Most Americans have never lived in a Third World country and are only now getting a taste of how things work when your late-stage imperial powerhouse of a country can no longer guarantee freedom, safety, and prosperity simultaneously. You can have the right to vote but still have no way of buying toilet paper. You can be safe, if you want, but it means you’ll be shut inside your home like Boo Radley. You can make money, perhaps, by hording and price-gouging people, but chances are high you’ll be bludgeoned to death by a gang of your angry neighbors. All the clichés of dystopian novels apply all at once as you watch institutions close, governors threaten you with penalties for going to a restaurant, and every cough might be a whistle from the Grim Reaper.
We’re all going to be a little nutty because this is so new to us. Some responses are of course more ridiculous than others. I didn’t want to be snarky during this forced convalescence. I have been reading lots of great books like 1493, by Charles Mann, and The Extraordinary Voyage of James Cook, by Nicholas Thomas. I even cracked open The Scarlet Letter for the first time since 2009. But one thing I hoped to do, to while away the hours, was log onto Facebook for lots of fun and mindless memes. Instead of videos showing cats playing the piano or pictures of people’s fabulous dinners, I get endless posts about coronavirus. The whole point of being forced to spend time at home is that we don’t get the coronavirus, so why talk about it on Facebook?
So at the risk of losing even more friends and with the opening apology for being catty simply for the sake of cattiness, I have to list here the lamest responses I’ve seen by people to the current viral crisis.
1. Let me post instructions about washing your hands and not touching your face, and while I’m at it, here are the latest numbers of people with coronavirus.
Gee, have you noticed that what you’re posting is everywhere already? How many times do we have to be told to wash our hands? And I’m sorry, but nobody is going to be able to stop touching their faces. It would be like someone telling you just can’t talk ever again. There’s also little to be gained by letting me know that 71 people have the virus in Texas. I am powerless to do anything about it because the president has literally told me to sit at home and not do anything.
2. Here are statistics about how many people die from abortion, heart attacks, car crashes, cancer, and obesity. Why aren’t we worried about those things?
What, are you kidding me? OF COURSE we’re worried about those things. I’ve been part of the enormous international prolife movement for over 20 years. They march on Washington and have entire publications devoted entirely to stopping abortion. That’s why prochoice Democrats despise us. Did you miss the last 40 years of public service announcements against drunk driving? I can’t even remember the last time I saw someone standing on a sidewalk for a “smoking break” because of the 50-year social crusade to warn people that smoking causes cancer. I’ve been given warnings about heart disease and high cholesterol since before I was even old enough to imagine what those health risks even meant. All in all, we’re hearing about COVID-19 a lot now because it’s new and nobody knows exactly how much damage it will cause.
3. All this hysteria is stupid because there have been fewer than 100 deaths from COVID-19 in the United States.
As far as we’ve been told, we’ve only even known that COVID-19 existed since two and a half months ago. And already over 120,000 people have this little virus around the world, and within two months, it managed to kill 100 people in the United States? We’d be supremely insane not to take precautions and treat the situation seriously. If it can go from 0 to 100 deaths in just two months, it can go from 100 to 10,000 deaths in two more months, then from 10,000 to 1,000,000 in two more months. That’s because a factor of 100 in a short time is a big deal, we live in a huge country, and we don’t even know if these small numbers are at all legitimate given that so few people are getting tested. Do those numbers sounds scary or outlandish to you? Do you ask, how could it possibly spread that fast? The whole point is it spread by a factor of 100 in two months because we were all just running around living business as usual and this virus is highly contagious. We don’t want 1,000,000 to die, so we’re going along with public figures’ advice to minimize the kinds of activity we take for granted, which actually spread the virus.
4. This is all just a plot because the Democrats weren’t able to impeach Trump.
It stinks that the Democrats tried to impeach Trump in a four-year search-and-destroy quest that looked a lot like an episode of Wyle E. Coyote and the Road Runner (beep beep!) It also stinks that Trump is being attacked so intensely over a virus that he obviously did not want to unleash on his own country. It stinks that Trump doesn’t get credit for taking the measures as quickly as he did and for holding down the death toll relative to Italy and Iran, at least for the time being. But Trump himself is telling us to stay at home and avoid going to events with more than 10 people. If he’s good enough to warrant us defending him against the Democrats, then we ought to take seriously his own advice to us about the virus. And it could be that there is a virus spinning out of control and at the same time a foiled plot by Democratic bunglers to impeach the president. Given that the Democrats have been trying to sink Trump non-stop since 2016, literally any pandemic to occur would have to coincide with a timeline of the Democrats’ latest obsessive-compulsive crusade.
5. Look at how smart libertarians are–Trump is unleashing the power of the private sector to get this job done!
The Dow Jones was hurdling 27,000 just a few weeks ago and now it’s down to 20,000. The private sector can’t handle any of this. ObamaCare is as lousy as it is, because Obama tried to copy the Heritage Foundation’s model of hybridizing private-sector and public-sector health economies. Trump earmarking a trillion dollars in taxpayer money as a sudden windfall to Google and healthcare companies isn’t private-sector heroism. This whole debacle proves that libertarian economics is completely unrealistic in a real world where wild and unexpected things happen like sudden, unforeseen pandemics. I’m not saying we should rush to become a communist country or even that we need to become Sweden circa 1979. But there is a time and a place for everything. March 2020 in America is not the time and place to pull out old Ayn Rand novels and preach free-market libertarianism to millions of Americans facing job loss with no health insurance. Please don’t tell us to be happy with $2,500 tax rebates to go across state lines and buy a health insurance plan. Please don’t tell us to trust corporations to find a way to address our problems out of their own lucre. Just stop already.
