I’m following the daily COVID19 casualties totals being tabulated by a number of health groups including the WHO and Johns Hopkins. As of this minute (10 am on May 16), the US has had 1,487,077 cases of COVID19, of which 88,603 people have died. Another 328,000 cases have ‘closed’–the patient got better (though there appear to be complications and longterm issues with some survivors such as severe kidney damage and scarring of lung tissue). The US has a third of all the COVID 19 cases worldwide, and our social failings as a body politic (no universal single-payer healthcare, large numbers of economically vulnerable people who are homeless, and no promise of financial aid to the 30 million plus people who’ve lost their jobs) are reflected in this. The other people whose countries are in the G20 aren’t facing these challenges.
This is a worldwide pandemic, and it has serious people frightened, not to mention the rest of us. I won’t try to follow the story back to ‘patient zero’, because I’m not sure that the journalists who’ve been following the outbreak from the beginning have the story yet. I’ve seen doctors arguing that this is all from the ‘wet markets’ of China, where RNA from multiple strains virus were mixed between bats and pangolin. Wuhan hosted the ‘Military World Games’ last October. It was a sort of Olympics for service members of various countries to compete against each other, and it’s thought by some that the first cases of Corona Virus were spread amongst the attendees. Most journalists point at the first cases of the virus showing up in Wuhan in late December per this Chronology from the New York Times. The first cases in the US began showing up in January.
The controversy has been the way the Trump administration responded (or failed to respond). The threat of pandemic was clearly on the radar by late January, but the Trump administration treated it as a non-issue. This is not a place to go through all the arguments and controversies that now dog the US response (or lack thereof). The Times addresses this, and you can also look at other sources. There’s been consensus on one issue only. There’s never been a plan articulated for addressing the crisis–nobody on the task force has even given a timeline for when the crisis might be over (either due to development of a vaccine or achievement of herd immunity). The fact that the US has not been aggressively testing people for the virus leads many of us to believe that Trump DOES NOT WANT TO KNOW how pervasive the virus has become.
New York City (and my part of Brooklyn) have had the highest infection and case counts in the US. New York has not embraced the call of ending shelter in place the way a few other states, where stand-down orders have brought angry protesters into the streets. Those wanting to ‘go back to normal’ are for the most part in states with very low infection rates. In NYC, attempts to use law enforcement to mitigate people who aren’t masked and/or aren’t maintaining social distancing has (once again) pointed out that people of color will always be the first victims of enforcement. In my neighborhood, a funeral director was found to be storing bodies in unrefrigerated U-Haul trailers. He’s not technically violating any laws–all city morgue space is in use, and refrigerated trucks have all been rented out already. It’s hard to explain this to people who don’t live here–that the virus is a real thing, and it’s killing people. And not just elderly people, either–younger people who mistakenly think that their youth protects them from the disease are finding themselves mistaken. To me, the iconic American story belongs to the 70 University of Texas students who chartered a plane to Cabo San Lucas for Spring Break, defying the warnings of pretty much everyone. 44 of the 70 were infected. Youthful exuberance and arrogance mixed with stupidity is no match for what Peak Prosperity’s Chris Martenson calls the Honey Badger Virus.
Which brings us to the present where (as I wrote) ‘Murica still has large numbers of new cases every single day. We are rapidly closing in on six figures of deaths from the virus that was supposed to just go away at some point–as recently as today, Trump repeated his stock answer that the disease would just disappear. This is an understandable response from a Faux billionaire with a ‘fixer’ like Michael Cohen on call, a man who’s never had a problem that couldn’t be solved by opening a checkbook, but I digress.
New York is Trump’s home city, no matter how much he wants to pretend otherwise. New York State (and New York City) have suffered more COVID19 deaths and illnesses than anywhere else in the NY. And where are the protests? Trump’s maladept handling of this crisis has cost NY 28,000 lives. Where are our protesters? Oh dear–You didn’t notice how quickly Mayor de Blasio acted to make protest illegal in New York? I knew things were going to go against the first amendment when Reverend Billy took it upon himself to protest Franklin Graham’s ‘SAMARITAN’S PURSE presence in hospital tents erected in Central park. The protest was a simple act of putting up LGBT flags in the park, to call out Graham’s blatant anti-gay policies and discrimination, but a phalanx of NYPD descended on the Good Reverend (Billy, not Franklin) and bundled him off.
The city leaders pointed to the need to maintain social distancing in order to prevent greater spread of COVID-19, stating that this takes precedence over people’s rights to exercise their First Amendment rights of free speech and assembly.
So garden variety protest is out in New York, even as armed protesters in Michigan, Wisconsin and Kentucky and other states laid siege to Capitols and state houses for their right to go back to work and risk life and limb for jobs that didn’t pay enough to keep people’s food and rent paid. I had hoped to take to the streets myself, complete in death shroud, to point my finger at Trump Tower in Manhattan. But going to jail in a holding cell ripe with COVID virus doesn’t appeal to me. Dan Uhlfelder, a Florida attorney who was appalled by the state keeping the beaches open, has been trouping out to local areas dressed in death shroud. there’s a video of his protest on YouTube.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZKWOCOk6YU8 He’s trying to widen out his protests to other states with beaches that aren’t treating the pandemic with any sense of urgency. You can also follow his exploits on twitter. I think what he’s doing is great, but you can’t protest in NYC the way he has and stay out of handcuffs.
My Point is this–sometime next week, as early as Monday night, but probably no later than Thursday, the US will have the 100,000th COVID19 death. There can be no candlelight vigil in the state a third of those people called home. Many of their deaths could have been prevented by a government that had treated the pandemic seriously starting last January.
We ought to mark the date.
I found a PDF copy of activist and historian Gene Sharp’s book 198 Methods of Nonviolent Action and read through for ideas on how nonviolence can speak to power when Nonviolence is blocked from the streets. Here’s an idea. It’s quick, it’s cheap, it doesn’t target you for arrest and you don’t have to be in NYC to participate. You need a Sharpie and a medical mask (preferably white). Good handwriting helps. THIS is how you can protest on the day we get the news that six figures worth of Americans have died (roughly a third of all COVID deaths worldwide).
My last thought–I’ve been following Chris Martenson’s excellent podcast series on the pandemic, and he’s had lots of insight on how it could have /should have been handled differently. But he’s ended nearly 100 of his productions with an overview of new information. And he’s virtually always used the phrase ‘It didn’t have to be this way’ as a sort of signoff. Use your mask to remind people of that..