accounts is safe and effective has been developed so quickly. If not for a vaccine I don’t know that America would ever find the resolve to pick herself up. While I feel that Joe Biden possess the qualifications and leadership skills to be an effective president, he must repair the damage done by Trump. He can do that administratively but the monumental task will be overcoming the division and the misinformation that Trump has fostered regarding the coronavirus.
I’m 67. I hope that I’m around and lucid in twenty years so that I can read history’s verdict on this massive American failure. It won’t be pretty. Trump and the 116th United States Congress will likely go down as the most partisan, immobile and derelict in the history of this country.
For nearly a year now we’ve indeed witnessed resolve, ingenuity, courage, dedication and a whole spectrum of virtues that have sadly been overshadowed by greed, immorality, ignorance and dishonor. History will recognize the role of America’s better angels in combatting the coronavirus but the overriding focus will be America’s poverty of excellence.