It is hard these days to break through all of the din surrounding coronavirus. It is even more difficult to offer a slightly divergent take on the situation. Try to engage in the conversation, even slightly, you will quickly find yourself in a cluster of political outrage. The sad truth is that the pandemic has become another testament to the prevalent dogma of the modern political era: Oppose the opposition by any means necessary.
A pandemic even slightly similar to this hasn’t happened in over 100 years. There were no pandemic plans in place by the administration. The possibility of a pandemic wasn’t a huge talking point in the National Security Strategy. I can’t remember pandemic preparation ever coming up on any campaign trail. So, it was a little conspicuous that, once the threat became real in the United States, that people flocked to the party line.
When this first began, it really felt like this was going to be one of those moments for the history books, and it will be. The coronavirus outbreak will be taught in schools for the next century. The only question still at play is what the will legacy be. At first, the pandemic felt like a moment of national unity. America was under attack by an invisible enemy. We were afraid, but we were all looking out for each other. Neighbors were checking in, Coors Light was giving free beer to old ladies, and the rational majority of our countrymen were condemning the lunatics fighting in grocery store aisles over toilet paper. We were hunkering down with our families, playing board games, and having conversations in a way that we haven’t done in a long time. That all lasted maybe a week, before we reverted to the classic playbook.
At some point, the partisan nonsense began and any possibility of a reasonable response to the virus disappeared. For the democrats, it became an indictment on capitalism. It was so painfully obvious to them that corporations were pushing the president and his ilk to open the country back up. They didn’t care about the safety of the people; they cared about profits. Any one who disagreed with the shutdown, was engaging in scientific denialism in favor of the almighty dollar. For republicans, it was all a conspiracy to tank the economy so Trump wouldn’t get reelected. Those dastardly liberal scientists were in on it, of course.
Quickly the party militants flocked to their respective sides, and forced the rest of the nation to choose. In actuality, we were experiencing the truth about political issues. With the exception of civil rights and legal matters, there is no real right answer to anything. There are just situations, decisions, and consequences. For example, If the reaction to the virus was a complete shut down, the consequences would be a grave economic downturn that could potentially do as much or more damage to the population. If we went on business as usual, the consequences would have been catastrophic levels of sick and dead.
From strictly a medical perspective, a complete and total shutdown would have, most likely, been the most effective way to end the threat; however, the medical perspective was not the only one to be considered. Issues and situations don’t exist in a vacuum. With Covid-19; medical, economic, and political consequences all had to be weighed. Would the economic impact of a shutdown cause more harm than the virus? Would a federal shutdown create an imbalance of power between the people and their government? How would the virus affect Social Security, unemployment, Medicare, National Security? It seems ridiculous to include all of these different compounding factors, but this is how interconnected our society has become.
The everyday American doesn’t feel comfortable operating in that gray area, but we need to start getting comfortable, because our politicians have shown they are willing to abuse the nuance for votes. We put our trust in them, and what was the result of the last 4 months? Coronavirus is still a threat, and the economy is crap. At the ended of the day democrats and republicans got what they wanted. With each passing minute, American’s become more polarized, and voting results become more predictable. They make their speeches about the evil enemy and know that, with each passing moment, their seat gets a little warmer and their job a little more secure.
Statistically, among all of the possible solutions to the pandemic, there must be a response that most efficiently balances all of the surrounding elements; however, an attempt to find that solution is nowhere to be seen. There are no attempts to proceed with reasonable precautions, and a free economy. There are just restrictions on utilizing your public parks and conspiracy videos about Bill Gates. We search for answers on why our economy is so weak and why our tax dollars didn’t go towards preparation; instead we get hush money in the form of stimulus checks that don’t even amount to a full month’s worth of income tax. We ask for leadership; instead we get the same tired song and dance, and the burden of the consequences.
Michael A. Romano