Six feet apart or six feet under?

Democrats unify amid 45’s zombie apocalypse

Columbus Dispatch photo of anti-quarantine protest in Ohio. (Joshua A. Bickel/AP)

There is a Twilight Zone quality to the stillness of our normally busy cities as most of us stay home due to the coronavirus pandemic. Unfortunately, the healthcare providers, grocers, bus drivers, and other essential workers who cannot stay safely at home are not the only ones keeping busy out there.

First among the mischief makers are Trumpists using the pandemic as a pretext to suppress votes, shut down abortion services, and double down on anti-immigrant policies. They distract, divide, and disinform to preserve their minority rule, even as the Red Dawn emails unearthed by The New York Times prove their failure amid a looming health crisis. Ignoring medical experts and intelligence, they have cravenly subordinated themselves to a crass, narcissistic fraud who denies reality, attacks the messenger, and deflects blame onto governors and the World Health Organization. Republicans are waging a civil war without guns, yet they cannot govern.

Next are the conspiracy nuts who invent paranoid nonsense, as if not enough terrible things are happening. An example of this is the bizarre claim that 5G towers transmit the coronavirus, the proof of which is supposedly on Britain’s new £20 note.

Then there are the unhinged demonstrations organized by far-right groups. Columbus Dispatch photographer Joshua A. Bickel’s viral photo of protesters at the Ohio statehouse screaming in outrage against quarantines looks like a zombie movie send-up.

Consider the contrast: Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer says, “Better to be six feet apart right now than six feet under,” as presidential tweets mock social distancing and appear to encourage armed insurrection.

Talk about cold-bloodedness: Republicans, backed by glib, unqualified TV doctors, have blithely suggested sacrificing the elderly as the price for restarting the economy—as if they are not a significant part of it. Remember a decade ago when conservatives denounced imaginary “death panels” they claimed the Affordable Care Act would create? This reversal shows how lust for power overrides all other considerations in today’s GOP. But as deaths mount and infections surge in different parts of the country, polls suggest most Americans realize that politicized pressure for premature reopening is no substitute for a program of testing and contact tracing.

Put it this way: how quick will you be to return to a ballpark, theatre, concert hall, workplace, or restaurant without knowing if the person next to you is a symptomless carrier of deadly infection?

A flash of resistance arose at the White House on April 7 when Dr. Anthony Fauci invoked an earlier epidemic to discuss the unacceptability of health disparities in the African American community: “During [the early years of HIV/AIDS], there was extraordinary stigma, particularly against the gay community. And it was only when the world realized how the gay community responded … with incredible courage and dignity and strength and activism, I think that really changed some of the stigma against the gay community.” This he said in front of Mike Pence.

Meanwhile, Democrats have surprised themselves by unifying around Joe Biden four months before their party’s convention. My optimism is tempered by concerns that Biden is showing his age (in contrast to Fauci, who is sharp and vigorous at 79). Yet one Democratic operative I know dismissed such concerns by saying Biden “is looking good in his basement.” That bears a faint echo of the “madwoman in the attic” theme in classic Romance novels.

But not to worry. For one thing, Trump’s daily display of delusion makes Biden’s shortcomings look benign. For another, more and more people tell me they would vote for a ham sandwich or their old socks before giving Trump another term. The prospect of our country’s destruction is concentrating many citizens’ minds.

As for the trolls, authoritarians, and conspiracy nuts planning further mayhem, they are not the only ones with technology and motivation. Those of us with more constructive aims can use our talents to connect in creative new ways.

This was beautifully demonstrated by Broadway star Brian Stokes Mitchell, himself recovering from COVID-19, singing “The Impossible Dream” from his apartment window. Every little bit helps. From our composure under stress to the rule of law in our republic, let’s try to keep it together.

Copyright © 2020 by Richard J. Rosendall. All rights reserved.



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