I've been struggling to stay focused on my work. It happens sometimes, like a fog. Usually a personal issue obscures the process. Ideas spring to mind and fizzle out. Nothing feels right, nothing coalesces into an original take worth pursuing.
Lots of ideas, but the kindling never caught fire. A wasted day of scuttled first paragraphs. Pointless Twitter scuffles. No exercise, a loss of routine. I sat down to dinner cranky last night. My wife noticed, of course. We talked it out.
"How the f*** am I struggling to write an article on one of the busiest news days of the year?" I asked.
We cycled through all the usual worries, the topics familiar to all families: kids, money, health. None of that was truly top of mind. It was obviously tied to the Chinese coronavirus, but how? Then the issue emerged: how are we, as Americans, going to deal with the storm on the horizon? Not the storm we're in, which is insanely bad economically. The bigger storm.
I mean the emotional toll of watching the American death tally spike for weeks on end. We just surpassed 100 dead in the U.S. and the media are still arguing whether the name of the virus is "racist."
That single fact shows how unprepared many Americans are for the coming onslaught.
Many pundits are talking about the effect on the economy, on the presidential race. What about the effect on the people? Not just the generic "public," but individual Americans?
It's one thing to watch deaths happen halfway around the world to our chief geopolitical rival, communist China. It's another to watch death visit a Middle Eastern enemy in Iran. It's quite another thing to see it in Italy, a major ingredient in the American immigration recipe and an essential thread woven throughout our cultural fabric.
Our hubris stood in the way of accepting that our fate was tied to theirs. There are simply too many people bouncing around the globe today. Molecules with manifold valences: young and old with good or poor hygiene, healthy, sick, contagious, asymptomatic. Yet when President Trump halted travel from China in January, the press called him a xenophobe.
I do believe we can "flatten the curve" somewhat. Unlike Italy, we didn't have public awareness campaigns like "Hug a Chinese" (whereby Italians were literally encouraged to hug Chinese people in public) and the disastrous "Milan Doesn't Stop" (a defiant, business-as-usual campaign showing Italians embracing and living it up despite the virus).
Further, the public/private team assembled by the Trump administration is impressive. But even in a best case scenario, we will live through a period when the number of Americans who died in 9/11 will be dwarfed over and over and over for weeks on end.
Hospitals will be forced to take wartime measures. We simply don't have adequate numbers of beds. In New Jersey alone, of 427 cases, 55% require hospitalization. Watching foreign countries struggle to decide who will receive medical assistance is one thing. If we see the specter of triage in America, it will demoralize the country.
President Trump and his administration have come up with some excellent ideas. Just today, it was announced that a U.S. Navy hospital ship, the U.S.S. Comfort, will sail to New York to help in the effort to house and treat the sick. That's welcome news, but it points up the dearth of space we have available.
I'm not a scaremonger. I'm just stating a fact, one that we need to steel ourselves against so we can get back to the heavy lifting of rebuilding the economy once the dust has settled. We must be ready to make America great again...again.
It was fun for awhile. Dunking on screaming leftists, delicious tears, so many memes. Leading idiots into online traps, collecting Twitter blocks like scalps. It was a silly reward, a not-so-guilty pleasure after eight years of Obama. Bull market shenanigans.
That's over now.
Arguing with domestic enemies on social media is a time suck. It's behavior detrimental to the cause. Yes, the people referring to this pandemic as a "boomer remover" are contemptible. Reporters spewing intentionally misleading narratives, squawking over sideshow issues--these are distractions. Their reckoning will come when their loved ones are stricken. They will be devastated, as will we all. They, however, will not have prepared.
It's time to gird for the headlines so they won't come as a shock: "Over One Thousand Dead In A Day" and "U.S. Virus Deaths Reach Another Grim Milestone". It's time to visualize how you'll handle news that a friend has contracted coronavirus, indeed, that someone you know has died. Wake up to a new day, worse and worsening news. Meditate on it.
Visualize those ugly days. How others will react. So when that time comes, you can be there for them.
After days and days of thousands and thousands of fellow countrymen dying, it will feel chaotic, unending. None of which is made easier by foreign governments hacking our Dept. of Health and Human Services website and spreading panic-inducing disinformation online.
There's prepping with plans, food, water, guns (and ammo). I trust that our readers have those boxes checked. There's also mental prepping: looking at and accepting facts to avoid pitfalls such as depression and substance abuse, things that hurt us and our families.
Conservatives hope and pray for the best as we prepare for the worst. Arguments are distractions. At best they vent anxiety, at worst, they consume us: negative feedback loops. Exercise, be it physical or mental, is far better for the soul and the immune system.
Let's imagine for a moment that the virus is somehow eradicated quickly. People stop dying, the spread magically halts. Even if that happened tomorrow, significant damage has been done to global and domestic markets. Not to mention that we are effectively at war with China right now, as this excellent piece by L. Todd Wood makes clear.
Not only does the fiat money economy have no clothes, it's shivering. The house that Bernanke built has termites and a cracked foundation. The most famous coronavirus patient thus far isn't Tom Hanks, it's the Fed.
Yes, markets will eventually move higher, we should see a strong recovery...eventually. That said, and I hope I'm wrong, we won't see the Dow back on a 29 handle for a long time. It's a matter of years, not months. Stay the course.
Sectors such as manufacturing may see a sharp recovery, but the service industry is taking body blows with every passing idle day. When customers return to shuttered restaurants, for example, they aren't going to spend twice as much to make up for lost time. Bailouts and stimulus are crutches, not bionic limbs.
I'm just the the messenger, and I'm saying this out of love: get ready for the toll of casualties. Endure it, love those around you, and we will emerge on the other side of this attack ready to rebuild. Again.
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