6. Look at how great socialist medicine would be — we wouldn’t have these problems!
Do you remember ObamaCare? I do. It was the crown jewel of the Democratic Party’s platform in 2009. And it’s what we have now. And it’s why everyone’s scared to death of getting sick. Because you can’t afford it, it offers terrible services, and nobody can even understand how to purchase it or use it. That’s what we got the last time we listened to Michael Moore types praising the healthcare system of Cuba. We don’t want to hear that now.
7. Let’s scream about Trump and the pictures of kids in cages because we have to blame somebody for how freaked out we all are.
We’re all living in basic quarantine. Old people are likely going to be penned in triage centers on mattresses fenced off like … cages. Have you seen the photos of Dallas Fort Worth and Chicago O’Hare airports? American citizens are clogging up hallways standing back-to-chest like sardines, coughing on each other, waiting to get clearance to go back to their homes as they return from Europe and Asia. Think of how ridiculous Jennifer Lopez’s halftime Superbowl “protest” dance looks now. She had little kids sitting in cages lined with Playboy bunny style kitten fur, while she writhed around a stripper pole. Think of all that contagious contact while we’re driven to feel outrage over kids being quarantined at the border (even though there are still huge disputes over whether those photos, taken when Obama was president, have anything to do with Trump’s policies.) If you show us pictures of kids sleeping in cages, we would be in our rights to say, “hey, Americans aren’t asking them to do anything we aren’t doing ourselves right now.” Tomorrow any one of us might get a bad cough and be rushed to an overcrowded emergency room where we have to spend several nights in a cordoned pen with mattresses. In other words, that could be us anyway. So we aren’t too eager to feel guilt over those photographs.
8. Let me show you a list of all the flus from SARS to swine flu to ebola, to show you how this is really not that big of a deal and you shouldn’t care.
Millions of Americans don’t have enough health insurance or paid sick leave. We remember going through those past flu scares. Many of us had bad flus and feared we might not make it out of them. WE KNOW! For all the great ideas that blossom among Republicans, the healthcare issues has been a perennial blind spot. For 30 years the party has made its one non-negotiable platform the total, 100%, hate-with-the-heat-of-a-thousand-suns hatred of universal healthcare. A group of very powerful people who’d read Hayek convinced key Republican elites that this was their hill to die on: stop universal healthcare at all costs! Because that’s socialism and socialism is awful. Now the Republicans are stuck with this platform and it’s toxic. It’s even radioactive. Do they think that the millions of us who live in terror of getting sick are making it up when we say that because of our current situation, it would ruin our families? Do they think we’re just wusses or incompetent boobs or weeds that should be cut away anyway? Maybe they didn’t make a big deal about the flu in past years. But many of us were scared out of our wits when we came down with the flu because we knew one illness might lead us into penury. And bringing all that up would just show you why the current COVID-19 is seen as such a huge deal by so many people now.
9. We demand that LGBTQ people get special priority because we have such high rates of AIDS and that makes us especially vulnerable to COVID-19.
Are you flipping kidding me? GLAAD, the Human Rights Campaign and a total of 100 gay organizations wrote a letter demanding that they be subject to special concern because of the high rates of cancer and HIV in their community. Oh, and they claim old gay people will be too scared of discrimination to go to the doctor. I’m sure you read the stories about the old people left to die in Italy by triage centers that had to ration ventilator care. I really can’t imagine why old gay people should be given any different priority from other old people. As for people who have HIV, all I have to say is, you’ve had almost forty years of massive funding priorities and overly generous media campaigns to stop spreading this utterly preventable virus of HIV. Because of behavioral choices, the LGBT community didn’t stop it from spreading, but rather, furthered its diffusion and then led to a host of drug-resistant co-morbidities like increases in syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia. The COVID-19 crisis is too huge for you to carve out some special client space in it. Get in line like everyone else!
10. The virus only affects old people and people who are already weak or sick. Why should I care?
Famous last words! Remember HIV? At the beginning people had no idea about its long incubation period. Many people who didn’t dream they had the virus suddenly fell ill years later. We don’t know much about COVID-19. You may care more than you possibly want to.
11. It’s a grievous sin to be concerned about this disease or following anybody’s advice because you should pray and let God handle it.
Hi, can I get a word in edgewise? I just finished reading the book of Leviticus in its entirety. Golly, there are a lot of rules about how a community should work together and protect each other from maladies both biological and spiritual. There is even advice about how to deal with mildew on your curtains. Maybe before you send me to Hell for going along with CDC advice about sanitizing countertops and coughing into my elbow, you might want to relax a little and lighten up. We reap what we sow. The Bible never told us just to be reckless and indifferent to the consequences of our actions.