February 6, 2022

Those of you who read these essays can now claim that you are privy to the first drafts of the award winning Accidental Plague Diaries. I’ve been awarded a gold medal from the Nonfiction Authors Association in their Nonfiction Book Awards for the first published volume. It’s sort of a nice ego boost to think that people I don’t know have read my musings and found them worthy of something. Of course such an award and five dollars might just get me a caramel macchiato at Starbucks. Maybe they’ll send me a certificate suitable for framing. It continues to sell a few copies here and there. If it wins a few more awards, it might garner some attention and begin to sell even more. I keep hoping someone will slip it to Oprah. A boy can dream, can’t he?

9 to 5 has been put to bed. We ended up doing just over half of the original scheduled performances due to Covid felling a couple of the leads shortly after opening. The show turned out well – a greatish production of not the best material. The songs are decent. (Dolly Parton does know how to turn out a tune). The book isn’t bad in the first act but kind of falls apart in the second act. Once our heroines, kidnap Hart and send his henchwoman Roz away, there really aren’t any antagonists on stage and there’s not much conflict left to actually resolve until the very end when my character arrives from on high to reward the heroes and punish the villains and everyone sings and dances to the title song – again. I did like my white linen suit second act costume and it’s likely to make further appearances. My first act costume was just a pair of white shorts and a toe tag. I kept the toe tag as a memento.

So what does any of this have to do with Covid? Nothing much directly. Indirectly, I suppose it’s a sign that even a world wide pandemic can kill the artistic impulse of the human spirit. Performers are going to perform. Writers are going to write. Singers are going to sing. Dancers are going to dance. And we are all going to be the richer for it. If you look back at history, times of stress and strife tend to provide rocket fuel for the arts. The problem is, of course, that after such times of uncertainty, authoritarian regimes get a boost as society wants stability and order and one of their first agenda items is to squelch the arts as they tend to offer a critique and an unflinching mirror on societal and governmental ills.

We passed 900,000 deaths this last week, roughly eight weeks after we hit 800,000. They’re not accumulating as quickly as they did just over a year ago, prior to vaccines being widely available, but they’re still mounting steadily. The number would make #16 on the US city population list, between Indianapolis and Columbus. As the mortality rates from omicron are actually continuing to increase, the curve being about a month behind the case curve, we’re likely to see another 100,000 or so added to the total and we’ll hit the magic million mark around Easter. Will it continue to go up by the hundreds of thousands throughout 2022? That’s a question I can’t answer. It will depend on viral mutations, politics and its interaction with basic public health measures, and millions upon millions of individual choices and whether the virus can seize upon those to propagate.

I’m not very hopeful on the political front. We’ve been through several years of chaos, much of which predates the pandemic and its preexistence determined its spread and the much higher death toll in the US compared with most of the rest of the developed world. As is natural at such times, a great portion of the populace is looking for anyone that will promise stability and a return to a prior sense of order. You can’t put the genii back in the bottle. The second law of thermodynamics applies to social as well as physical systems. You can’t unmix that which has been mixed. There is no return to times past, only a movement forward into an unknown future and it’s necessary for us to understand that clearly before casting our ballots. Those who vote based on nostalgia are likely to be severely disappointed. Personally, while I would like to see a little more order in life, I cannot bring myself to support the party promising such as its the same party that has created the majority of the chaos through blind obeisance to a false god. It’s sad. The saddest piece of this is the lives lost on an altar of pseudoscience, many of the dead willing martyrs to a political stance that has no place in the control of infectious disease. Lives wasted in service of a leadership that could care less about them while those that love them are left to grieve. The Washington State Patrolman whom Fox News lionized when he was fired for refusing vaccine and whom was ignored by that same organization when he died of Covid some months later being a good case in point.

Republican politics are crystalizing around a position of rigid antipublic health positions, to the point where Republican officials who espouse any favorable opinions of vaccines, masks, or other basic measures, are being summarily removed from their jobs despite qualifications and experience and being replaced by party hacks. Eastern Europe spent decades experimenting with systems where party membership and loyalty became the only major test for holding any sort of significant position in society. It didn’t work out so well for them and I doubt it’s going to work out well for us. Conservative public school boards will continue to dismantle public education. Conservative local health authorities are unlikely to do much to actually protect public health. Conservative legislators are unlikely to put the business of the people before the business of capital. I think we’re going to be in for a bit of a rough go.

Of course, the pandemic doesn’t care. Viruses are going to do what viruses do. We can either alter our behavior to make their job easier or tougher. It’s our choice. I just don’t see political figures who have spent the last few decades destroying rather than creating and obstructing rather than cooperating having the skills or the initiative to do much to help with the latter choice. But maybe that’s just me. I’m just one person adrift in this confusing world, trying to live right and help out as best he can. What can I do currently? Support my friends. Support my patients. Support local artists. Stay vaccinated. Wear my mask indoors. Wash my hands.

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