Escaping The Coronavirus Overreaction Will Be Difficult

The worst self-inflicted wound in American history is now upon us. Analogies are inadequate; comparisons fail.  Having pushed the panic button, blown up the economy, and ushered in years of governmental austerity and financial miseries for many, the experts, elites, and elected officials who shoved us all into the abyss will now be preoccupied with explaining why they are innocent of all blame for the devastating consequences of their overreactions.

Everyone involved will insist that they were just doing what was necessary, so the shutdowns and lockdowns were duly implemented as a precaution to protect the populace, and these could not be rescinded because a handful of highly suspect computer models were predicting an apocalypse.  Therefore, to put it in much plainer language, the official explanation for this insanity translates as such: “Because I had no idea what was actually happening, I decided that buying into someone else’s worst-case estimate, losing my damned mind, and putting America out of business was the most prudent response.”  

That makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?

This daisy chain of dim-witted decision making led, moreover, to interlocking levels of looney overreactions that fed upon on another, and each caution and closure caused an irresistible “monkey see, monkey do” mania throughout every level of elected government and the appointed bureaucracy that had one overriding purpose—to avoid blame and score political points.  If a single sparrow fell from the sky, everyone drawing a government paycheck wanted to be certain that the fault could not be laid at their own feet and their political opponents were made to bear the burden of the public’s anger.  As a result, rather than everyone exercising some common sense caution as we assessed the actual problems resulting from Coronavirus, fallacious and flawed predictions presented as facts created a frantic, fearful, and foolish narrative—driven by media and political doomsayers with their own obvious political and social agendas.  

The net result has been a economic catastrophe, which will soon be a all-pervasive societal catastrophe.

Locked out of our workplaces and schools, we all stayed home, hoarded toilet paper, and had little else to preoccupy our suddenly empty lives other than oversharing end-of-world wackiness—helpfully beamed to our devices by the bucketful.  Even those not prone to paranoia and panic were suddenly buying beans, bullets, and bottled water in bulk, which stripped store shelves bare as we were forced to hunker down.  Urban areas, due to their population densities, quite naturally had more cases and more deaths, and their troubles became everyone’s reality because the major news organizations headquartered there reported their local misfortunes as if they were the inevitable future for every state and region, which led to more demands for action—whether these actions were warranted or not.

So here we now sit: millions upon millions of jobs gone, careers derailed, personal debts escalating, schools and colleges reeling, parents and children terrified, governments broke and subsisting on more and more borrowed dollars, and a looming banking and mortgage default supernova ready to tear a soul-crushing chasm in our nation’s financial safety and security.

We have crippled our country and grievously harmed our citizens due to, as of today, a total of 16,710 deaths in our nation.  Any death is, of course, a tragedy, but we must recognize that in America, prior to our Coronavirus craziness, roughly 7,500 people died of all causes combined—each and every day.  It is, in addition, worth noting that deaths attributed to infections with Coronavirus accounted for only 1.6% of total U.S. deaths in March, which certainly puts this concocted catastrophe in its proper perspective—and begs the question of whether the cure was far worse than the disease could ever have been.

Don’t expect a straight answer any time soon.

It is unfortunate that, with an election coming up in November, we can count on only a shrill and inane level of national political dialogue during the next seven months that will make a middle school lunchroom seem sophisticated by comparison.  Everyone running for office will have only one message to deliver above all others: This is all someone else’s fault.  No one will want to be held accountable as the devastating economic and societal damage becomes more obvious with each passing day, so like a tableful of pimply adolescents professing innocence and avoiding eye contact when a cheese stick hits the lunchroom monitor in the head, the responses of our political leaders will range from outraged denials to claims of angelic innocence.  It should be quite the sad spectacle to behold.

The biggest problem with all this finger pointing and deflection is that it will delay the sober reflection that will be necessary before we can stop incarcerating America and start returning to normalcy.  Because politicians crave the limelight, fearful people have social media accounts, and news organizations need to rile up readers and viewers, we can count on the frenzy regarding Coronavirus being daily whipped into a frothy peak of idiocy and mendacity for the foreseeable future.  

It would today be wise to simply declare “victory” over this virus, immediately reverse the shutdowns and closures—except for perhaps the few urban infection hotspots in and around New York City—and send America back on its happy way to work, school, and play.  The cause for any delay in doing so will likely be that too many uncomfortable questions would immediately be asked by Americans who have been financially, educationally, and emotionally damaged by elected officials who have exhibited roughly the same level of keen insight as the daily horoscope.  As the Wicked Witch of the West pointed out in The Wizard of Oz, “These things must be done delicately.”  A plausible cover story for the actual pandemic—one of panic—will be vitally necessary to save a lot of political careers.

Given that error will not—-and cannot—be admitted by the many elected officials who now hope to ride their Coronavirus “heroism” to bright futures, we’re going to have one heck of a time chopping through all the grandstanding and headline grabbing to arrive at a point when we can restart our lives—albeit ones now saddled with loads of newly created debt and distress.

The Coronavirus hacks will fundraise for their re-elections based on the fantasy versions of their brilliance until (this definitely won’t happen before Election Day, by the way) there is a definitive report that explains how this epic train wreck ever got rolling down the tracks in the first place.

In the meantime, until we cast our votes in November, we can laugh at learned discussions regarding the wonders of tapping our feet together rather than shaking hands, read about the vast new wealth enjoyed by compassionate tech billionaires who have (surprise!) grown even richer by convincing us we all had to work from home for our own safety, and pity the housebound children who will likely never catch up on the educations they have missed.  

We can, in addition, watch the foreclosure signs pop up in front yards across America like daffodils in the springtime, grimace at the empty sports stadiums echoing with the sounds of the lonely wind, and wonder why we threw away one of the strongest economies in our nation’s history in exchange for double digit unemployment and an avalanche of small business failures that will extinguish the dreams of millions of Americans.

And we can, I hope, remember all of this and allow it to inform our voting decisions when Election Day finally arrives.  It should be a very, very interesting moment in American history when accountability comes a-calling for the political leaders who managed to turn a public health problem into the second Great Depression.

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