Notes From the Pandemic, Day 50

Today’s post is brought to you by a stream of consciousness dictated into my phone while taking a morning stroll a couple days ago. I considered editing, revising, and reworking in the interest of ultimately posting something that properly flowed and had real structure. However, reading and thinking it over made it clear that a significant amount of work would be necessary to make that happen. Ultimately, leaving it in the form it organically took (with just a few, though significant, modifications) meant getting it online faster, which seemed just a little more important…

It sickens me when reading about the various things that GOP politicians are doing to reopen the economy in the midst of all this. All of it shows an extremely cavalier disregard of human life. I have been fond of saying for a long time that the GOP is not actually pro-life, that they merely have a fetus fetish. The past few weeks have provided ample evidence for this. The GOP governors of Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, and the states that never actually issued proper lockdown measures in the first place are all  deciding that the economy is more important than human lives. Worse, the ending of measures to slow the spread of the virus comes with particularly odious ramifications. If a business decides they don’t want to reopen because of wanting to protect their workers, they won’t be able to claim any kind of insurance or assistance designed to help businesses affected by the pandemic. By the same token, workers who refuse to report to work due to safety concerns (especially if their employer isn’t taking reasonable precautions to safeguard their health) won’t be able to claim unemployment benefits. After all, the job is there waiting for them regardless of  lack of safety measures deployed to protect them. To further rub salt in the wound, many in the GOP are pushing hard right now for laws to protect businesses from liability if workers get sick due to exposure on the job. All of this, proves the disgusting, immortal worship of the almighty dollar over human life. Those who suffer the worse: those who can’t afford to miss a paycheck if no other means of assistance is available.

As if they see just how morally indefensible their position is, a meme embraced by some acquiescent right wingers has been something along the lines of, “well, freedom means that you also have the freedom to not go to work if you are concerned about your own safety.” No, people are being forced to choose between their own safety on working low-wage jobs just to survive. That isn’t freedom — which is what the right-wing is claiming to defend. No, you just changed the economics of slavery. Actually, this is really nothing new. Slavery, feudalism, children in coal mines, companies taking advantage of economic disparity in different regions of the world, even current laws here in the US — such as those that apply to farm workers and restaurant workers — have all been about boosting profits for the business and upper classes at the expense of human life, health, and dignity.

Combine that with the right wing absolutist worship of the Second Amendment, their affection for throwing around US military might indiscriminately, the subsequent refusal to truly properly care for our veterans afterwards, and the absolute refusal to do anything to help American workers because it reeks too much of “socialism,”… Well, that calls for a revision of my statement about their fetus fetish. Really, America’s right wing, which of the GOP absolutely caters to in every discernible way, is a death cult with a fetus fetish.

Yesterday, David, a friend of mine posted the following on Facebook:

So when things get back to “normal,” does anything change on workplace rights / benefits? We’ve got 10s of millions of people working from home with young kids right now — does this move the needle on issues like paid family leave?
Does this ease any of the parent guilt that my generation has imposed on ourselves? Bad parents because we work too hard, bad workers because we parent too hard?

Bunches of questions have been raised — political, social, everything. But as we reopen the economy, I hope people will consider that there are opportunities to make improvements.

In response I wrote this:

I read this this morning and have been giving it a lot of thought. My “short” answer:

