Emotion trumps history?
Religion trumps science?
Patriotism trumps health?
in the age of “Trump”.
I remember explaining my germaphobia before it was a shared experience by people living in Pandemic times. They would look at me curiously as I would detail the steps taken to keep myself safe from other people’s germs. It’s always been a concern of mine. It was another one of those things that “just seemed logical.” But just as people looked at Mr. Spock on the Starship Enterprise, so have they always looked at me.
We now find ourselves within a moment in time where a lot of people are disinfecting doorknobs and sporting fancy masks to the grocery store. While I never had the balls to wear masks during a common flu season, I certainly have always been disinfecting anything at every chance I got. Pre-apocalypse, even a shower and a change of clothes after getting in from shopping seemed perfectly reasonable.
Suffice it to say that I’ve never found it unreasonable to protect myself or others by using precautions. A practice that seems completely out of step with most people who have no problem moshing themselves together like ants in an ant farm. People have always puzzled me with their togetherness. Standing in lines, cramming into concert halls, and mixing their human juices as if it was totally normal.
Living in gay culture as a gay man I am even more on the outskirts with this opinion. Men specifically seem far more willing to meet a stranger, mingle fluids via fun sexual acts, and never give another thought to the encounter again. This is something I have had to come to understand (and enjoy) on the level of teaching myself to be less of a germaphobic nut. It’s actually through the understanding of sex that I have learned that it is OK to be close to other people as fellow creatures sharing the experience of Earth. To be in each other’s bubbles (with consent) and to share friendly spaces, therefore being a little more relaxed about sharing friendly germs.
While we are all sheltering in place I have noticed how much people really don’t give a damn about protecting themselves or others. I have always lived life straddled between the left and the right. Business keeps me grounded among Republicans, Conservatives, and the Straight n’ Narrow types. Art liberates me into the world of Liberals, Democrats, and Pure Unfettered Anarchy.
It’s not easy looking out at the world and seeing what appears to be the whole picture. It’s a never-ending lesson of balance because if you truly know what’s up you have to admit there is truth hidden in everything, everywhere, so you can’t ever pull back completely. It sometimes makes me stop and muse how nice it must be for those who feel they are not only on one side of opinion, but to actually believe they are on the correct side.
What troubles me greatly is the need to become unhinged and “spew back” upon your opponents. I’ve had many discussions over the last few weeks with people who have come out to me as someone I did not know. I did not know I had so many acquaintances who thought pandemics were God’s wrath. I also did not know I had so many friends who felt that pandemics were Democratic hoaxes, staged to shut down the economy and sully the President’s sterling reputation. I didn’t even know I knew so many people who thought the President had a sterling reputation!
I’m a reader. I like to read! If there is something I do not know then I would like to know everything about it that I can. I think statistics are fascinating. Each morning I read the newspaper looking at the numbers of COVID-19 reports vs. COVID-19 deaths and I run the average. I run the average for the world, then the nation. At the beginning of all this, I then Googled the population (of Earth and then several nations). I looked up average annual cases of the common flu. I researched the Pandemic of 1918, not only checking those numbers and averages but checking to see how humans reacted to it all. I keep listening to each side and reading things from scientists, journalists, and anyone else who is unleashing opinions (fact or fiction).
Therefore it puzzles me when I read that this is a hoax. I am surprised that instead of being careful and wearing a mask, some are saying it is their right as American citizens to not wear a mask. Which is true! It is your right, but it is also our right to use the brains in our heads. And that makes me wonder a lot of things about people.
The questions I find myself with the most are found in the little prose ditty at the beginning of this piece. Emotion trumps history because how you feel seems to be more important than the psychology of what we already know (see more on the 1918 Pandemic1). People like to think that what they know will keep them safe. They will proclaim, “I feel safe! I feel healthy!” This feeling is something they appear to be willing to bet the farm on. That goes for feeling something is right or feeling it is wrong. I’d rather hear about how we know it is or isn’t.
Religion seems to trump science because they tell me that their God will protect them from anything (“I’m covered in the blood of Jesus.”2). Meanwhile, these same people will usually agree with certain tenants like being created in God’s image, being gifted with life by God, etc. Yet when it comes to using “the sense God gave them” they tend to throw it out the window and trust blindly to be saved.
Personally, whenever I hear “God” I replace it with “the Universe” and then I can understand what people are saying. I do trust in the Universe to synchronize what’s going on and we’re all just flowing with that. But we are also swimming, tumbling, ravenous bodies of thrashing and bashing. It seems like it would be our responsibility to do what we could in order to accompany the harmonics of the Universe (i.e. your God). And if we are advanced thinkers, masters of mathematics and science, you’d think we would want to use those miraculous gifts in order to get us to a better place.
