Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Musings in a Time of Crisis XVII

[. . .] We / do know, we do /
know this is the / Niagara River, but /
it is hard to remember / what that means.

Some of the past week's activities at the federal level and in states that issued stay-at-home orders left me feeling ashamed of this country, and asking, in what other nation have citizens behaved so appallingly? What other country has so de-valued life and prayed to the glories of consumerism? Where else have government officials ignored the very rules they've imposed on others? Who, faced with the unrelenting presence of death, chooses death?

Men, women, and children(!) disobeying stay-at-home orders by gathering in streets, parks, or other places without observing either physical-distancing guidelines or requirements to wear masks.

Men armed to the hilt with weapons that should be outlawed acting like outlaws.

Very few protesters wearing masks, gloves, or other personal protection equipment (PPE).

New York City police making violent arrests while enforcing social distancing.

A man in a grocery store not wearing gloves but outfitted in a head covering made to resemble the hoods of Klux Klux Klan members.

The vice president of the United States not wearing a mandated mask while visiting a hospital ward.
A man murdered because he was doing his job when he told customers they could not enter a business without appropriate PPE.

State governors rolling back orders to protect public health and safety because armed citizenry demanded it. 

A senator of the United States who has no trouble declaring publicly that he won't work with the opposing party if that party's nominee for president is elected.

If the incidents I've noted above (and there are more, and they all are well-documented) represent the current and continuing state of this nation, its lack of leadership where leadership is most needed, its racism, its ignorance and disregard for science and expertise, its moral decay, its hate, selfishness, and disregard for our indigenous, immigrant, poor, and homeless populations, for anyone who could be called "other," what will be the point of trying to re-imagine the world post-coronavirus and our role in it? Will this be what we're willing to accept as our "new normal" of the future?


Rand research has created an online tool that can depict, by location and at any of six levels, the potential unintended economic and health consequences of choosing no public health measure(s) to deal with the coronavirus crisis, "moderate" interventions, or "strict" restrictions. That tool for state policy evaluation can also calculate the difference between number of lives lost and state income preserved when one or another public health measure is taken.

Undoubtedly, this tool can provide helpful insights for deciding whether, when, and how to extend or rescind shelter-in-place orders and reopen businesses. 

But consider carefully what it means to begin weighing the value of human lives lost against the cost of doing or not doing business. And whose life might be worth more or less than another's. And whose politics takes precedence over another's. And where does such "payback" have the most desirable outcome(s).

If you have ready answers, you haven't done enough thinking.


There are so many, many voices that have no chance to be heard, or whose voices are not loud enough and so don't count to the people we've entrusted to make the decisions for our country. Once, there were people — Robert F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr. being two — who spoke for and worked on behalf of the unheard and otherwise ignored, who could excite this nation to do the "right thing." 

I've lived long enough and through enough to fear for the future of my now-adult son and for the children his generation might bring into the world. 

What kind of world do we want them to wake to?

What will we help them rebuild?

Who will write their poetry?

Rick Newman, "The cost of reopening the economy, in lives," Yahoo! Finance, May 4, 2020

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