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Sunday, April 4, 2021

Spooked By COVID Variants - Afraid Of One’s Shadow And The End Of The World

Sheridan Park is a leafy, prosperous neighborhood of a major metropolitan city.  Its residents are professionals – doctors, lawyers, and executives for the many non-profit foundations which have found the metrosexual, diverse, talented population pool an attractive place in which to locate.

Sheridan Park is particularly proud of its politics.  It was quick to deploy ‘Black Lives Matter’ and ‘Everyone is welcome here’ signs and most recently ‘Thank you, Dr. Fauci’ tributes.  It is a neighborhood whose residents keep up their lawns, their music down at night, their cars parked properly and respectfully, and who to a man are politically liberal.  During the last electoral campaign, every other house had a Biden-Harris sign, and not a Trump banner was to be seen.  Posters were put up counting down the days to a Trump defeat and the resurrection of progressive values of inclusivity, diversity, and tolerance.

Image result for cartoon saint fauci

Residents of Sheridan Park were also quick to take all CDC-recommended measures to combat the pandemic.  They were the first to self-isolate, bring inside only that home delivery which had sat in product quarantine for three days, sprayed with disinfectant, and handled with triple-strength gloves. They were the first to wear masks, then double masks, then double masks and plastic face shields everywhere.  The neighborhood, one of broad streets, broad sidewalks and spacious properties, came to look like a nuclear waste site so garbed in alien-looking protective head-to-toe gear were the few pedestrians who ventured out.

Sheridan Park people were not only personally careful but took it upon themselves to call out those who were not.  A pedestrian without a mask, even though walking of an early morning on empty streets, would be accosted, threatened, and intimidated.  There was no room for error amidst the worst crisis to hit mankind since the 14th century plague.  Children were not only kept home from school but masked, isolated, sprayed, and disinfected three times a day.  High-end air purifiers were deployed in every room, newspaper deliveries suspended, and mail held at the Post Office. 

Now, why should otherwise intelligent people be so afraid of their shadows?  COVID was definitely not the bubonic plague, nor even the Spanish flu.  It was not ‘The Big One’, humanity’s final existential event.  It was a bad flu, and those who died were not the young and able as had happened tragically in the epidemic of 1917 but those with underlying, compromising health conditions.  Older people most of whom had underlying conditions which alone would have killed them were responsible for most COVID deaths.  Younger, healthy, strong people might might not get infected but would be only mildly ill or asymptomatic.  America is a very young country and the percentage of over-65 residents is proportionately small.

Image result for age profile chart americans

Despite these facts, the US went into lockdown mode.  Rather than focus attention on the most vulnerable – locking older people down for their own sake and to limit the spread of the virus, testing them frequently and regularly, providing special food and medical services, etc.  - the government chose to say, as they did during the AIDS epidemic – “COVID is everyone’s disease”.  As a result children were kept home from school, young people’s social and sex lives were curtailed, tens of thousands of businesses were shuttered and jobs lost, and the economy seriously damaged.

China took such restrictive measures early on in the pandemic; but since China’s age profile was already heavily skewed and the country was set to be the oldest in the world by 2030, officials thought that total lockdown would be more efficient than targeting.  China tested tens of millions of people each day, locked down in restrictive police quarantine any who were positive, and  never let the pandemic escalate.  As a result of these early, quick, decisive measures, China is growing at its familiar rate of near 10 percent growth in GDP and the 1.5 billion people are going about their business as if there was never a COVID.

In America the ‘everyone’s disease’ trope is not surprising.  Americans object to profiling even though it is in their best interests, and there is no reason to single out Granny when everyone is susceptible to the disease.  More importantly, ‘everyone’s disease’ is in the interest of Big Government which loves any opportunity to become Big Brother and to police the country for its own good.  

The problem with our Big Brother is that it was never committed to the authoritarian measures which the Chinese took, nor politically able to to take them.  As a result, Americans had to put up with months of fear-mongering, hectoring, and political posturing.  Wearing a mask became a banner of justice and civic pride rather than the flimsy, illogical response to the epidemic.  If we had taken more targeted, uncompromising, profiling measures, generalized mask-wearing would not have been necessary, nor would have been the closures of small businesses.

Image result for images Orwell Big Brother. Size: 151 x 204. Source: quotesgram.com

Political belief being what it is, the people of Sheridan Park – loyal, government-friendly, righteous, and communitarian at heart – took masks, social distancing, lockdowns, distance learning and Zoom business without question.  Those who did question government decisions were criticized, marginalized, and demonized – Trumpists all, rejectionists and social illiterates. 

Finally and in surprisingly record time, effective COVID vaccines are now available and being rolled out on a large scale.  Americans can now take a big sigh of relief.

Ah, but no, says Saint Fauci.  The Brazilian, South African, and British variants are everywhere.  It is no time to let down the nation’s guard.  Of course only in small print and under the media radar are the announcements that ‘the science’ to date has concluded that the current vaccines are effective against the viruses, and that the major pharma companies are already at work on boosters and upgrades to counter any variants that actually do propose a threat.

So the residents of Sheridan Park are still out to do the right thing, and wear their N-95 masks wherever they go – the gold standard of right behavior and example.  They still prefer six feet distance between them and other vaccinated people, and never invite anyone inside their homes.  Full protection by two doses of proven vaccines is still not enough.  Something terrible may still happen.  A new, virulent, existential death virus might emerge.

Which adds another dimension to America’s response to COVID.  It is one thing to believe in the progressive meme of social responsibility at any cost; another to believe in the honesty, fidelity, and responsibility of government; and another thing altogether to believe in the Coming of the Last Days.  Americans have always had this Day of Revelations mentality.  The number of people who believe that Armageddon will happen in their lifetimes is staggeringly high, so irrational fear of deadly COVID variants is quite understandable

Image result for images armageddon

That’s not all. Americans, thanks to advances in medical science and better understanding about personal health and life care, can expect to live to 90.  Such likelihood or at least probability adds one more dimension to COVID spookiness.  If we can live to 90 then we should live that long.  Fear of death is a function of longevity. 

European men who expected to live only to 35, preferred a glorious death on the battlefield than a painful one from a foot infected by a thorn.   Now there is no relativity to death – a soldier’s death, a martyr’s death, a heroic death.  There is only one kind of death - premature death to be avoided at all costs. 

The residents of Sheridan Park are lightening up somewhat – plastic face shields are used only rarely; triple masks reduced to single-layer cloth varieties; mailmen greeted albeit from afar; backdoors open to the garden at low-traffic times of day; liter bottles of hand sanitizers and industrial grade disinfectants stored in the basement -  but timid steps are still the rule.  Better safe than sorry as another month of fearsome worry passes. 

When will it end, the good people of the neighborhood ask?  Maybe not for a long time, or maybe never, they concur; but they have invested so much in fear of the disease, community collaboration, individual and collective responsibility, and absolute belief in government that it will be hard to change.  The new normal is fine with them.

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