Wouldn’t it be fun if people weren’t actually dying or losing their livelihoods due to a virus no one had heard of until a few months ago?
We could prop our feet on the porch railing and howl at or make faces over the differing, sharply conflicting account of who’s to blame for our too-long-deferred victory over COVID-19; how the virus started in the first place; why it wasn’t throttled in its incipience; how many more may die; and how long it will take the economy to get off the canvas, rub its sore jaw, and get back to making us rich.
Except that, according to the narrative circulating in precoronavirus days, we had — past tense — so many rich people that some powerful process of social and economic leveling needed to go forward. Whereupon … well, who knew? We just knew America to be in a mostly unfixable fix, due to all the stuff we’re seeing and saying about the virus.
The virus is proxy for our resentments and, I hate to add, hatreds. If you have a good word to say about President Donald Trump, you know he lives swatting away swarms of mean-spirited critics. If you lean in the critics’ direction, you understand the lies and hoaxes he perpetrates daily, not to mention his incompetence in handing the virus outbreak.
Why, folks, if only he had … ! Whereupon follows a list of omissions the compilers of the list know very well would have turned things around. Breathless, unchallengeable knowledge on all sides is a feature of the discussion we have with ourselves every day. Seems hindsight is 20/20 in the year 2020.
The social tensions of the past 40 or 50 years crackle all around us and have, it seems to me, no early or logical cutoff point. We distrust each other too much for the fuss and furor to stop any time soon — certainly not short of the presidential election and likely not even there.
The extinction of the virus would not change the equation dramatically. When that comes, as it will, the next task is fixing blame and responsibility — pinning the tail on the donkey (or elephant) — who wouldn’t listen to reason (as defined by the high court of whatever inquisition convenes to judge the matter). Thus Gov. Andrew Cuomo: “If it’s public health versus the economy, the only choice is public health.” Oh? One or the other? Not both, to the degree possible? How nice to be so certain.
The argument over blame has morphed into fantastic shapes given that every American, armed or not with medical know-how, is now a sage, a dispenser of wisdom, courtesy of the internet.
We know we have to reopen the country. The president knows it, as does Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in Michigan. You have to let our people go, as Moses said in another context. The trick is deciding how and when. To make sensible decisions, we might sit down and talk. An unlikely occurrence, given that important talks these days always turn to yelling and gesticulating.
We can’t all be right at the same instant. Those who are wrong, looking at it from that perspective, must be either the evil people who want the lockdowns to continue or the evil people who want to throw open the doors of commerce this very minute. Given how much the two sides — there seem to be just two — dislike and distrust each other, careful plans for a cautious reopening don’t get much of a hearing.
Some of this is Trump’s fault. A leader who doesn’t brag incessantly about himself and insult questioners could find some way to do a large and beneficial deal. That’s assuming those who hate and despise him — which they do — don’t hang onto his every word, hoping to catch him in mendacity or delusion.
The road to the November election is 100 percent a health hazard, strewn with nails, the environment poisoned with animosities. We’re about to learn, if we don’t already know it, that Republicans created the present mess — unless it was avowed enemies of the president who did it. I guess we’ll get to vote on it. Some fun.
William Murchison is writing a book on moral reconstruction in the 21st century. His latest book is The Cost of Liberty: The Life of John Dickinson. To find out more about William Murchison, and to see features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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