There is a Twilight Zone quality to the stillness of our normally busy cities as most of us stay home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, the healthcare providers, grocers, bus drivers, and other essential workers who cannot stay safely at home are not the only ones keeping busy out there.
First among the mischief makers are Republicans using the pandemic as a pretext for suppressing votes, shutting down abortion services, and doubling down on their anti-immigrant policies. Republican legislators in Wisconsin forced voters to choose between their health and their voting franchise. The theft of democracy is an even greater threat than those to the public health and the economy.
Republicans distract, divide, and disinform to preserve their minority rule, even as the Red Dawn emails unearthed by The New York Times prove their failure amid a looming health crisis, despite having access to medical expertise and good intelligence, due to their subordination to a vain, delusional, and impulsive president. They believe that elections should only count when they win. They are waging a civil war without guns, yet cannot govern.
Next are the conspiracy nuts, who apparently believe that not enough terrible things are happening, so they must invent paranoid nonsense. An example of this is the bizarre claim that 5G towers transmit the coronavirus, the proof of which is supposedly on Britain’s new £20 note.
A leading American purveyor of 5G conspiracy quackery is the anti-vaxxer group Children’s Health Defense. Its spokesman is Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a Rudy Giuliani of the Left, who has expanded his misinformed mania to include electromagnetic radiation. To stressed-out shut-ins who might fall for this foolishness, my wise friend Ernest Hopkins says, “Let’s all keep it together please.”
Amid the tumult, serious medical efforts continue. David Miliband of the International Rescue Committee told The Hill’s Steve Clemons, “Recognize that if we don’t go to this disease and its potential hot spots and tackle them, where they are, then the disease will come back.” Denial is not strength, and a border wall will not protect us.
NBC Los Angeles reports about COVID-19 disease, “A growing body of global medical literature … suggests that in the more severe cases, the most devastating damage is caused not by the virus directly, but by the response of the patient’s own immune system at an extreme level known as a cytokine storm.” Pulmonologist Dr. Tom Yadegar, MD says, “The way to treat it is to suppress the immune system,” which of course is risky.
Bernie Sanders, meanwhile, suppressed his campaign and conceded that Joe Biden will be the Democratic presidential nominee. Sanders is keeping his delegates to push for his pet policies in the party platform. That aspirational document carries less clout than a child’s letter to Santa Claus, which at least is read by sympathetic parents. No need for a rancorous platform fight. Let him have his paper revolution. It was never real. Reality does not depend on our recognition. Indeed, reality is imposing itself rather brutally at the moment.
The Democratic National Convention will likely be virtual, given Democrats’ interest in not sickening one another before the fall campaign. The main disappointment of this is that the convention’s main attractions—parties—make lousy Zoom chats. Imagine countless casual yet potentially fruitful exchanges losing their lubricating social ambience because the participants are stuck at home drinking their own liquor. On the plus side, there will be fewer traffic accidents.
As for the trolls, authoritarians, and conspiracy nuts planning further mayhem, they are not the only ones with access to technology. Those of us with more constructive aims can use our talents to come together in creative new ways.
This was beautifully illustrated last week by a Facebook group dedicated to sharing music despite the quarantine. One fine offering came from four professional opera singers and an opera composer/pianist recording “Wonderful Is Your Name” while isolated in their separate homes.
Like opera musicians celebrating their church roots with a rousing Gospel performance, we all have gifts that can help make a dark time more bearable. There is no better moment to look around, step up, and put them out there.
Richard J. Rosendall is a writer and activist at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright © 2020 by Richard J. Rosendall. All rights reserved.