Darwin Award Winners

I saw a conservative Christian television personality talking about how paranoid young millenials are about the coronavirus. He was saying that he was out buying something and noticed that the market square was filled with older people and empty of younger people. The gist of his message was that the younger people were unnecessarily scared  about the coronavirus and the older folks were more mature and out and about enjoying life. The message I personally received was that the younger people were science-believing, reality-embracing people and the older folks were not very bright or concerned about their own or anyone else’s health. Who will survive? It doesn’t take a genius to figure that one out.

I see this crisis as a moment in human evolution, culling the herd. The most efficient way to do it is to allow others to do it to themselves.

A Darwin Award is given to someone who either renders themselves unable to reproduce or just plain dead due to their own stupidity, thereby taking themselves out of the gene pool. Nobody did it to them. They are not victims.

When I saw the Florida governor do a shelter-in-place order and then proceed to make an exception for religious services, I just laughed. Perfect. Protect everyone but the most vulnerable. These churches are crammed with senior citizens in a state my dad refers to as “God’s waiting room.” Wow. Florida has a Republican governor, just like absolutely every single state that does not have a shelter-in-place order. But give it a few months and it won’t have enough Republican voters to tip any election ever again. I’m good with that.

The problem is that, in the meantime, we are all imperiled by their stupidity. They are not just putting themselves at risk. It is not just about them. Reality is that we are all connected, like it or not.

There are no good answers to this crisis. However, I’m staying home as much as possible, not for my protection, but for everyone else’s. That is common sense, that’s all.

Crying Wolf?

One of my assumptions in life is that others also are dealing with the exact same problems I am.

I need something, anything, to look forward to. Sometimes, that translates into finding an interesting book on Amazon and awaiting its arrival. I am getting itchy to go to the grocery store. My issue is that every time I get a timeline for when to go back to work, it gets pushed out. This does not work in the long term.

People can do anything for a limited amount of time. What people cannot tolerate long-term is having no light at the end of the tunnel. The continuing moving of the goal posts gets old fast. April 12, April 19, April 30. Not acceptable. People will simply start to disregard all the guidelines because there is no end in sight.

The problem with panic and fear is that they are not maintainable. The fight or flight response can maybe last a week or two, not go on endlessly, month after month. People will follow any rule for a definite period of time, but not for an indefinite period of time. Panic precedes exhaustion and then comes the not-giving-a-damn phase. I reached that phase with Barry. Huntington’s! Head and neck cancer! Prostate cancer! It’s like being an ER nurse. If everything is an emergency, then nothing is actually an emergency. This is the bottom-line mental health issue. Emotional exhaustion is not a great way to get America back on its feet.

Something will, of necessity, fall to the bottom of the priority list. We’ve all had bosses that try to induce a sense of urgency by making everything a top priority. It backfires. It quickly turns into a joke.

You can’t cry wolf for the next six months–even there is a wolf five feet away eating Grandpa. The coronavirus is real. It will be devastating for certain populations. We all need to get back to work. However, if we go back to work without everyone being tested first, all we are doing is spreading the virus and making the situation much, much worse.

My point? Everyone needs to get tested immediately. Then those that test positive can be separated from the vulnerable populations. But continuing to extend the quarantining indefinitely is a good way to make everyone blatantly disregard all common sense warnings. There needs to be a light at the end of the tunnel–even if it is a train.

Looking at Probable Realities

Things are starting to get ugly across the country. Things are changing and it is hard to imagine what the new normal will look like.

Conservative governors are going to destroy their citizens and voting bases. All of the governors that refuse to issue shelter-in-place orders are Republican. They are going to destroy their own science-rejecting, reality-denying constituents. Karma is such a bitch. As a human and a Buddhist, my heart breaks for the unnecessary bullshit suffering. As a Democrat, I say, “Fabulous. Let them kill themselves and each other.” The problem? Their refusal to follow common sense guidelines imperils every single American to some degree. Like it or not, we are all in this together. I am avoiding everyone to protect them, not me. How could I not have been exposed?

Here’s the problem. We are extraordinarily late to the testing game. I suspect Trump is preventing testing to keep the numbers artificially low. Everyone knows about “flattening the curve,” where the increase in the number of cases slows and the graph starts to level off. By preventing people from being tested, the graph can level off. Flattening the curve will have been achieved–even as the actual number of cases and deaths is still accelerating. Who is being prevented from getting tested? Just about everyone that is not in the healthcare system or presenting with a ridiculously specific set of symptoms. I haven’t been tested. If people don’t get tested before they die, because they already have COPD, the number of coronavirus deaths will be bizarrely under-reported.

