long live the king?

[estimated reading time 6 minutes]

the king ain’t dead. and by king i mean president. trump survived his dubious encounter with the novel coronavirus and that’s probably the worst possible thing that could have happened to america. no, i don’t mean because it would be good if he died. that’s a whole other issue. but surviving the virus poses a mess of problems. and i really do mean a mess.

let’s take a brief look at the effect of surviving a potentially fatal pandemic on another uberconservative country and speculate on a future pathway for america. i say this not so much for it to be avoided, as it won’t be. more for those who might be interested in a modern equivalent of duck-and-cover. shelter in place without the need for an earthquake, you might say.

the first problem is confirmation bias. you know what that is even if you don’t know the technical term. it when you believe something and all the evidence supports your belief. think the earth’s flat? walking in a straight line without falling over is a pretty good confirmation. it doesn’t really confirm your suspicions but it certainly seems to. if you think you’ve got covid-19, every time you cough because you got too close to someone smoking (yes, it really should have been made illegal decades ago) or drank your coffee too fast and started to choke on it, you feel like that’s a confirmation of your suspicions and head off to the doctor to get tested (in whose waiting room you will be far more likely to actually contract the virus, unfunny ironies abounding in western medicine).

what does that have to do with this? there are two types of people in america in this crisis (not just in america but that’s the focus at the moment). the first type takes the virus seriously, aware that it’s dangerous in the same way a severe case of pneumonia is dangerous (and quite similar, if not in its method of infection, definitely in its symptoms and method of death, to an extent). this group of people wears masks, avoids any unnecessary social contact (no, distant contact isn’t going to save you — stay the fuck home, already), washes more frequently (which is a good lesson for a summarily dirty culture to start with — and this isn’t a racial thing — it’s a cultural norm that focusing on being thoroughly clean all the time is something better reserved for east asian cultures and is somehow unamerican but i suspect there’s something far more insidious at work there). these people are likely going to become complacent over time and switch to the other side but, for the moment, i suspect most are at least somewhat being careful.

the other side of that coin, however, is generally young and middle-aged conservatives. and no, that doesn’t mean it’s specifically rednecks, hicks or uneducated manual laborers. nor does that imply that anyone who works with their hands is uneducated or unintelligent. or conservative, for that matter. but there is a tendency for those who are uneducated to be more conservative. and a trend for those who are conservative to be more focused on freedom than safety, personal choice than common good.

what’s a mask for? that depends on the mask but face coverings in general are useful for one obvious positive effect and one far less obvious positive effect. they don’t really have any negative effects. it’s like wearing underwear. you’ve got nothing to lose. the positive effect? that if you are carrying a disease (no, not if you’re infected, specifically, just if it’s in your body, regardless), there is a good chance you won’t spread it to someone nearby. i would call that a fantastic positive effect worth wearing a mask for in public. it’s nice not to hurt people. but as that’s not particularly important to most people in western society (as evidenced by the almost complete lack of protective measure people take when those measures are to keep others safe), there’s a far more personal positive that everyone has apparently not noticed. the healthcare system was already overwhelmed before the pandemic arrived. it’s even more overwhelmed now. it’s slammed. borked. screwed. there’s very little healthcare to go around. and there’s a fairly significant chance you’ll catch something significant in the next year, whether it’s covid-19 or not. if you do find yourself with the novel coronavirus, however, you will likely need medical attention. and that’s in very, very short supply. you’re sharing it with all the people nearby. the people you haven’t necessarily been taking care to protect. so let’s put this in language a conservative can understand — they’re using up your healthcare opportunities cause you didn’t wear a fucking mask.

mocking people is an american sport. it’s something i’ve never understood. it’s also common in other western conservative countries like the united kingdom, canada, spain, france and germany. but it’s a horrible trend and becoming more and more prevalent. in particular it is the default reaction to any stimulus employed by the current president of the united states. do anything that appears “weak” like taking precautions that might save children’s lives? making sure you are careful so your elderly parents don’t die from a preventable disease? definitely weak, inhuman behavior as far as the government is concerned and worth of mockery, even during a nationally-televised debate. i’m not sure why it is such a cultural obsession, being physically strong. there’s no particular upside to it. strong people don’t live longer or experience more happiness. they don’t generally make more money or have more vacation time. actually, it’s quite the opposite. think of the people from your high school class who were bullied because they were “weak” in some way. what are they doing now? more successful than the ones who were overtly strong? i suspect so.

so what does all this have to do with the aftereffects of trump’s brush with covid-19? his supporters will take it as proof that the virus isn’t particularly dangerous. that prevention isn’t necessary. that social change isn’t needed and that they should force anyone who is demonstrating “weakness” to comply with the capitalist agenda — profit over safety, freedom over protection. trump, with the best imaginable medical care and early-diagnosis, excellent health before infection and no delays at all getting treatment, things that can be said for realistically almost nobody else in the country, has survived a disease that most people do eventually survive, anyway. many people also survived the spanish flu, malaria and the pneumonic plague (which is, realistically, a pretty accurate description of covid-19 but they don’t want to call it “plague” because that is frightening, as if people shouldn’t be frightened of something that’s both deadly and prevalent).

let me ask you a question. you’ve probably survived chicken pox. almost nobody dies from that disease. it’s far less deadly than covid-19 or even pneumonia. if someone else had it and you were at risk from getting it, would you take precautions? wash more frequently, for example? what about if your children could get it. or your parents? your grandparents? to prevent them getting an easily-avoidable disease? i suspect you would. yet you’re on the streets protesting against precautions for something that could kill you and them. or at least make your lives pretty terrible for a while. i’m not asking for an explanation. i know what kind of social programming goes into those decisions and i don’t care.

but from the perspective of someone whose life has been put on hold, stuck in a country where infection is rampant because people don’t take it seriously, unable to return to a place where things are far safer because simply going to an airport is impossible in an immunocompromised state, i implore you to do just one thing. think.

the up-sides of taking precautions are myriad. you could save yourself, save those you care about and, when it comes down to it, save the economy. a long, dragged-out infection process like what we’re currently seeing is what’s tearing the economy apart. while i don’t care in the slightest about finance and am a die-hard communist and pure egalitarian, you probably do. if everyone took the maximum precautions all the time, the virus would be removed from our society far more quickly and money-making could resume in earnest. what’s the down-side of precautions? perhaps you’ll be mocked for appearing “weak” to the ultraconservatives. i figure if you’re getting attacked from the right, you’re probably making the correct decision anyway. but that seems a small price to pay to keep your family as safe as possible. think it’s not a major risk? neither is the risk of getting killed in a car crash but i bet you make your children wear their seatbelts and you bought a car with airbags, right?

perhaps it’s time to stop fighting and just do what’s right not cause it’s profitable, not cause it increases your freedom but because it’s, you know, just good for everyone.

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thank you for reading. your eyes have done me a great honor today.