Together, we might be able to stop it.
A father of 3 dying in a hospital bed alone and scared, comforted only by the sound of a ventilator and the faces of a few loved ones on the other end of Facetime.
A grandmother of 10 imprisoned in her nursing home, an inadequate home a the best of times, forced to live our her last days unable to feel the warmth of her loved ones embrace as they look longingly at each other through her first floor window.
Your favorite restaurant, a lively scene and a thriving businesses for 30 years, closes up shop after having to shut down 4 times due to corona virus outbreaks among the staff and patrons, despite doing everything in their power to keep people safe.
I've made up these specifics, I don't need to get any individual, family, or business ensnared in the debate, but we've all seen stories like this on the news, seen the articles on facebook, and heard the stories from our friends.
A few days ago, a meme circulated through social media highlighting the deadliest days in US history. Mixed among the most devastating days in American history, from Antietam to Pearl Harbor, were 4 days from last week. Think about that.
And it's getting worse, not better.
In all likelihood, a majority of the 20 deadliest days in American history will occur this December. If that weren't enough, hundreds of thousands of businesses, most thriving as recently as this February, have closed forever due to no fault of anyone working in or on the business. With this inconceivable loss has come the erasure of millions of jobs, most of which provided an imperfect, but needed lifeline for those of us with the least.
This has all come at a time when the richest Americans are seeing their wealth grow at an unprecedented pace. These elite few have nearly exclusive access to COVID tests that help them safely live relatively normal lives. If they get sick, they cut to the front of the line for lifesaving experimental treatments. Treatments that our President has Congressionally approved constitutional power to produce in much higher quantities, but he has chosen not to.
This doesn't even begin to describe all of the sacrifices that every day Americans have made to their lives in the hopes of keeping themselves and their loved ones safe. We've been forced to barricade ourselves in our homes, getting lonelier, more isolated, and more depressed, as the days grow shorter and colder. And this is just the luckiest among us. Countless Americans are being forced to choose between their lives and their livelihoods every. single. day.
It doesn't have to be this way.
The Frog in the Pot
Most of us are familiar with the (inaccurate) metaphor of the frog in a pot of boiling water. The story goes that if you throw a frog into a pot of water that is already boiling, it will realize it's in danger and jump out. If, alternatively, you put a frog in a pot of room temperature water and slowly bring the water to boil it will die, not realizing it's being cooked.
Horrific imagery aside, this story isn't meant to tell us anything about frogs. It's a story meant to tell us something about human nature. We notice big, dramatic changes. We rarely notice slow, gradual changes that are harming us bit by bit. We are even less likely to notice if our leaders, those that we trust to act in our interest, are lying to us about what they are doing. Humans are a social species. While we might not have the same natural hierarchy as a bee or an ape, our survival and growth has been due to our ability to work together to advance common goals. We trust our leaders because it has helped us survive and thrive. This trust is innate.
Unfortunately, that natural tendency has, like the frog in the story, brought us closer and closer to death. Not just the metaphorical death caused by the wealthy, aided by our leaders, slowly stealing half of our paychecks each month over the last 40 years. Actual death at the hands of a virus we could have suppressed. Or leaders have just chosen not to.
We've been conned
For much of the pandemic, we've been presented with a choice. We can save the economy or end the pandemic. We've chosen a middle ground that hasn't really helped much of anything. Businesses are still failing in record numbers. Millions more Americans are unemployed or underemployed than were a year ago. People are dying in numbers unseen in American history.
As a country, we are failing. As someone who considers himself a patriot, this is hard to swallow, but it's true.
In that, we are not alone. Countries across the developed world are suffering similar fates, though few are feeling as much pain as we are. We are one of the few that is currently doing nothing to help keep businesses afloat, people in their jobs and homes, or care for people who have lost their incomes due to no fault of their own.
We are suffering because we are like the frog in the story. But it's worse than that. We are suffering because we perceive the harms of inaction to be far less important than the harms of inaction. It is due to inaction that we are failing. Our friends, our mother, our brothers, and our children are dying for no reason at all because our leaders failed to act.
It's not the we have failed due to our actions. By any legitimate measure the CARES act which funded businesses, saved jobs, and cared for those who lost their jobs due to no fault of their own was a wildly successful program. In the midst of the greatest economic disaster since the Great Depression, our collective savings actually increased! That's an incredible success story.
It's Not Your Fault
States, who because have been dominated for a lifetime by economic conservatives guided by made up economic theory, have put themselves in an impossible position. They cannot run budget deficits. But the pandemic has destroyed their sources of revenue, or so they projected. This seems to be an overreaction based on the evidence. So, they have been forced to choose between saving jobs and saving lives. They've chosen neither.
They have been forced to do this because our national leaders across the political spectrum have failed to do their jobs. Republicans in the White House and Congress have shown repeatedly that that don't give a fuck about you and your family. The CARES act stabilized most big businesses and has enabled one of the greatest thefts in American history with the robbing from you and me. In the eyes of the GOP, their work here is done.
Make no mistake, this is the fault of the GOP and the President.
Democrats are better, but they have not used their power and leverage effectively. They've talked a big game to earn our donations, our votes, and our trust, yet at every step along the way have sacrificed what little leverage they have to satiate the demands of the rich and powerful. As a general rule, the GOP hates the government, but there are a few things, like subsidies for big business and funding military contractors, that they really do care about.
