Friday, May 1, 2020

Hope, Waste, and Despair:The Politics of a Pandemic

Photo: Vincent Zandri

As a writer, I rarely let a major crisis go to waste. So you would think by now, I would have chimed in on the ongoing pandemic which has gripped the nation and the world. But other than a few rather incendiary posts on Facebook and Twitter regarding speculation as to the severity and mainstream media misinformation surrounding Wuhan Virus/Covid-19, I've been pretty quiet on the topic, until today. 

Because of my profession, my days have been relatively unchanged. I still get up, make the coffee, head to my desk, and pump out the word count. Break for a workout, then back to the desk. In the afternoons, I write some more and after that, take care of the business of writing--answering emails, setting up promos, creating book ads, etc. In between all that, maybe I'll go for a walk or, in the warmer weather, pull out the fly rod and do a little fishing. Like I said, for a full-time writer, normalcy.

But that's where the normalcy ends. When the working day is over, a feeling of isolation and even despair washes over my body like a wet blanket. I can't shrug it, any more than I can explain it in black and white terms. The POTUS and many of his people equate the impact of the virus to a war. For certain, I understand what they're going for. We have brave and unselfish front line medical workers instead of soldiers combating the deadly illness in Iwo Jima-like hotspots such as New York City, parts of New Jersey, and other cities where all walks of life live on top of one another. 

But up here in Albany, which is mostly suburbia surrounded by rural communities, the viral impact hasn't been so hot. We've suffered less than 40 deaths due to the disease in Albany County but some New York State regions have recorded no cases of the disease at all. The deaths have largely been elderly and/or those with existing medical conditions. By contrast, I attempted to find out how many regular flu deaths have occurred this season. But the New York State Department of Health has suspended all reporting and statistic gathering since having shifted their focus to Covid-19. However, the department reports 2019/20 as one of the worst years on record for the flu. In 2017, 78 Albany County residents of all different age groups died from the flu. One can only assume, given the numbers, the body count is worse this year. Kind of gives you pause doesn't it?

Governor Andrew Cuomo has called for a one size fits all stay-at-home solution to the pandemic problem, which has left many, suddenly unemployed residents despondent, not only over their lack of an income, but their lack of a life.        

I've been trying to put the whole nightmare into some kind of relatable perspective. I've come to the conclusion that war isn't the appropriate analogy. Wars are tangible, with bombs, guns, tanks rolling in, planes overhead, missiles and rockets creating shock and awe. It's all very visual and dramatic. This pandemic is not. It's silent, and for some deadly, and it strikes with a whimper as opposed to military warfare's bang.  

If I had to relate it to something less militaristic, it's more like watching your once vibrant and promising, happy go lucky child suddenly succumb to mental illness. In war, you can outgun the enemy. You can starve them out. You can blockade them. Heck, you can nuke them. But in the case of a pandemic, you feel utterly helpless. You sit at home, and you watch what was only yesterday the most vibrant and promising economy in the world, suddenly succumb to insanity and panic. Panic exacerbated by social media, by the mainstream media, by politicians. You see people who've worked all their lives to build a business suddenly have to close their doors, with no hope of ever reopening again. In a word, you're watching an America commit suicide before your very eyes.  
Photo: The Federalist

For the first few weeks, I took the entire stay at home, social distance, wear the mask thing very seriously. It was the least I could do to try and get over this thing quickly and get America back to work before the cure became more deadly than the disease. But then something very insidious began to happen. Politics entered the equation. 

While Congress tried to rush through stimulus and payroll protection programs, liberal Democrats stopped the process in its tracks. Why? In Saul Alynski, "Rules for Radical" terms, they did not wish for a good crisis to go to waste. That said, House Democrats under leader Nancy Pelosi, insisted the bills contain all sorts of liberal goodies like the Green New Deal, bail out money for near bankrupt cities run by Democrat governors, and even $25 million for the Kennedy Center. 

I recall feeling a slow burn. Were we being duped by the politicians? If they could slow things up in order to fund the arts, were they interested in saving lives and putting desperate people back to work? Then Nancy Pelosi appeared on television along with two restaurant grade freezers filled with $12 pints of ice cream. Talk about out of touch with the American struggle. If this were the French Revolution, she might have been dragged out of her house only to face the Guillotine. 

Later on we'd see Hillary Clinton echoing Alynski (her graduate school hero) by repeating his never let a good crisis go to waste dogma by insisting that maybe now, we can institute Universal Healthcare in America. It all got me to thinking, was the left truly interesting in restarting the economy? Or were they intent on seeing it so destroyed to beyond Great Depression levels that would leave the majority of Americans having no choice but to accept socialism as a form of government. We'd be dependent on the government for our daily bread, our utter existence, and liberals would get exactly what they wanted all along. Ultimate power. 
There's no denying the Wuhan Corona Virus exists and that for some individuals and specific overly populated geographical locations, it is deadly. As deadly as the common flu perhaps. Perhaps even as deadly as the number of opioid deaths that plague Americans on an annual basis. Funny when you think about it. The virus originated in China. China also floods the US with deadly fentanyl. But that's for another essay. 

Today I attended an anti-Stay-at-Home rally in downtown Albany. The weather was the usual early spring upstate gray, cool, and rainy. It was well attended but not overly so. No guns, no violence, no drama. While many protested the governor and his policies, others protested government overreach in general. But what struck me the most, were the protestors who were warning not of a killer virus, but instead, the deadly effects of one's deteriorating mental health. With the crumbling of the economy, there will only be one outcome. Suicides, incidents of domestic violence, and violent acts of desperation will be on the rise. The police need to be vigilant. 

Photo: Vincent Zandri

During the Spanish Civil War, while bombs rained on the Spanish earth and its citizens with alarming regularity, the population did something extraordinary. They went to work, day in and day out. They could have stayed home, but in their minds, life had to go on. A semblance of normalcy was a palliative for violent abnormal conditions. People not only needed money, but they needed to feel wanted. They needed to feel essential. 

If there is a ray of hope in this train wreck, it's that this virus will pass, sooner or later. But in the meantime, if we are going to achieve victory in this war against this pandemic, we will not only need to get back to work as soon as possible, we will need to call out politicians who have blatantly used it to progress their own selfish agenda. 

This is a time of crisis for all freedom loving people. It would be a shame to let it go to waste. 



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