June 7, 2020

White Coats for Black Lives

My apologies that the accidental plague diaries have been missing in action over the last week. My mind has been elsewhere, what with moving and all of the multitude of tasks associated with that. The lions share of the work is done. I’m down to the last dozen boxes that need to be unpacked. It will be a while before everything is fully squared away but it’s more or less together and the space is starting to feel like mine. The next major task is readying the old house for sale. The last items should be out by mid week and then the crew can go in to do the minor repairs and spruce things up so it should be on the market before the 4th of July.

The number of Covid-19 cases continues to go up and up. We’re up to nearly 2 million cases nationally. 20,000 of those are in Alabama, 2,000 are in Jefferson County and the numbers have been rising relatively quickly over the last few weeks as the virus transmitted over Memorial Day weekend starts to make itself known. What we’re doing today is reflected in the numbers 10-20 days from now, one of the reasons it’s difficult for us as a society to understand the cause and effect of social behavior on our physical well being.

US Media, unable to keep more than one big story narrative going at once, has more or less decided to turn its attention from Covid-19 to the various rallies, marches, and occasional civil disturbances that have sprung up the last two weeks. I have two thoughts about this. First, corona viruses don’t care if they’re being reported on or not. They’re going to continue to do the one thing they’re designed to do – infect new individuals so that they can propagate themselves further. The number of cases in local hospitals is ticking upwards again and I am very afraid that a lack of emphasis on the need to continue masking and social distancing is going to lead to increased infection rates. Hopefully, we’ve had enough lead time to prepare but I can tell you from first hand experience that the health care system is strained and the practitioners are tired and there is no end in sight. Second, it doesn’t necessarily fit media narratives but the pandemic and the BLM protests are very much intertwined.

This country hasn’t seen this number of people out on the streets protesting against the powers that be for more than fifty years. The rallies I have been to have been orderly affairs, Black American and White America together saying that the systems that have divided us for so long and treated us so unequally have to stop. Locally, we’ve only had one serious disturbance, more than a week ago. The city’s response has been mainly subdued (some of the white flight suburbs appear to have over reacted) but it’s pretty obvious that the message has been received loud and clear. I’ve seen the photos from NYC, DC, Philly and elsewhere of enormous crowds, braving pandemic conditions to stand up for what is right and the ideals that this country was founded upon, ideals we often don’t live up to. i don’t think this would have been possible without the pandemic. BLM has been around for a few years and, of course, systemic racism has been around for four centuries, but it took the societal stress of a pandemic, a lock down, and economic uncertainty on a grand scale to get the majority of Americans to experience the stress and conditions that minority groups face on a daily basis. Worries about the rent, putting food on the table, indifference from the authorities to distress, seeing the oligarchy helping itself to the treasury, watching a militarized police traumatize peaceful protesters, understanding that a government that was unable to come up with the most basic needs of the health care system over months could conjure up what amounted to a military crackdown in days which has laid bare the myth that government was here to serve the citizenry. It’s become plainer and plainer that government currently exists to protect the property of the wealthy.

The younger generation isn’t especially at risk from Covid-19. Its education has been disrupted. Its been saddled with appalling levels of debt for that education as part of the monetization of society to benefit the wealthy. They don’t have a whole lot to lose at the moment and the pandemic has destroyed the social controls the elite has used to control them in recent decades such as student loans, entry into upper tier schools, and internships and other networking opportunities. There’s no reason for them not to continue being out on the streets continuing to work for systemic changes which will benefit us all. I can’t read tea leaves terribly well but I can say that we seem to be at an inflection point where the rules of the game have suddenly changed and the older generations haven’t quite figured that out yet and I think that’s going to be born out in the results of the next election cycle.

What’s next for Covid-19? It’s unclear. The amount of information available is reduced. Reportage on what’s happening elsewhere in the world is slim as the US focuses in on our internal struggles. I can’t always find trustworthy domestic numbers as various states present data in inconsistent ways for what seem to be political purposes. As a geriatrician, I am well aware that it continues its march through senior facilities. Some die, some don’t. It’s completely unclear what the difference between the two groups could be. There’s likely a genetic subset of us that is doomed to become incredibly ill if we get the disease but why that is and how to determine whom is at risk remains obscure at best.

In the meantime, now that I have my nest relatively feathered, I plan to stay in a lot, and watch the sunset from my terrace. In the meantime, everyone stay safe, stay well, and wash your hands.

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