By Larry Levine
Frightened and angry …
Two words that sum up the United States today. Not just those gun-toting, sign-carrying, banner-waving ideologs demanding relief from coronavirus prevention directives, but also those who are repulsed by those mobs and those who just don’t know what to make of it.
Some are rightfully frightened by the loss of what little economic security they have. They may be business owners who have been required to shutdown, or they may be people who are out of work because of those shutdowns. They are hurting and there’s no denying it.
Some of them are angry, although they may not always be sure where to direct that anger. Is it at the virus? Not very productive. The government? Always a convenient target? The media? Kill the messenger. President Donald Trump and his administration? Certainly some justification. The governors and mayors who impose the restrictions? Handy targets. The overall situation? Absolutely.
They are frustrated by what they see as contradictory information from federal, state and local officials, and the medical experts. The president announces a plan for phased reopening and leaves it to the states and counties to decide what to do with it. And then some of those states move forward with disregard for the plan, which the president himself said was just a recommendation.
In Georgia, even as the number of deaths increased for three consecutive days, beaches, tattoo parlors, bowling alleys, gyms, fingernail salons, restaurants and movie theaters are now essential businesses and can reopen despite warnings from public health officials. And from the White House there’s praise for the governor who ordered the reopening.
In Florida the highest single-day death total came the day before the governor announced the reopening of many similar businesses. South Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama … also readying plans to reopen.
I live in Los Angeles County, where officials are not yet ready to reopen, where we recorded the highest single-day death toll of the pandemic just a few days ago and the number of deaths doubled in the last week.
But in adjoining Ventura county officials are allowing certain businesses to reopen. Can they promise no one working in those businesses will then come into the adjacent San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles County or no one from the Valley will go to work at a job in Ventura County and then come home that evening?
People are hurting, but premature reopening holds the potential for dire consequences even for those people. Don’t decisions to reopen seem to put the desires of business owners ahead of the safety of their workers, and even the business owners themselves. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg famously denounced a decision by her colleagues regarding the Wisconsin Primary Election as forcing people to either risk their health or give up their right to vote.
What of the worker who believes it may not yet be safe to go back to work just because some local or state elected official green lights a business to open? That worker has two choices: go back to work and risk his or her health and that of their families, or don’t go back to work and risk being fired and not eligible for unemployment insurance.
This would be simpler if the decision of each individual impacted no one other than that individual. But that isn’t the case. This is a highly contagious disease. One person in the reopened state of Georgia, Florida, or South Carolina can carry the disease to dozens of others without ever getting sick. One person at a bowling alley in Ventura County can unleash the disease through the entire San Fernando Valley.
Over and over again we hear officials justify their reopening orders by pointing to numbers that indicate the success of the preventative measures taken so far. The hole in that logic is that the disease is still out there and medical experts say a resurgence is not only possible but likely if the preventative measures are relaxed.
In those mobs demonstrating in the streets, there probably are people motivated only by the desire to go back to work. They are frightened.
I’m more concerned than frightened. Concerned for my wife, who is in an extremely high risk group. Concerned for the rest of our family here and around the world. Concerned for our friends.
But when it comes to the future of our nation, I’m frightened. What frightens me at least as much as the disease are those demonstrators who grab the opportunity to act out agendas that have nothing to do with the coronavirus. They are the ones carrying anti-abortion signs, anti-vaccine signs, racist and anti-Semitic banners, and rifles.
Unfortunately, the media, particularly television, are giving these mobs the very platform they want. Demonstrations, signs, angry people carrying guns, that’s good visuals. The millions who continue to stay home, wear masks when they need to go out, maintain separation? That’s not good visuals so no media. Fortunately, polls show those people are in the majority.
Just because they open a beach or a restaurant doesn’t mean we have to go there. Our worry is how to stay away from the person who did go there. It’s frightening and it makes me angry.