Instead of using the leverage this creates to create a better life for you and your family, Democrats have squandered over and over and over. Just this week, the House of Representatives passed a GOP priority to fund the Department of Defense(read: military contractors. Yes the bill does more, but the GOP doesn't give a shit about most of that.). If truly cared and acted strategically, Democratic leadership would have only passed this bill after a COVID response bill was signed into law. Instead, they choose to appear responsible instead of actually behaving responsibly.
This in no way means that the GOP and the Democrats are similar in their disdain for the American people. They are not. Republicans led by the President and Mitch McConnell are the ones holding up the relief that we need. Democrats are just not using their leverage effectively and are pursuing a legislative and PR strategy that makes passing a bill less likely even as they are working to pass it.
For the last 20 years, Democrats have hewed much more closely to the will of the people. They typically do what we ask of them. Republicans do not. However, Democrats have far too often placed the interests of the rich and powerful above the interests of the overwhelming majority of the American people in the name of "responsible" governance. However, this choice was and continues to be neither responsible or reasonable. We must demand that this behavior stops.
This has divided us against ourselves.
In the midst of this inaction, the responsibility and the blame have been placed on our shoulders. We must wear masks. We must social distance. We must abstain from many of the things that make life worth living in the first place.
Because our leaders have failed us, we've had to take responsibility for saving our country. But, time after time, our leaders have failed to even make this possible. They've misinformed us, sometimes with the best of intentions, about what is safe and what is not. Are masks bad or did you lie to us because you were afraid hospitals would run out? Was there any real reason to close beaches and playgrounds or were you just afraid of potential viral images? Is dining at a local restaurant an act of patriotism or villainy?
This failure to lead has turned us against ourselves. Because we are all afraid, we've shamed each other for our small choices, some bad and some harmless, as if our personal choices are really the reason that this virus is spinning out of control. They are not. All while this virus kills as many people as the 9/11 attacks every day.
And that's point. When we are divided against ourselves, we are unable to hold the perpetrators of this crime against humanity, against the American people, accountable. Worse, it provides cover for these criminals to steal from us, like pirates looting a city that they have burned.
We know how to stop this.
It would be one thing if this were just inevitable. If the only thing we could do was to wait for a vaccine and hope for some distant return to normalcy, our leaders' inaction might be forgivable. But it's inevitable and the inaction of our leaders is unforgivable. We know that because countries from South Korea to Australia have defeated this virus. They've returned to something that closely resembles their normal lives. We have not. Our leaders have let this virus defeat the greatest country in the world. Our leaders have branded us as losers.
Because other countries have led the way, we know how to suppress this disease. We know how to win. We have a plan, we just have to implement it. I'm not going to outline all the steps in great detail. That's not our job and it's not yours, but we know the outlines. It's not that complicated. We've known for 6 months.
We must expand COVID testing and contact tracing so we can identify and contain outbreaks.
We must turn around these tests in 24 hours our less so they will actually be useful. It's better to have a lot of fast tests that aren't very accurate than a few slow tests that are.
We must all wear masks whenever possible.
We must avoid the dangerous indoor, mask less, extended activities like going to concerts, eating at restaurants, going to bars, movies, and, yes, even church.
We must make subsidize the businesses and these workers so they need not decide between saving lives or saving their livelihoods.
If we might be sick and contagious, we must isolate ourselves until we know we won't infect others. Even if we are showing no symptoms.
I'm not going to lie, making these sacrifices would be expensive and it would suck. But living in America sucks right now and we may have to live like this for close to a year before enough people have been vaccinated to return to normal. Or, we could have a really shitty month, then we could begin to open schools and return to something that resembles normalcy.
What Can You Do To Help?
Life sucks right now because Congress and the President have failed to do their jobs. They have tried to pass the blame onto us to cover for the intentional failures. They could do something, but enough of our leaders don't care about you and your family enough to do anything about it. As long as their rich friends are happy, they are happy.
In a democratic republic, there is little we can do between elections to influence the actions of our leaders. Most are so insulated from critique through anti-democratic policies like gerrymandering or quirks of geography that they don't even really have to fear elections. Honestly, that sucks.
However, there is one thing we can do. We can work together to make their lives a living hell. The best way you can do that is by calling, emailing, tweeting, and facebooking your Senators and Congresspeople over and over and over and over until they act.
Even if, as many Democrats will claim, they support the necessary stimulus, you can't let them off the hook. Saying they support you is not enough. We must demand that Congress do nothing else until it does its duty to protect our unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Rights that they have trampled on and ignored for my entire lifetime. No NDAA. No bills to keep the federal government running. We must demand that our leaders do the right thing first before they get to serve the interests of the rich and powerful. And we must make their lives suck until they do.
Most of us have no idea how to actually get in touch with our leaders. Thankfully, it's really easy to figure out who they are and how to contact them.
Our leaders have proven themselves unwilling or unable to do their jobs by suppressing this virus that is waging war on our country and its people. It's waging a war on us and we are losing. It doesn't have to be that way. We must change the situation. Together, we can make a difference. We can save lives, save businesses, save jobs and save our country. We must.