Here is something I have heard and desperately hope is not true. I saw some scientists comparing the coronavirus to the Spanish flu of 1918. Things were bad in the spring, improved a little during the summer, and came back even more deadly in the fall. If this is how it plays out, we are so screwed. But guessing is all we can do at this point, that and test, test, test. We can compare this outbreak with previous viruses. Have you heard the virus referred to as “novel”? I have. I have never heard that designation in my life, but it scares me.  I so hope they are wrong.

I am trying to prepare for the autumn possibility of recurrence. But I suck. My motivation to do anything is close to zero. I have run into a wall of resistance. I feel like, “What the hell is wrong with me? This time off is the greatest opportunity ever!”

What do I think will really happen in this country? People will go stir crazy and start disregarding the guidelines. We will go back to work. Staying home indefinitely is just not practical for an entire nation. The states with the stricter guidelines will see an eventual decline in cases. States without such guidelines (or even forbid common sense measures, such as Mississippi) will increase their caseload and cases from those states will be shipped to states that have slowed the pandemic. It is already happening on a micro scale in Michigan. Detroit is overloaded and is now shipping some of their cases to Lansing. The pandemic is like water, seeping everywhere and soaking all of us. It affects everything and everyone.

Test First, Then Work

I just came from Meijer and am happy because I was able to buy toilet paper. Yea. The lady behind me was an 80-year-old Trump supporter. I know this because we talked. I told her that I believe that we do need to get back to work, after everyone gets tested for the virus and those that test positive are set apart from the elderly and sick. She was clearly concerned about getting it, but what I said shut her up instantly. Common sense will do that to denial.

As I have said previously, Americans are not going to respond well to being expected to stay at home for months on end. We do need to get back to work. However, to do so without knowing who has the virus will only spread it.

Trump is worried about the economy. So am I. But Trump is a moron. Trump’s base is precisely those people that are most likely to croak from the virus: elderly white people who don’t believe in science. Killing off his own base will not help his re-election chances. Duh.

If Americans starting dying off, how is that going to help the economy? When your market dies, how do you stay in business? Trump’s assumptions are ridiculously false. Not slightly off, but laughably unintelligent.

This is where we start to realize that there is no us and them. There is only us and we all have to survive. If the workers die, so do the company’s profits. If people can’t make their house payments, everyone’s property values go down. How do conservatives not understand this? Imagine millions of Americans suddenly being homeless. What would that do to our healthcare system? Can people in homeless shelters maintain social distancing? I can’t imagine so.

Wealthy people simply do not understand, on any level, just how profoundly dependent they are on their low-wage workers. But they are about to find out.

Breaking Habits

Today, Governor Whitmer ordered all of us to “shelter in place.” Thank goodness I have a friend that is an “essential worker” who can go to work and buy toilet paper for me.

Staying home is interesting. I know that, eventually, Goodwill will have to re-open. With people dying, donations will increase. And with people being poorer than usual, second-hand goods will be in more demand than ever in my lifetime. It is all quite ghoulish. But that is eventually.

For now, all my normal habits are broken. And so are everyone else’s. What are people thinking about right now? We will not know until we see whatever it is that has massive pent-up demands when the quarantines are all over. I suspect that many people will divorce. Some people will go back to their old jobs, grateful to have them. Some will quit and go into other industries.

People have time to think, people that have been working two or three jobs and haven’t had time to string together two coherent thoughts in years.

I know I’ve told this story previously, but this is what I am talking about. I read an article a few years ago about a woman that desperately wanted a promotion. She tried repeatedly at her company with no success. So she decided to observe her company. What did all of the successful promotion-seekers have in common? They acted like they didn’t give a rat’s ass whether they got promoted or not. So she tried it. Successfully. She was thrilled beyond belief–for a few months. Then it hit her: Why on earth would she even want to work for a company that only promoted people that acted like they don’t give a damn? So she left the company. My point is simple, that you cannot think deeply about what you are doing without simultaneously examining why you are doing it.

