We are at that fateful moment. How much is a human life worth? Are black and brown bodies worth more, or less, than white bodies? In fact, is the life of a rich person worth more than that of a poor person? Are we still, in spite of all illusion, a caste society? How we answer this question will be telling about our collective values and what we consider important. It will also tell us who we value and who we consider expendable. The protests to reopen the country are part of this. So is the path that governors follow to open their states.
We are reaching different answers to this messy question, what is the value of human life, in different regions of the country. Some states are careful about it, and follow data. Others are blowing the doors open. Partly this is reflecting the stitching of a nation from vastly different cultures and value systems. It is telling us, without a shadow of a doubt, that the poor and minorities still have less perceived value in our society than white, rich, and in gated communities.
Yes, there is a lot of economic pain. Thirty million unemployed is a lot of people without a job. It is at the level of a Great Depression level. Chances are good that you know somebody who has lost their job, or their business is on the brink. This is one reason some people are desperate to open up and start their businesses again. People know they need cash flow because money is very tight. And while many Americans have obtained support through unemployment insurance, people know this cannot last.
Partly because we have an ideological administration that lacks empathy for the real suffering of the American people. Instead, we have a president encouraging open rebellion against stay at home orders given by governors and local officials. Why? His only argument for re-election was a vibrant economy that he inherited from Barack Obama. The largest expansion in American history is effectively over. We are at the beginning of the Great Depression. He knows that this speaks against his reelection, and he is blaming all for it.
Let’s be clear. He is not responsible for the virus. However, he owns the response to it. And so far, it’s been halting, uninformed and ideological. They are ready to declare victory and move on.
According to the Washington Post:
Vice President Pence told reporters today that the coronavirus task force created to manage the federal government’s response to the pandemic could be disbanded within a month because “of the tremendous progress we’ve made as a country.”
The task force is headed by Pence and made up of officials from the administration, including public health officials who have urged a careful approach to easing social distancing restriction put in place to mitigate the outbreak.
We are about to increase the number of sick and dying, as the country reopens well before the targets recommended by Public Health officials. We are primed for a rebound in the number of cases, and deaths.
President Donald Trump is desperate for the stock exchange and a growing economy. It was already starting to slow down before COVID came to the edge of consciousness. This is why he is pressuring governors, both red and blue, to open the economy, no matter the consequences. Ordering businesses to reopen means that unemployment comes to a screeching end if your employer decides to open. You don’t show, it’s considered a voluntary quit.
Governors in Republican states, especially in the south, are rushing to open. Both Gregg Abbott of Texas and Ron DeSantis in Florida are going full speed ahead. So is Brian Kemp of Georgia. He even allowed close-contact industries to open up, such as tattoo shops and nail salons. This is hardly accidental. But it also places people in an untenable position. Go back to work, or starve.
These shops are owned by minorities in large numbers. The fact that COVID is far more lethal among Hispanics and blacks is not accidental. These are people with less access to medical care, and who have more of the pre-existing co-morbidities that lead to higher rates of death. Why? Having good healthcare and lesser rates of diabetes and high blood pressure leads to less death. Incidentally, obesity is also a complication. The rates of all these diseases are higher in the south among poor whites as well. These are in many cases the descendants of Scott Irish, many of whom came to these shores as indentured servants. They have always been told that they are better than their lessers, and have fought to maintain that social order. Or at least starting in 1676, after both groups worked together against landowners in Virginia.
This is at the heart of our caste society. People who belong to certain groups have less economic and educational opportunities. There is an ideology behind all this. I have written before about this. It is white supremacy. Which incidentally, is one reason behind Nazi blood flags, confederate flags, and nooses at demonstrations to open the country. This ideology sees some elements of society as almost disposable.
This is why the election of a black man, who violated the principles of the mixing of the races, led to white rage. White Supremacists cannot abide by the idea of a diverse society.
However, some of the people attending protests to open the states are not in either of these two broad groups. And some are there due to economic pain brought by the shutdown. The signs are not just the Gadsden flags, and long arms but also pointing to the need for personal grooming. Yes, we are all sporting pandemic hairstyles. And some of us are in urgent need of a professional trim, but think who are the people behind the scissors? It is the majority of immigrants, minorities, and poor whites. In other words, their betters are demanding they get back to work, even if they get sick. It’s about maintaining that pecking order.
The other side of the equation is that those lives are expendable. After all, most of their betters can still hide at home and work remotely. Those behind the protests, the forces encouraging this, are not going to the office. Or they are the home office or the home studio. They feel superior in all manner of ways and are sure that they will survive the disease. It is these captains that need a working economy to make money to buy another yacht, or an island to go hide, who have very little empathy for the working masses.
As to the president, he knows his election is in peril. A hundred thousand dead (it will be higher), is an acceptable cost. Many in his political party agree with him. After all, they are the party of business, money, and power. Old dynamics are coming to the surface, and there will be demands for sacrifice, and to go buy. After all, those behind the demands will not be going out there. That is what the hired help is for.