October 2, 2020

Walter Reed Military Medical Center

I’m trying to process the events of the last 24 hours or so. In my ongoing saga of chronicling my peculiar take on the effect of Covid-19 on my life and American society, we may have reached an inflection point. I can’t say that I am the least bit surprised that the President has caught the virus. His very public behaviors over the last six months more or less made that inevitable but I’m a bit surprised at the rapidity of change from he’s fine, to he has significant symptoms, to he’s being airlifted to Walter Reed. None of us has reliable data on his health and speculation, while intriguing, is not especially useful. I’ve compared the White House’s response to the novel corona virus to Poe’s The Masque of the Red Death a number of times over the period that I’ve been writing these accidental plague diaries. I have a feeling that midnight has struck and that Prince Prospero and his guests are going to pay the price of believing that wealth and privilege somehow insulate one from science and fact. You can believe in virology and epidemiology or, you can pooh-pooh them for political reasons, but that doesn’t make the science any less true. Viruses have no political allegiance. They simply exist to propagate themselves from one host to the next.

There are those who are descending down the black holes of various conspiracy theories regarding Covid-19, now that it has reached the highest offices in the land. It’s a little silly. The current group of politicians in power in DC haven’t been able to run the government with all of the tools at their disposal. Imagining them running some sort of shadowy network of interconnected outrageous plots out of a Ian Fleming or Robert Ludlam defies belief. Anyone who has ever been a corporate project manager can tell you that human beings in groups just aren’t capable of such Byzantine and opaque maneuverings without the whole thing crashing down because someone wanted to binge watch the latest season of Schitt’s Creek rather than do their portion of the assignment.

The Ancient Greeks would have loved the current situation in the capital. President Trump very much fits their mold of the leader who rises too high, too fast in mockery of the gods and it ultimately undone by his own nature and character flaws. The rapid fire revelations about his tax and financial status, the economic collapse of his campaign, and now the illness, likely linked to the stubborn refusal of him and his followers to obey even the simplest precepts of public health measures to prevent viral transmission. We don’t know what the next act of the drama is going to play like. I know what I would write if I were creating a drama of hubris, but it’s not up to me.

I’ve tried to leave politics out of these diaries for the most part. When it comes to Covid-19, politics is immaterial as the virus is completely apolitical and I feel very strongly that what I’ve been able to learn about the disease and how it affects our lives is a subject that should be of interest to the entire spectrum of opinions. It sneaks in occasionally because the US response to the virus has been allowed to become politicized at nearly every step of the process of pandemic response. We are the weaker for it, hundreds of thousands are dead and, within a month or so, it will move from the fourth worst mass casualty event in American history to the third, surpassing World War II. (If it kills more than 600,000 eventually, it will surpass the Civil War, leaving it only behind the Flu Pandemic of 1918.) Would the impact have been lessened with a less political response? It’s tough to say but we probably wouldn’t be having a mask war in society and adherence to things like masking and social distancing would probably be much greater and our casualty rates would likely be more in line with those in Western Europe.

To mask, or not to mask, that is the question

I hope I live long enough to be able to read the definitive history of the Trump presidency that some Barbara Tuchman of the future will write sometime after 2030, when enough time will have passed for us all to be able to get some perspective on what we are living through. I also have the feeling that this particular moment in history is going to inspire some great artistic works. Trump, himself, is too big a character for traditional film or stage. He is an operatic figure and I think only a grand opera in the Verdi tradition can totally explore his psychology and motivations. (Ricky Ian Gordon – here’s your potential masterwork…) The Black Death gave us the Italian Renaissance. What is Covid-19 going to give us?I too will be checking my news feeds in the morning for the next chapter.

In the meantime, you all know the drill.

Wash your hands.

Wear your masks.

Keep six feet apart.

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