Saturday, April 04, 2020

Race for the White House # 66

Another week has come and gone and as the number of cases and deaths from Covid-19 continue to mount in America and around the world, it is hard to focus on anything else. The numbers presented last Sunday as the realistic numbers of those expected to die are unfathomable. This feels like the worst single event to ever happen to America, and yet for the most part, we sit around and watch tv and surf the internet. While over 90 percent of America is under "stay at home" orders, I continue to report to an office to perform an "essential duty" job, that while important, does not exactly feel essential. I am not sure how much longer this will go on, or if I will eventually be able to try to work at home, or if I should just use up my vacation and sick days until the worst of this passes.

I have long been a student of American history and thought I knew just about everything on the subject I could, but it is remarkable how little I knew about the "Spanish Flu" outbreak from just over 100 years ago. I had heard of it, but do not remember it ever being covered from grade school through college, and the number of fatalities in the United States and around the world back then seem hard to believe. So, we can look on the brightside and realize this will pass and life will go back to "normal", yet for now, life has changed in ways that it never has before in America. For example, the government now recommends Americans cover their faces with masks or other means when stepping out in public. I went grocery shopping last night and while I have a mask, the crowd was thin enough to think I could go without it. I hope that lasts as it would feel like a psychological loss to have to do so.

While each brings us one day closer to the most effective medicine and an eventual vaccine, it also brings us closer to the Presidential election. Will there be fear about in person voting by November or will there be more talk about very large numbers of Americans casting ballots by mail? There are legitimate pros and cons to vote by mail. Of course, the most important thing must be to keep people safe, but we also should make sure that democracy itself is safeguarded and not subjected to widespread fraud.

A week ago there was the impression that Donald Trump had received a "rally around the flag" boost from his "handling" of this crisis and that his poll numbers were on the upswing. I did not think it would last and indeed this week, there seems to be polling evidence that people are turning on the incumbent President over his handling on the matter. I also feel the need to point out that of course Trump did not cause this virus nor does he not want things to get better, but from the very beginning he has done everything possible to dodge the very serious responsibilities of his job and to deflect any sense of accountability on himself. That is not the mark of a leader. That is the trait of a demagogue and a divider. He should not be leading the effort to bring America together but instead seems to want to play states off against states as it relates to the need for ventilators and other equipment. One day we will look back and say that Americans did a great job for the most part of caring for each other during this time of emergency on their own. Nonetheless, our politics remain hopelessly divided.

We all continue to hope for a return to normalcy as soon as possible, but this situation keeps lasting longer than first believed. We are told that the peak of deaths will come sometime towards the middle of this month. After that, it will still be a while before sports return or people feel it is ok to shake hands again.. if they ever do. (How ironic it would be if the legacy of the Trump Presidency, with a once germaphobe who resisted handshaking until he did plenty of it upon entering politics, brings with it the end of the ritual altogether.)

The Democrats have also announced they have rolled their convention back a month and that it would now take place, still in Milwaukee, just a week before Republicans are scheduled to gather in Charlotte. I hope these symbols of our democratic elections are able to be held, but that remains to be seen. By the summer, when delegates are scheduled to gather, will we be in the mood to celebrate a national victory in what feels like a war or will we feel like there is too much to mourn?


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