100,000. “Whad’ya gonna do?”

It saddens me that 100,000 individuals have died from Covid-19 this spring. Of course tens of thousands die every year from the flu, car accidents, cancer, etc. I think those numbers have become accepted, not because we are callous or desensitized, but because as a society we have mostly agreed to do what we can to prevent these deaths: we pass and accept seat-belt laws, speed limits, hands-free cell-phone use; we dedicate considerable resources to cancer research and treatment; and a great many of us get vaccinated for the flu each year. We continue to make progress.

I am saddened and shocked by the pace at which this disease took hold and then has spread, knowing that we could have prevented many of these deaths.

I am saddened because many of us have decided to just say “whad’ya gonna do?” But, that isn’t surprising. That’s the attitude we seem to have taken the last 30 years with clean water, clean air, lead poisoning, climate change, income inequality, homelessness, health care, etc. They’re just too hard and too expensive to fix, so whad’ya gonna do?

It doesn’t have to be this way. We make the world we live in. We make choices. I get that we cannot shelter in place until a vaccine is ready. But, are the only choices, shelter in place and watch bankrupt a significant number of the businesses or say “whad’ya gonna do?” and therefore accept a greatly inflated number of deaths due to this disease?

I am sad because we’ve become so polarized there is literally nothing in our society that doesn’t become a left-right issue and therefore 100% black and white, do or don’t issue. Wear a mask and you are a pussy. Don’t wear a mask and you are an asshole. Because of this, we now govern with the intellectual capacity and creativity of a 5-year old. I’m actually not taking a cheap shot at the president. I’m speaking about our current system of politics and decision-making. Everything is either do or don’t (often don’t), met with unreasonable demands and tantrums, resolved with threats or bribes, and rarely discussed with any depth, thus addressing systemic causes and effects. Worse yet, we just ignore the problem. I’m not sure we even have “object permanence” yet.

It doesn’t have to be this way. We have the resources and could financially support those in industries necessarily shuttered to minimize loss of life for months if necessary. We choose not to. In the end, it’s possible we will do more long-term harm to the economy, and spend more supporting the destitute by saying “whad’ya gonna do”. Pay now or pay later. Usually, when you pay later, you end up paying more.

We choose to not compromise and make difficult choices. We choose to accept a false narrative that if we increase the welfare state for this crisis, we will never reduce that welfare state and the majority of “those people” will never work again. Some might of course, but most people like to be productive and contribute. So to prevent that potential fraud we are willing to allow thousands upon thousands go bankrupt and/or die a preventable death.

Why does it always come down to an apparent lack of empathy for the “other?”

I want to share with you two sources. The first is a daily blog from Heather Cox Richardson, Letters From An American. She’s providing an opinion, and even if you don’t agree with her conclusions, I think what she writes is supported by properly vetted data and sources. In her May 23rd post she provides this quote that I think sums up where we are:

“It’s a personal choice,” one man told a reporter as a wealthy suburb of Atlanta reopened. “If you want to stay home, stay home. If you want to go out, you can go out. I’m not in the older population. If I was to get it now, I’ve got a 90 percent chance of getting cured. Also, I don’t know anybody who’s got it.” Another man agreed: “When you start seeing where the cases are coming from and the demographics—I’m not worried.”

Until it affects my family or those that look like me, “whad’ya gonna do?” The others that he has no “object permanence” for do exist. They’ll cling to life as desperately as he will if he gets sick, and they have loved ones that will grieve as much as his family would if he were to die.

The second is “An Incalculable Loss” from the New York Times. I recommend viewing on a computer or tablet, though it does work (but not as well) on a phone.

And in a moment of personal narcissism I’ll share something of my own: A song titled “A Dream of Life.” If you click the link it will take you to my “Song by Song” page where you can read about the writing of and listen to the song (scroll down a bit–it’s the 8th song down).

Empathy. Empathy dammit.

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