Remember the Dead this Memorial Day – and Fight for the Living

by on May 25, 2020 · 0 comments

in Under the Perfect Sun

By Jim Miller

This Memorial Day it’s time we properly mourn the dead.  In the midst of a pandemic that the President has told us is a war against an “invisible enemy,” we are, as of this writing, closing in on 100,000 American dead.  But as we mourn the scores of our fellow Americans, who the President has called “warriors” in this grand battle, we need to also remember that most of them didn’t have to die.

Rather than inevitable losses, the tens of thousands of our fellow citizens who have passed in only a few months are unnecessary casualties.  As the New York Times reported last week:

If the United States had begun imposing social distancing measures one week earlier than it did in March, about 36,000 fewer people would have died in the coronavirus outbreak, according to new estimates from Columbia University disease modelers.

And if the country had begun locking down cities and limiting social contact on March 1, two weeks earlier than most people started staying home, the vast majority of the nation’s deaths — about 83 percent — would have been avoided, the researchers estimated.

Under that scenario, about 54,000 fewer people would have died by early May.

Yes, the vast majority of the deaths we have had are the preventable result of the Trump Administration’s ignorance, incompetence, and murderous self-interest.  Afraid that taking quick and decisive action to halt the spread of the virus would rattle the markets, hurt the economy, and damage the Trump 2020 campaign, the President ignored not one but TEN warnings before March 1st.

More specifically, as Axios has reported , the Trump administration was given flashing red light alerts about the coming disaster on January 18th, January 27th, January 29th,  twice on January 30th , February 5th, February 14th, February 21st, February 23rd, and February 25th.

Let that sink in a little bit.  Donald Trump’s decision making is responsible for more American deaths than 9/11 and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan combined.  And, according to the Columbia study, the number of unnecessary deaths is close to the total American death toll in Vietnam.  These are obscene numbers to say the least, and our outrage level about them should be a lot higher than it is at present as we race to pivot to a new era of naturalizing “acceptable losses.”  Consequently, it’s no wonder that, as the LA Times noted last week, we have “little sense of shared grief”.

Indeed, unchastised by their catastrophic failure, the Trump administration and their allies have successfully begun to push the country toward opening while trying to pretend they are not willingly sacrificing thousands of more lives.  But bodies will continue to pile up, nonetheless.  As the Times again notes :

A forecast from the University of Pennsylvania’s Penn Wharton Budget Model estimated that the number of cumulative deaths from the virus in the United States would rise to 157,000 from the current about 92,000 by the end of July if states maintained restrictions. A partial or full reopening could bring an additional 15,000 or 73,000 deaths, respectively.

Researchers found that the biggest risk for negative health outcomes was probably not state regulations, but people’s own behavior. If Americans get out of the habit of social distancing — returning to their pre-pandemic behavior by not wearing masks or staying six feet apart — the forecast predicted that deaths could rise by as many as 135,000.

During the Vietnam era, John Kerry famously queried, “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?” Today the answer is that you don’t ask them, you cut off their unemployment benefits and force them back to work whether they think it’s safe or not.  You sure as hell aren’t going to offer up any more aid and comfort to your fellow citizens.

If you are the President of the United States, you parade around factories without a mask, publicly sending the message to millions of Americans that it’s time to stop social distancing and get macho with the pandemic.  And when the media asks you what you’ll do if we get a second wave of virus deaths, you bluster that you won’t shut down the country even in the face of more and more needless fatalities .  Just be a warrior–get sick or die.

But, of course, the whole war metaphor is bullshit.  The real question has nothing to do with heroism or service to the country.  It was posed most incisively to Treasure Secretary Mnuchin by Senator Sherrod Brown: “How many workers should give their lives to increase GDP or the Dow Jones by a thousand points?”

The Treasury Secretary protested that the question was unfair, but anybody who is paying attention knows the answer: as many as it takes.  The goal now is to get the American public to tolerate tens of thousands of “acceptable losses.”  And if we pass that, they’ll just keep moving the bar.  Their aim is not to mourn the dead but to toss any thought of them down the memory hole.

If we have even a shred of decency left in this country, the very least we can do is remember the dead, mourn them, and fight like hell for a better country for the living by holding those responsible for the preventable deaths of so many of our neighbors and fellow citizens accountable.

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