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Coronavirus Diaries:
Occasional Thoughts

Your Sense of Common Good Depends on Your Environment

6 May 2020

When it comes to the economy, Trumpists seem eager for us all to now be socialists, and make sacrifices for their common good.

The extreme measures that we've taken to save our asses -- social distancing, face masks, online everything, missing everyone -- have driven the economy into the darkness of uncertainty and seems to be leading to what appears to be some new kind of depression. Clearly, we're in trouble. Ignoring the beast will not make it go away.

So as we "relax" the extreme measures of mitigation in order to boost "the economy" back into life, we're being prodded to participate in a disaster. May could be a very dangerous month.

People here in Oklahoma continue to bounce around like ping-pong balls without any clear labels of coronavirus status, so we're all just playing a giant game of tag, without knowing who's "it".

There is a giant leap between the certificates issued to pilots who can fly into clouds compared to the certificate that allows you to fly in clear skies. Flying in clear skies is easy, except for the landing part. Flying in clouds is full of uncertainty -- imagine driving at 200 miles per hour in the dark with no lights -- and landing requires skill and the cooperation of a lot of trusted allies: Air Traffic Control; the tower; the firemen standing by at the runway, just in case. Since no license at all is require for politicians, we have leadership now that has eschewed the expertise of allies, has no certificate at all, and insists on taking over the airplane from the pilots.

We are stuck on this airplane for awhile, and will have to look out for ourselves.

Somebody's Gonna Fry

4 May 2020

Fifty years ago today, a bunch of unarmed kids were shot by official representatives of the U.S. government at Kent State University in Ohio. I was a student Military Policeman at Fort Gordon, Georgia, at the time, and we were at that time learning about the use of force in crowd control, where we learned about the escalation of force through seven levels, depending on the response from the crowd. At Kent State, the National Guard went from level two(?) to level seven without any of the other levels being tried. The reaction of our Military Police instructors was, "Somebody's gonna fry." No one ever did.

Pandemic Light

2 May 2020

Running Into the Fire?

30 April 2020

A rising sense of loss of the way it used to be may cause some folks to yield to the temptation to just get it over with and take at-least-awhile of "the old normal" as the best it will ever get and call it good. But suicide by coronavirus looks like a miserable way to go to me. And besides , "the old normal" is already gone.

You're in the Army Now!

22 April 2020

Pam is tired of hearing it, and I'm tired of saying it, so here I'm going to just write it down, so to speak, and be done with it.

This time of pandemic reminds me of my experience with the Army, to wit:

There was a period before the Army, where we were all blissfully ignorant and living lives out loud and swaggering and full of an expansive sense of the future, but with a bit of a cloud hanging in the form of the draft.

Then there was the instantaneous flash of the physical, coughing in line with drawers dropped, the Group-W bench, oath, step-forward into the Army. Immediately then a long night bus ride throught the Ozarks, a swift haircut, assignment of a precise location in a large formation of identically clad drones and the long draining of all our identities into a mass of moving green, cut loose from freedom amid the horrific losses around us until we'd march together into a horizontal hail of lead pellets with sticky sharp stuff underfoot, slowing only to pull our ruined friends from the wreckage we were busily creating. For those of us affected, we were all in it together, do or die, drag out the dead and reload. Suck it up. New rules. No crybabies. No excuses. No shit. Those who weren't included in the military party remained largely clueless about the real nature of any of it. Those who were would never be the same. And nobody saw it coming. (Note: I did not go to Viet Nam.)

Then there was the after-the-Army part, where nothing would ever be "normal" again, and everything looked the same, but under any circumstances (like unemployment, increasing family responsibilities, entry to real adulthoood, geographical isolation from old friends, and standing up a new life) the newly emergent reality was galaxies larger in possibilities and clear visions and raw joy and endless volumes of uncommitted time to fill with . . . anything we wanted.

In the past couple of months, we have all been drafted. Like it or not, just like the draft.

Welcome to the Pandemic, and fall in.

When I was drafted, I had been lied to by the commander-in-chief at the time -- President Richard Nixon -- about the prospects for remaining out of the Army until sometime in January of 1970, because that is when they would start picking numbers out of a bowl and associate them with birthdates in order to determine an order by which people like me would be called to serve. So, there was supposed to be no draft for the rest of 1969, and I signed up for a semester of graduate school and got a job as a janitor at night, and settled in for a yuletide season with my wife and brand-new son. Then, on the Wednesday before Turkey Day, I got a letter from the draft board that began, infamously, "Greetings from your president." Naturally, I called them up on the following Monday to explain their error, but it turns out that while the draft had been suspended for the rest of the year, my name had actually been drawn back in August, and they were just geting around to notifying me. And a regular several-hundred of other guys a week, too.

