A week ago I was railing, albeit somewhat tongue in cheek, against the blanket designation of my peers and I as “elderly,” a prejudicial designation I believed — still believe — does not serve us well in general, much less in the current coronavirus crisis. I did, however, mention the specter of healthcare rationing based on how likely we are to recover from the coronavirus or how many “good” years we have left anyway if limited resources are used to save our lives. These were not judgments I wanted — want — made on my behalf, much less determined by any one factor — not on age alone, but not on ability to pay or wealth or race or ethnicity or gender or disability or any possible “otherness,” either. A week ago this was just a niggling concern; today it feels like a veritable existential threat.
The President expressed it implicitly,Monday night pretty much mocking public health experts who would shut down all social and direct economic interaction to save lives by mitigating the rapidly overwhelming spread of the disease. He posited that their cure might kill the economy and starkly opined it might be better (with his signature “We’ll see”) to save the economy than to save all those lives. (As if that’s the only choice.)
Later, the Texas State Attorney General Ken Paxton was chillingly explicit, saying grandparents should/could and probably would sacrifice to keep the country out of economic trouble. Send people back to work, screw isolation and self-quarantining, risk exposure and infection and, hey, let the chips fall where they may (as long as their blue chips, I guess).
So much for American exceptionalism and the Texas Can-Do spirit. So much for “We’re all in this together.” So much for “If we pull together for the good of all the people, we will come out of this stronger and better able to deal with all the concomitant challenges, including the economy.” So much for a strong, resilient economy. So much for government policies designed to safeguard our health and safety, our guarantees of life (that’s #1!), liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
This kind of either/or thinking, this devaluation of human life, these crass calculations are at once terrifying and disheartening. Here we are, isolated in our homes, doing our part to not be part of the problem, and we see our “leaders” willing to throw us to the wolves, to erase our meaning and purpose and very existence as if in the grand scheme of things, we don’t matter at all, at least not anymore. I am scared for my family and friends, of course. I think we all are. But I am more dismayed, appalled, and sickened by the threat Trump and Paxton and their like pose to the basic human values I once trusted Americans shared, and concomitantly by their apparent lack of faith in American ingenuity, diligence, productivity, ability and commitment to rebuild this nation, whatever the cost, once the health crisis is over.
Wow. This is a very dark day. But, hey, the stock market is going up.
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by Ann Sentilles
March 25th, 2020