A Point of Cultural Inflection

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Public Trail closed to the Public: Personal Collection

What was impossible two weeks ago, is happening. California is tackling its homeless crisis. We are talking of the manifold failures of our not so great medical system. Congress has come this close to Universal Basic Income. We will revisit that conversation soon because this is not going to be over in a couple of weeks, or even a couple of months. We are talking about facts. And yes, there is deep anger in the nation over the lack of federal leadership. This fifty state national disaster is showing why we need a capable government.

We do not have one right now. We have a narcissist who craves adulation in the White House. We have the worst possible leadership during a major disaster. It should not surprise the nation. After all, his response to “Maria” was race-based and ignorant. So the president going National with this irresponsible disaster “management” is far from surprising.

What is also far from expected is this hunger games kind of pitting state against state. It’s as if we had a fifth column doing all it can to break up the nation. We also have a situation where some states are getting hit hard now, while the interior is mostly untouched. The word here is most. We know that math is what it is, and even the most rural of states are on the curve. Meaning, they are weeks behind New York and California. They have time to bend the curve, but this requires facts and science, not prayer.

This will be a point of inflection. In my mind, the populist embrace of myths, conspiracies, and to a point the prosperity gospel and radical far-right religiosity will give way to facts. It becomes clear that it does not work when hundreds of thousands, best case scenario, die. In the worst case, most people have yet to wrap their minds around millions.

This aw-shucks, my opinion is as good as that of experts will give way because it is experts who know their stuff. We have a model for this. The Black Plague, which led to an explosion in the search for knowledge and the breakdown of the medieval world. Yes, it led straight to the Renaissance and the scientific method.

No, it was not instantaneous. It took time. But In time Giordano Bruno was followed by Copernicus, Kepler, and others. They, in turn, were the shoulders for the scientific revolution and the Enlightenment. In some ways, we have regressed into an age of ghosts and demons. What Carl Sagan called a demon-haunted world. This is not healthy. Praying the virus away, as the Governor of Mississippi suggested, because we are not China, is a symptom.

It’s not just limited to the United States. In Iran, people were told to put essential oils on their ass to prevent infection. The governor of the State of Puebla in Mexico has actually said this only affects the rich. The poor (who don’t have access to medical care and will die by the hundreds of thousands) are immune to this. None of this is true.

This is part of the other virus that infected society a while ago. This is the penchant for conspiratorial thinking. The worst we see is the racist white supremacist thinking. But that is just the most extreme. Whether it is Unidentified Flying Objects, or the idea of a swamp, for that matter the pro-plague, pro-disease movement that refuses vaccines. All these are dangerous and prevent people from thinking clearly and evaluating and learning facts from experts.

Whether this is a form of mental disease, and some likely is, or just alienated people, we cannot afford it anymore. If you believe chemtrails are real, or you believe in the superiority of race; or think that vaccines cause autism, it’s time for the rest of society to distance itself from you. It’s time to isolate this form of thinking. We cannot afford it. We have a conspiracist at the top of the government. We are seeing in real-time what this causes. If this was your crazy uncle at Thanksgiving, we could tolerate and ignore it. But the crazy is in charge. We need to add a dash of greed as well.

Why are people still congregating in beaches and trails? Partly because people don’t understand this. The numbers of infections you see in the American data, at least multiply them by ten to get a real sense of how far this has gone. This is where responsible government models with personal behavior. It is also why cities are closing parks, beaches, and trails. And why my local and state governments are practicing social distancing, and press is calling questions in. In the meantime, the White House is hardly doing that. Press is still in the room, fun fact, at least one reporter got it. And those briefing the nation are hardly practicing social distancing. President Donald Trump wants to open the country for business by Resurrection Sunday, because this is bad for him and his job prospects.

A responsible president, who did not call this a hoax early on, would not be concerned about his job security. Trump is hardly a public servant. He is the so-called leader of the least prepared government in recent memory. He leads what can best be described a cult. One that has taken the last step: This is willing to die for the messiah. It’s not accidental Trump chose Easter to open the country; chiefly the Churches. He wants them filled with people, which is a good way to go back to the races.

Then we have the geographic divisions. The virus is affecting dense urban centers first. This should shock none, but this also means people in states yet to be affected are still having an issue comprehending how serious this is. There is also an aspect of religiosity, as seen by the statement from the Governor of Mississippi. When religion takes precedence over science, we are bound to get in real trouble.

This does not mean that we have not seen some in places like Alabama speak the truth. The triage standards that emerged are not unusual, or unprecedented for a disaster. This is not business as usual medical care, where a hospital in a large urban area will have spare ventilators. This is the same kind of warlike conditions that those of us who were paramedics in Mexico are very familiar with. This is the kind of reality that is now hitting the United States. You do the best you can for the most people, with very limited resources.

It is not registering with the president, who keeps pitting states against each other. However, there is another factor to this. I have written in the past the country is in a low-level civil war. Well, this is the kind of social pressure that could very well lead to the dissolution of the United States. I do not write this lightly. But why would states care to be part of a nation-state that is failing them during this crisis? And we must ask, who benefits if this happens?

It’s early. Assuming we have elections, and I think we will, at this point I do not believe Trump will win reelection. But that does not end the deep cultural divisions in the country. A disaster of this magnitude should. But this will increase the mistrust. Especially as the virus moves to red states, with the certainty of math, statistics, and epidemiology. These same states that are now going aw-shucks, look at New York, will scream at the Feds. Given the penchant for the president to “protect his base,” this will increase the distrust from highly urban and diverse populations. Civil wars and revolutions have started for far less than this.

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