A Communique from Quarantine.

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(ThyBlackMan.com) In a real sense all life is inter-related.  All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.  Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.  MLK, Jr.

First, I hope you all are keeping safe and sane.

As America slowly grinds to a halt, the coronavirus outbreak has made two things quite evident: the fragility of our society and its interconnectedness.  In terms of the fragile nature of our current state of existence, who would have thought that a virus, itself so fragile it can be killed with plain soap and water, could alter everything in our everyday lives.  Interconnected in that it is clear that what I do can affect your health, and what you do can affect mine.

Scarcity in the land of plenty

Just a few weeks ago, most complaints about scarcity were about parking.  Now, toilet paper.  Really?  Before, the major decision was one or two-ply, plain or quilted.  Now we search like scavengers for any paper products we can find, furtively glancing around to see if we can squirrel away an extra pack.  Clorox or Lysol wipes, forget it.  Hand sanitizer: “No more than two, please.”  Maybe when this is over we’ll heed that old maxim, “Waste not want not.”

The party’s over

What happened?  Obama was the party.  Trump was the after-party.  Now the party’s over.  Let me explain.  The final two years of the Obama administration the country was in a celebratory mood.  The Great Recession was over, the Paris Climate Accord augured well for some positive action on climate change and the Iran Nuclear Deal solved, for the moment, one of the most pressing problems of nuclear proliferation.  All was well, at least back to normal.

With Trump’s election came the after-party.  You’ve seen it before when the rowdy crowd that stays behind doesn’t know ‘when to say when’ and they keep partying until the wee hours: Tax cuts for all, regulatory rollbacks, drinks on the house!

The coronavirus was the ‘last call for alcohol’ but, by then, the remaining revelers were all too lit to drive us home safely.  Trump is the drunk behind the wheel, full of false confidence in his driving ability (as with everything else), swerving wildly, and ultimately crashing the car.  That’s where we now find ourselves, in a wreck by the side of the road.

“Herd immunity”

COVID-19 has two competing camps trying to explain what’s going on.  I call their proponents the Fantasists and the Technocrats.  The Fantasists insist everything is okay and the virus “will disappear.”  In the face of escalating unemployment they say “these numbers are not relevant.”  They even fantasize about an “American Resurrection” on Easter Sunday when it will be safe to resume “normal” life.

The Technocrats come armed with charts and graphs.  They speak of “flattening the curve” and the number of ICU beds and ventilators that will be needed in the coming weeks.  Unlike the Fantasists, they say “the data” will dictate when the pandemic, and the need for “social distancing”, is over.

Those of us caught in the middle of this mess just want the truth.  What do we have to do to end this nightmare and reclaim our lives?  Who can we depend on for accurate information?  When will the damn two-ply quilted Charmin be back on the shelves?

Then there are the Crazies.  Their proposed solution is “herd immunity.”  Let everybody contract the virus so that an immune response will be built up in the population.  Never mind that COVID-19 appears to have a mortality rate that averages out to about one percent, in which case, in a country of three hundred and fifty million people, 3.5 million Americans would die.

You can’t go home again

When the number of new infections begin to subside, and it’s safe for schools, businesses and churches to reopen, we will have to ask ourselves, “Do we really want to go back to ‘normal’, the way we were?”  Or do we really want to begin to address child hunger, so that schools can focus solely on feeding young children’s minds?  Do we finally want to tackle income inequality and make it possible for workers not to have to choose between caring for themselves, or a sick family member, and earning a day’s pay?  Will we demand that our pastors get out of partisan politics and begin anew preaching the second great commandment, “Love thy neighbor as thyself”, including the poor, the sick and the stranger?

We’ll talk about what the “new normal” could look like in each of those areas in the coming weeks, and in the meantime, stay safe and stay sane.

Staff Writer; Harry Sewell