Shared national service has a way of introducing you to people you would otherwise never have met. And without having met them, you will not ever be able to imagine how wildly different those folks can be from yourself and often still be very likeable. Who would have imagined the things they'd done, the places they'd been, the people they'd known, and the abundant richness of their weird individualities acting out on the plaid crazy-quilt of possibilities-americana? Universities had a pretty good variety of folks, after a very specific filter. But the Army was the richest cross-section of USofAmerican I've ever seen. Ask anyone who's been.

I'm sure it was as different for each draftee as each draftee was different from each other. The point of this is that it was a transformative moment for a lot of us, and for others, not so much. The trajectory of experience for those who avoided service was very different from those who served. This time, we're ALL in this together.

Some are way more in than others, for all that. People who live in refugee camps will have a far more difficult time maintaining distance, getting tested, finding food, getting medical help, keeping their children away from other children, remaining hopeful, and enduring far more loss than that with which I will have to deal. I, by contrast, live out in the woods with my best friend and woman I love (same person, whew!) in a nice house with a great internet connection and reliable utilities, home delivery of groceries and pizza, drive-through pharmacy, and direct-deposit retirement checks. Once again, as from the instant of my conception, I landed on the lucky list.

But beyond the wide disparity with which we enter this epoch, in very many very important ways, we are ALL in this together. We will all suffer losses relative to where we were before. Almost all of us will know someone who won't make it. It is abundantly clear that we must all now act in concert to survive.

Ironically, this time may serve as a simple controlled test (a tool of scientists) of the so-called "theory" of evolution, in which each of those in one of two groups -- those who who "believe in" evolution and those who eschew science, presumably as "fake news" -- will behave as they see fit, and afterwards, we'll see who has the most survivors on their "side." May the best ideas win! But let us remember the cost of our beliefs and the suffering of everybody during the experiment, and see what we can learn from it, like good scientists, or citizens under God, or just students of the universe.

Anyway, we are all now in the Army of the Pandemic, like it or not. Form up in a line exactly six feet apart. Uniform of the day includes gloves, rubber, O.D. in color. And get that face mask turned around straight. Smoke 'em if you got 'em.

Also, just like the real Army, this will be over, and when it is, the world will look different even if it isn't.

At least in my fevered imagination. Surely this is finally the time. The promise of the '60s had fizzled its way to disco in the '70s and died with a thud with the election of President Reagan. Then we had the long slog of the second surge (a century later) of the demise of the nuevo-American cowboy: the ride into the sunset of the lone figure, armed to the teeth, beholdin' to no one, afraid of nothin', shootin' dinner when hungry, takin' what he wants, leavin' a trail of broken hearts, and definitely a white guy. Now we've got the orange punk with sprayed hair who crippled government and had it in the bathroom all ready to drown, and here came the Coronavirus. No just here, of course, but everywhere. What timing!

Drownus interruptus.

Since all the guys with a clue had been fired or had quit or at least had been ignored, our deniers of government and science were not ready when the big one came, as it surely would have eventually (we were lucky it had not been sooner).

We knew it would. It has. We've had SARS, Ebola, H1N1, and a bunch of others. Some of us are old enough to remember when the polio virus was not yet under control, and still (after decades) remained a dark shadow over summertime in America in the early 1950s. One thing we know for sure: even including bravado, there's no substitute for immunity, earned or induced; and for this new coronavirus, nobody has any (as far as we know so far).

So we really are ALL in this together, at least for awhile. And with any luck, we will learn from this, remember, and make adjustments to the way things work. It's really pretty dumb to know so much and act so badly with the knowledge. The whole point of science is to be able to tell how things really work. Then you can do whatever you want with the information, including acting in a way that doesn't kill you outright. Of course, this is the USofA, so if you want to ignore all that and be a cowboy, good luck. But please go out on the prairie or the desert or up into the mountains or somewhere so you're not a human hand-grenade to the rest of us.

When the Grim Reaper is done with this particular round of ruin, some of us will still be alive, and -- hopefully -- smarter. Then we can get on with the good part.