Patriotism trumps health, in fact, all of the above seems to trump health. I have to wonder, “Why not?” when it comes to so many things. So you pause the entire world for 30 days and don’t leave your home. Many people are saved, even if that’s “only” 10% of the world. Why not? Why wouldn’t you want to if you’ve got a check from the government, enhanced unemployment, and a roof over your head? If that is not what people have received then it is left to us to question why the government has not.
Some people are associating sheltering in place with a loss of rights and a slippery slope into some kind of totalitarian state. They think the newspapers are lying and that this is some kind of big “experiment.” That’s what one person said to me. “When the experiment is over you’ll see that there wasn’t even a virus.” They also tell me that hospitals are empty and nobody is actually there. Believing any of that, on a global scale, is as silly as thinking this all happened because we had to replace the batteries in all of the pigeons.
Yet, as a reader, as an observer of humans, I am not seeing that. When someone tells me these theories about hoaxes and faked numbers (fake news) all I want to see are the facts to back them up. Where are the photos of the empty hospitals? Where are the interviews with actual doctors and nurses saying, “Slow day! This is crap!” The responses I receive are the same responses of someone hunting Big Foot. They saw Big Foot, but they didn’t have their camera with them. They never have their camera with them! Why is it that in the 21st century no one has their camera with them in the woods? Why hasn’t anyone interviewed these doctors and nurses who are bored in empty hospitals? Why are there no trusted articles with line by line trusted statistics proving the currently published statistics wrong? Why does everything written disproving the severity of this ending up sounding really silly?
According to the CDC the maximum estimated number of flu cases is 56 million for the 2019 season (October 1, 2019, through April 4, 2020) with 62,000 deaths in the US.3 Also, at the time of this writing, according to the CDC there are 64,283 COVID-19 deaths in the US4 and growing. According to WHO there are 238,730 deaths worldwide5 and growing. That’s the deaths we know about, due to the lack of testing and new speculation as to when the virus actually began, there are many more not yet counted. Of course, debunkers would be quick to tell me that the way I vet my information is in error. I require a scientist when these people are giving me a priest or a politician.
I don’t understand how it could be a lie and especially a hoax. Show me the proof, give me the details, so I can understand. I don’t know how it is sullying the reputation of your president when it’s a worldwide ordeal. It’s a hoax that the world elite is in on? Have you ever tried to manage a team of people? Now try managing a team of leaders and governments. I don’t think so!
The most interesting thing is that none of this debate really matters if the people’s morals are truly up to snuff. If we’ve made a collective decision to protect the dying then we ought to protect them. Whether that is a group of 1%, 10%, or 25%. People are dying every day from this. That much seems to be true to most people. So, “Why not?”Why not protect others by wearing a mask?
Why are rights coming up about mask-wearing? Why do you feel you’ve been forever locked into your house when it has only been 30 days if that? Why not stay inside and meditate if you can afford it? Why are you being such an asshole to your fellow humans? What’s the harm of practicing safety and understanding you could infect others with COVID-19 or any other sludge we carry around with us?
This is what reading is for. That’s why you watch things carefully. Question everything, and believe no one, but always compile the data! We humans should have the sense to know if 60 days were to pass and something just didn’t look right about all this. Then you protest. Then you drive your tanks out into the streets, right? But until you know, from the dedicated investigation, then you don’t actually know.
It reminds me of the cost of kindness. Kindness costs something. Anyone can be nice. Anybody can smile, but it’s extra work to be kind. The cost of your time or effort to help another human being is kindness. Strapping on a mask and fogging up your glasses, keeping your germy ass six feet away from others (no matter how you feel) is kindness. Kindness costs. It’s a level of exertion, but certainly not a difficult one.
Sources: 1 https://virus.stanford.edu/uda/ 2 https://www.rawstory.com/2020/04/im-covered-in-jesus-blood-defiant-churchgoer-tells-cnn-she-cant-get-sick-because-shes-christian/ 3 https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/burden/preliminary-in-season-estimates.htm 4 https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-updates/cases-in-us.html 5 https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019
Additional Reading: Our World in Data https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/daily-covid-cases-3-day-average
Awesome. Awesome. Piece.
The dissonance and disconnect between our actual lived lives – where hospitals are full and doctors and nurses, who are our friends and family, call to vent about their helplessness when a young patient dies from CoVid-19 and where the data shows an upward trajectory of new cases and where there are not enough available tests – and the bullshit being spewed in the bubble of magical thinking you’ve described, can make me feel a little crazy.
But then I do research and I read and I ground myself in the data and the facts. And I listen to others who do the same. And then I mostly just feel stressed that I have to keep reminding my boys that the virus is still out there, no matter what our governor would have them believe. And sad that I didn’t know I knew many selfish, hypocritical people who are so unwilling to take the simple steps necessary to protect the people in our community. Because really, when kindness costs us each so little and the benefit of saved lives is so great – it’s hard to believe this discussion about masks and distancing is even necessary.