Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Signs of the new normal - virus and violence

The Virus: “the public will learn to accept 50,000 to 100,000 new cases a day” - official familiar with Trump campaign.

The Violence: "It gets harder to justify those deaths as the cost of living free.” - writing in the Daily Star, a gun owner having a second thought about defending school shootings.

A bleak new normal is the latest email update from the Washington Post’s Coronavirus Updates. Avi Selk reports (with emphases and links in the original).

After 28 straight days of rising infection averages, with no solution in sight, President Trump’s political strategists are betting that Americans will simply get used to an uncontrolled pandemic before he stands for reelection in November, our politics desk reported Monday.

“They’re of the belief that people will get over it or if we stop highlighting it, the base will move on and the public will learn to accept 50,000 to 100,000 new cases a day,” said a former administration official in touch with the campaign. The rolling average for daily new cases in the United States has already climbed past 49,000, driven by surges in California, Texas, Florida and Arizona, most of which have also reported record numbers of covid–19 hospitalizations in recent days.

Trump himself claimed over the weekend that 99 percent of covid–19 cases are “harmless” and a vaccine will be available this year. In reality, even people with no apparent symptoms can spread the disease to others or fall suddenly ill. And the leading effort to develop a vaccine in the U.S. relies on an elegant but unproven new genetic technology.

So basically the Trumpies are advocating the ultimate stage of grief - acceptance - as a campaign ploy and national policy. There is a precedent, a parallel in a different context - mass shooting of school children.

Back on October 3rd, 2017, I penned this opinion piece: J’accuse: Our national failure and disgrace. Here is some of it.

J’accuse

In 1898 the French writer Emile Zola published an open letter critical of the French government titled “J’accuse” - I accuse. I’ll get back to that in a moment. But first …

J’avoue

I confess.

Viewing the TV news last evening I discovered something ugly about myself. That thing I discovered is that I no longer had a visceral, emotional reaction to the news of the latest mass shooting. The numbers, 59 killed and 527 injured, are mere statistics. The videos of people getting shot and running for their lives are visual props for the nightly news.

I don’t think it’s just me. I think it is a cultural malady afflicting Americans. We have seen this cycle so often that our innate reactions, our primordial reflexes, have now been inhibited by repeated mass shootings with no consequences. David Fitzsimmons in this morning’s Daily Star perfectly captures this cycle of insanity.

We psychologists know about latent inhibition in which “a familiar stimulus takes longer to acquire meaning (as a signal or conditioned stimulus) than a new stimulus.” That is, in the present context, repeated exposure to mass shootings via the broadcast news renders us less capable of feeling revulsion that such events should cause.

You think I’m over-reacting? Consider this op-ed in this morning’s Daily Star, [As a longtime gun owner, I wonder what to say.][gun] The author, Stu Bykofsky, says “As a lawful gun owner, as a defender of the Bill of Rights — all of them — I say you can’t saddle the 99.9 percent of gun owners who have done nothing wrong with the sins of the 0.1 percent who have criminal intent. But it gets harder for me to say that, to believe that, each time something like this happens. It gets harder to justify those deaths as the cost of living free.”

So we are to believe, on this twisted logic, that those 59 people voluntarily gave up their lives to insure some one’s freedom to own assault weapons? I guess I have not been rendered totally insensate. This guy pisses me off. And so does the inability of the most powerful nation on earth to protect those 59 people.

And circling back to the coronavirus, how have we, as a one-time great nation, come “to accept 50,000 to 100,000 new cases a day”? That too pisses me off.

Whoever believes that has a hole in their soul - a psychological disorder - a twisted morality more like Joseph Stalin than Abraham Lincoln. That’s right. I am charging Donald Trump and his GOP lackeys with the moral equivalent of mass murder. Using their own words, prove me wrong.

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