June 11, 2020

And just like that, the novel corona virus marches on, oblivious to whether we are bored with social distancing, distracted by other news stories, worried about the economic disruptions of pandemic disease. Viruses don’t care. They are implacable, unfeeling, designed with one purpose in mind – propagation at all costs. The reduction in case load achieved by aggressive measures in the spring has been reversed by an easing of those measures for socio-economic reasons. In Alabama, there were roughly 900 new diagnoses today, nearly twice as high as the daily rate at the peak of the original pandemic.

There will be those quick to blame the various demonstrations and rallies, a few of which made national news with the initial movement against long standing monuments to the Confederacy, aimed like a dagger at the heart of the African-American community. The numbers don’t bear that out. The rallies have been confined predominantly to Huntsville and Birmingham and those are not the areas in which cases are skyrocketing. It’s increasing quickly in more suburban and rural areas. I’m not surprised. We’re between two and three weeks out from the Memorial Day weekend (the demonstrations didn’t begin until a week later) and the spread is much more from a bored populace emerging from its cocoon, blinking at the fine weather, and taking off for the beach, the bar, and the backyard barbecue. This isn’t a second wave. It’s still the first wave of the virus, simply waiting until we let down our collective guard so it could continue on its relentless path.

There is a graphic running around (I posted it myself) breaking common social activities into nine levels of risk. It’s not necessarily the most scientifically accurate thing but it’s easy to understand and serves as a good reminder of what social distancing actually means. It’s not easy. Personally, I guess I live at level four. I can’t exactly avoid a doctor’s waiting room if I’m going to go to work. I’m still curtailing most of my activities. I’ve had to open up my life a little because of the process of moving but life is risk and it was one I needed to take. So far, so good. I guess I’ll know in about two weeks if I’ve been careful enough. I fully expect to contract Covid-19 at some point. I’m a physician and it’s my duty to be around the sick, no matter the personal cost. I’m not being stupid or taking unreasonable chances but I’ve tried to order my life just in case I become one of the deathly ill. Now that the moving is done, life will return to my usual workdays and weekends at home reading, taking long walks, and working on my Xbox skills (which don’t seem to be improving much).

The condo is pretty much together. Almost everything is stowed away in at least a temporary home. I’ll try to pretty it up enough so I can do a video walk through this weekend and share it with everyone as it may be a while before I can host a party. The old house is empty. The discards are being picked over by various folk and it gets its repair and facelift over the next two weeks and should be on the market by the end of the month. If anyone wants to live in the heart of Forest Park right on the triangle, drop me a message and I’ll get you in touch with my realtor. I’ll be glad when the last phase of this process is over. I’m looking forward to not having to move again for decades.

I tend to be an optimist when it comes to human behavior. I’ve worked in a caring profession that’s taken me inside so many homes of so many kinds of people for more than three decades and from that I’ve learned that no matter how people express it, they want pretty much the same things. A sense of safety, a few creature comforts, a better chance for their children, chances to feel fulfilled and do meaningful work within their professions and communities. It’s not that hard to understand that once you start seeing people as human beings. There have been two major social trends over the last century or so that have kept this from happening the way that it should. These have been deliberately implemented by the rentier class of property owners in order to protect assets at the expense of people. The first, and more familiar one, is the dividing of the working class on the basis of ethnicity. Of teaching both Black and White that the other is not to be trusted and making it difficult through a thousand little social rules for them to make common cause. The power structure has long known if they do get together and start pulling the same direction, they will be in trouble. Maybe Covid-19 striking at just this moment in time with the Millennials and Generation Z ascending to the majority becomes the inflection point that allows for this to radically change.

The second, more insidious one, is the co-opting of the professional and upper middle class by the power structure through economic means. As the old saying goes, if you were work for money, you’re not rich. When you’re rich, your money works for you. Most professionals have fairly high salaries but they’re still working for a living and their economic interests are firmly tied to the working class. However, when the power structure came up with the brilliant idea of replacing defined benefit pension systems with IRAs, 401Ks and 403Bs, they all of a sudden got the band of people who do a lot of the heavy societal lifting to start voting based on the casino of the sock market, not realizing that their paltry gains would never make up for what they were losing in both pension systems and the systematic privatization of the commons that’s been going on for the last half century.

Can we fix all of this mess? I do believe we can. No one ever said it would be easy and I think we have a lot more pain in terms of both Covid and the social unrest that it’s effects will engender to go before we get to the other side. Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy ride but we will make it if we decide we want to and we will reach out our hands to each other and not be afraid to take them.

Speaking of hands, you know what I’m going to say… Wash them well and often.

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