    1. Putting “normal” in quotes: well done. We are never returning to the previous normal. This is a society changing event on the scale of the Great Depression.
    2. Having said that, the GOP will do everything in its power to continue the path it had been on for the past 40+ years. The battle is not over, and it won’t be until enough people realize that the GOP doesn’t give an actual shit about anybody who isn’t rich and/or powerful enough to warrant their actual attention. They will continue to throw bones to the religious right and the white nationalists because they need their votes. Remember that it took years of the Great Depression before enough of the voting populace properly internalized the depravity of lassaiz faire economics the first time.
    3. The Democratic Party has its own issues to sort out, and many of the people behind the scenes who are bankrolling the GOP insanity will also do what they can to prevent a proper progressive takeover of the Democratic Party.
    4. If history is a guide, the progressive takeover will eventually succeed, but not before plenty of additional pain and suffering for the American people as a whole.
    5. Complicating all of this: we are still staring down the barrels of ecological collapse, runaway global climate changes, and an increasingly distressing problem with a plastic pollution.
    6. I don’t think its hyperbole at all to suggest we are in the opening stage of a protracted series of global events that will completely change what “normal” means for virtually everyone on the planet.
    7. I want to believe that when the new normal arrives, that it will be one firmly rooted in a new system that values things much differently than the old ones that have created the clusterfuck of events that is threatening human civilization was we know it. Unfortunately, I would say that the chances of a complete collapse of human civilization is disturbingly non-trivial. (I say this without the slightest hint of exaggeration — I truly believe this.)
    8. This has been your ray of fucking sunshine for the day. 🙂

Nearly everything in that rant is something I previously expressed on Facebook, to Sally in private, or via other means/forums. The future scares me. Not just the long-term future either. The orange shit goblin currently occupying the White House has more or less lived up to all the my worst fears after his election. In the midst of all this, it’s frighteningly likely it is he will take full advantage of both of the current situation and of the ridiculous amount of leeway and latitude that the GOP has provided him — as evidenced by their near unanimous capitulation to trump during the impeachment hearings. Who would have ever thought back in 2012 that Mitch Romney would someday be the last GOP senator to show something of a shred of morality and conscience?

The situation seem all the more dire now that the courts have now been thoroughly stacked with right wing idealogues, and the Federal Election Commission is completely powerless. Mitch McConnell and Der Katzengröpenfürher have acted in concert to ensure that there are no longer enough members of the FEC to have the necessary quorum to actually do anything. They couldn’t even be bothered to fill the current vacancies with right wing sycophant, like they did with the FCC and Ajit Pai.

No, there is quite literally nothing to get in the way of Trump should he decide, and he absolutely will, to break every federal law that is in his way while attempting to get reelected. With the pandemic and the massive weakening of the governmental structures designed to constrain someone like Trump (see just about every single statement issued by Attorney General Barr since he was appointed to the post), the coming election is perfectly situated for a Reichstag fire incident — the scale of which could actually bring down the American republic in much the same way the Roman Republic turned it’s back on representative rule.

Should that happen, and the chances are scarily real, who knows what kind of right-wing nationalist monstrosity the government will turn into. I read Sinclair Lewis’s It Can’t Happen Here during the 2016 elections. As eerily prescient as it was, it did end on a hopeful note. Maybe Lewis wanted to be optimistic, that he wanted to believe in the overall goodness of American citizens in particular and humankind in general. I don’t have such a worldview. There’s a reason behind my preferred trivia team name, Misanthropic Secular Humanists, for the past few years. We are our own best hope for progress, salvation, and survival in the face of so many daunting issues. However, as a species we still exhibit an unhealthy level of selfishness, greed, nearsightedness, tribalism, sexism, and racism (by no means an exhaustive list of our worst qualities.) These shortcomings are so profound that my comment to David about potential for a collapse of human civilization does not in any way seem overly pessimistic.

(Aside: yes, humankind is capable of amazing artistic and technological creativity and beauty. People regularly engage in awe-inspiring acts of kindness and generosity. Our best qualities can be breathtaking when on full display. Unfortunately, this is clearly a period in history where all worst instincts and qualities are on full display.)

I truly hope my worries are misplaced and that they are ultimately proven wrong. I don’t ever expect us, either as a nation or as a species, to coelesce around a truly progressive vision of how to reshape the economy, the way we live, and the way we treat each other and our world — even though it is abundantly clear that the old normal needs to be jettisoned the same way feudalism withered away after the Black Death.

I wish I possessed something optimistic and uplifting to end this end this on, but I just don’t have it in me.

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