When We Rose to Fight COVID, We Were Deliberately Turned Against Each Other

Since the beginning of this year, I have been writing with dreary regularity about the COVID-19 pandemic. Over 1 million Americans have died and nearly 94 million have been infected. There have been 90,000 new infections per day over the past two weeks.

These terribly high numbers are, in fact, low because our testing and tracing “regimen” hasn’t been worth a single damn from the day Donald Trump opened his orange gob and began bleating about the “China virus.” Because the vaccination program similarly hit a reef made of MAGA hats, the dubious idea of collective immunity has also fallen to dust.

The things that could go wrong were wrong, and are still wrong. This is not, therefore, some sort of “capstone” COVID article, because COVID is not over. Actually, there are many conditions that are coalescing and if they continue to reel, we will face a winter marred in too many virus, too few vaccines, too little funding, and almost zero public will to effectively combat the threat.

The New York Times reports:

There is currently a better coronavirus vaccination. expected to finally become available, America’s vaccination program is feeling the effects of a long period of retreat. The failure of local programs to provide shots to Americans’ homes and trust institutions has led to some congressional resistance to spending more on pandemic response.

Without new staff, the same local health workers who were responsible for Covid and flu shots this autumn have also been managing a monkeypox epidemic and children immunization shortages. left some places susceptible to polio. Some state health officials also said that they stopped pushing coronavirus shots, citing low demand and higher survival rates.

The federal government provides free home testing if Congress does not extend funding. will end on September 2If not, it will soon. States like Indiana have been working hard since Trump’s inauguration. currently criminalizingDistribution of food, medicines, and other goods to poor and unhoused, with masks, testing, or other COVID defenses.

Those who are ensconced in Big Tech’s ivory tower are not protected from the ongoing pandemic. At mighty Google, workers are becoming increasingly distressed by the company’s return-to-work demands as new workplace infections pile up around them. “The company began requiring most employees to return to physical offices at least three days a week in April,” reports CNBC. “Since then, staffers have pushed back on the mandate after they worked efficiently for so long at home while the company enjoyed some of its fastest revenue growth in 15 years. Google has offered full-time employees the option to request permanent remote work, but it’s unclear how many workers have been approved.”

It would be strange to consider the last 30 months as a continuous example of rank incompetence. A president terrified of losing an election, a Congress distracted by armed insurrectionists seeking the violent overthrow of the previous election (the new definition of “partisanship”), and an alphabet soup of health-related agencies running their public talking points through a blender, all combined to turn the last two-and-a-half years into a bog of death, fear and uncertainty.

All of that was important. But the real reason this all happened is much deeper. I remember vividly the early weeks and months of the pandemic — when health care professionals wore garbage bags and used Lysol-soaked masks because protective gear was unavailable, when the register kid at the grocery store looked at you from behind plexiglass with the deeply frightened eyes of one being called “hero” who had to be there to make rent — and the way the country came together to support them as best we could with songWe have the supplies, as well as our dedicated practices of self-protection.

As it turned out, this was more of an issue than any pandemic. People started wondering about all manner of things that had been virtually off-limits for generations: The disaster zone of our health care industry, workers’ rights and the galling supremacy of capitalism. Even more disturbing was the idea of all these people coming together to demand the changes we, as a society, have required since before our country was founded.

This was not possible, so the well-heeled voices for division roared to their deaths. Suddenly, things like masks and vaccines — anything that helped — became litmus tests for an increasingly violent segment of the country. Trump and his lickspittles were happy enough to promote this — hell, before he was kicked off Twitter, Trump himself was the #1 purveyor of fact-free COVID bombast. It dragged on, the shouters became louder, and the rest became exhausted, until all of the potential for that collective effort bled away, like helium from the birthday balloon.

“What is unfolding before our eyes is a kind of classical tragedy,” scholar and public intellectual Noam Chomsky recently told Truthout, “the grim conclusion foreordained, the march toward it seemingly inexorable. The origins are deep in the history of a society that has been free and bountiful for the privileged, awful for those who were in the way or cast aside.”

The collective national trauma caused by COVID-19We are still surrounded by them, a heavy presence despite the grim headlines and rising body counts. We’ve all been through something terrible, and we seem to have lost a chance. Weakness as a nation was exposed by the virus. But rather than rise to that moment, we were scrambled by people who are very skilled at co-opting the conversation to stop even. The ideaProgress or collective action.

All of us on our lonely little islands, armed to the teeth and suspicious of everything, is exactly how they want us… but that energy was there for a time. It was warm, bright, and deeply inspirational. You could reach out to grab a few. It’s still there, and so am I, and so are you. To quote Dahr Jamail, “How, then, shall we live?”