Throughout history, people have been willing to die for only a handful of ideals. These include the following:
To that list, we can now add “gross domestic product.”
Yes, our old friends in the GOP have clearly stated what they’ve only hinted at before, which is that nothing—not even human life—is as precious as money.
You see, the Republican lieutenant governor of Texas, Dan Patrick, recently implied that all this social distancing is absurd, because the economy is suffering. Patrick said Americans should be “willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that all America loves for your children and grandchildren.”
Of course, “the America that all America loves” is a nation where people live from paycheck to paycheck, don’t have basic health care, and cower in fear of their rich overlords, who feel entitled to work them to death. But those are just details. The point is that we should all be honored to collapse in the streets if it means the Dow Jones goes into a bull market.
Now, you might think that literally killing yourself just to keep the unemployment rate low is not exactly a noble demise. That’s where you’re wrong.
Because our president, that most stable of geniuses, is shrieking that economic malaise will eat you and your grandma if we don’t get back to the office soon. Trump has declared that he “wants the nation ‘opened up and just raring to go by Easter’—a date just more than two weeks away that few health experts believe will be sufficient in containing the spread of coronavirus.”
Trump is making this demand—which is completely unenforceable, by the way—because he is concerned that if people stay at home much longer, the Great Depression II will explode and sink his odds of being reelected.
That would be strange, considering that the media insisted “economic anxiety” was the main reason poor white people voted for Trump in the first place. If that was true in 2016, they will be even happier to vote for him in 2020, when they will be even more economically anxious, right?
In any case, there is absolutely no evidence that ending the lockdowns and throwing open the doors of every store in America will actually prevent a recession. In fact, many experts believe that rushing back to our crowded, elbow-bumping lifestyles will only backfire and that “the fallout will be worse if the White House declares victory now, only to have the virus resurface in coming weeks or months.”
But hey, it’s worth a shot, isn’t it? After all, the only risk is driving up the death rate of COVID-19 until it reaches genocidal levels. And considering those extra victims will be mostly old people who aren’t contributing to the bottom line anyway, it’s obviously time to shout, “We’re back in business, baby!”
Hey, we might as well circle “an arbitrary date on the calendar and decide that, on that day, everything is going to be fine.”
Now, as powerful as the drive to post record profits is, there remains yet another reason why conservatives see no need to isolate ourselves when we could be out in public, shopping and drinking and coughing in each other’s faces.
And it is this:
We are exceptional.
I mean, we’ve certainly heard it enough over the past few decades. Americans are the best, the greatest, the smartest, the strongest, the purest, the biggest, the baddest, and in general, the most likely to crush adversity in our giant, super-patriotic hands—this is American exceptionalism.
But there is one tiny issue with this viewpoint, which is that “American exceptionalism—like its machismo—requires that we believe, even against the testimony of experts and the evidence of our own eyes, that the ‘greatness’ of America is eternal and invulnerable.”
We believe our standard of living is the best, when every statistic shows that it is not. We believe our kids are the brightest, even though the other industrialized nations kick our ass in education. And we believe that we have the “greatest healthcare system in the world,” which has never been remotely true, and is all the more glaring in its absurdity now that our hospitals are buckling under the strain of the coronavirus.
Despite these clear facts, we insist that our nation is the best (whatever that means) and “that the chief contribution citizens can make to American greatness is to act as if nothing is wrong.”
It is in our national character to bellow, in defiance of all proof, that we are blessed. Our default setting is to think that we are so favored by God, so intrinsically virtuous, and so insanely powerful that the only way we will catch COVID-19 is if we grab a fistful of viruses and lick them for 10 minutes straight. Also, if you get sick, you probably didn’t work hard enough or pray the right way.
However, we should remember something before we dismiss all scientific and medical advice, and rush out into the world to show how tough we are.
You see, the virus “isn’t watching the bar-going hordes and thinking, ‘Wow, I really misjudged these brave Americans; I’m not sure I’m up to this.’ “
COVID-19 isn’t intimidated by our resilience or courage or tenacity or whatever pretty adjective we use to describe reckless disregard for our fellow citizens. The virus is not impressed.
And the truth is that there is nothing exceptional about dropping dead.