Now multiply this story by the over 200 million adults stuck at home indefinitely. “Do I really want to still be married to this person this time next year?” “Wow, my job is meaningless.” “Huh. I sure am drinking a lot since the quarantine. Maybe I have a problem.” “Has that window always been loose?” When virtually all of one’s habits have been broken, even if involuntarily, an unprecedented level of clarity can happen to people. And like I said before, there is simply no possibility of examining what one is doing without simultaneously questioning the why. This is the hazard of mindfulness that corporations generally don’t comprehend. Consciousness spreads and nobody is in charge of where it goes. Advertisers try to control it, with an amazing degree of success.

However, people now have something they haven’t had, maybe ever–time on their hands.

Things are going to change. And we have no idea which way things will head.

Denial and the New World

I talked to my mom yesterday. She told me that the corona virus might disappear by the end of April. OMG. She believes Trump’s scientific ignorance over real-life expertise. This is not the flu! This is the great irony of the situation: Trumpers, like my parents, are going to perish from their own lack of taking the situation seriously. I have come to peace with the situation, actually. It’s been a rough week, emotionally-speaking.

Sometime in the next few days, I will need to purchase toilet paper. Wish me luck. Massive hoarding has eliminated local supplies. I don’t want to leave home, but will have little choice.

Here is the grief process: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Liberals, like myself, came out of denial at an earlier date than conservatives, who are still protected emotionally from the reality of the situation. When reality breaks through, they are going to be pissed. They may not even make it through the remaining stages before they die. This is where denial is lethal.

Here is my relatively short-term prediction of what will happen. A week off from work is nice–at first. The second week is okay. Then people start getting itchy. This is spring. People have been cooped up all winter. They already have cabin fever, especially those of us in cooler climes. People will simply start disregarding warnings. Americans are not the same as Chinese people. We are not inherently compliant. Our basic attitude, starting with the British, has always been “F*** you!” And the virus will rebound. Our numbers are artificially low due to lack of testing. Here is some viral reality. Viruses don’t go away. If you had chicken pox as a child, fifty years later, under sufficient stress, you can come down with shingles. People like my parents are doomed. Believing Trump is the golden road to an early death. Not believing science doesn’t make it any less true. Reality is unchanged by their refusal to deal with it.

Meanwhile, the rest of us are all cooped up and grieving.

People Panicking

I went to Meijer, the local grocery store, today. They are out of milk. I am 52 years old and this is the first time ever I have seen that. But they did have the unsweetened soy milk I like and are often out of. The corona virus is freaking people out.

Here is the reality: We don’t know what we are dealing with until everyone is tested. Period. And testing today is not a guarantee that tomorrow will not have a positive result.

Here is what I have heard: 80% of people that get the virus will either not get sick or will get sick and recover fully, 15% will get sick and not fully recover (they will have after-effects), and 5% will die. Note the fact that 95% will not die.

We are not China. We cannot shut down Seattle or Boston. America does not work like that. So what can we do?

Here is what has to happen: 1) Everyone must be tested, 2) Those who test positive must be isolated from vulnerable populations (like the elderly and those with serious medical issues already), and 3) Everyone needs to up their immune system. Anything less and we are simply delusional in our response.

The problem is this thing called “the latency period.” The latency period is when a person contracts a virus and before they get symptoms and meanwhile they are spreading the virus everywhere. If you see someone coughing and hacking, you will keep your distance. The sick people are not the primary problem; the healthy people with the virus are. Shutting down the schools and municipalities while not testing everyone only postpones the inevitable and solves nothing. Life will go on for the majority of us. Stocking up on milk and toilet paper only accomplishes so much.

I work at a Goodwill second-hand store. We cater to a lower end of the socio-economic spectrum. I cannot state that I do not have the virus. How would I know? Neither I nor anyone else I know has been tested. I believe that if I got the virus, I would get sick and fully recover. I am less certain of the store’s customer base.

And I have a brother that drives a city bus for a living. He is dealing with the same vulnerable population, in close quarters, forty hours a week. He has heart disease and probably cirrhosis. He smokes and drinks. If he gets the virus (and it is truly hard to imagine him not doing so), he is a goner. I have no doubt about it.

What about people with asthma and COPD? Imagine waking up, not feeling great, using your inhaler, feeling better and going about your day as normal. How are these people supposed to know if anything more than normal is amiss? I am prone to colds. If my nose runs, I will probably not think, “OMG. I bet I have the corona virus.”

You can only socially distance yourself so much. Even the Unabomber had to go to town occasionally to get supplies. Let’s get real, take the necessary steps, and take care of ourselves and each other as safely as possible.