The coronavirus is the most vocal, candid, and knowledgeable whistleblower in American history. It has exposed in stark and incontestable detail the malfeasance of our government, in particular its intended neglect of our so-called social infrastructure and, by extension, the negligent killing of thousands upon thousands of Americans and counting. The proof is as grisly as it is relentless, broadcast twenty-four hours daily on each of the corporate news outlets—but never described as it has been here. Historically, we have responded to unflattering revelations such as these with an almost animalistic umbrage, unleashing our indignant disdain on the bearer of bad news instead of the scoundrels at the center of the story. Such a reaction is doubly tempting in this specific instance, as the coronavirus cannot speak a word in its own defense. Nevertheless, we would do well to take a deep breath and ask ourselves if here is offered an opportunity to learn.
Unfortunately, no race of people, no sect of religious extremists, have ever resented education as passionately as the American people. Americans have made a single contribution to the chronicle of man: they have demonstrated the obesity of spirit, complementary to the obesity of body. Ergo, they look upon every activity, every endeavor—not as an exercise, but as an encumbrance . . . yet, while the lethargic American might express respect for, albeit only through incredulity towards, a physical feat, the same staid glutton despises any intellectual exertion. “Why do you inconvenience me with this nonsense, this junk? Can’t you see I have more important things to do?” The American cannot turn down enlightenment quickly enough, preferring the ensconcing darkness of deliberate ignorance.
There, in the jetty folds of unknowing, one doesn’t have to answer antimonious and inconvenient questions. Here, in the spacious uncertainty, several come to mind: “How can the government tell people not to go to work and simultaneously compel them to pay taxes? How can the government permit landlords to demand rent of tenants who are legally prohibited from entering the workplace? How can the government forbid foot traffic while permitting interstate travel, including by air? If the airlines are exempt from emergency laws mandating the shuttering of ‘non-essential’ business, then why have the wealthy leaders of that industry received cash assistance from the government? If it is unsafe to enter somebody else’s house, then why are people who are wearing no protective equipment delivering food to as many customers as will order it? If it is dangerous for more than ten people to ‘gather’, then why are the people of Wisconsin voting in a presidential primary?”
The apex of tyranny is not fascism, but incoherence. In the last three weeks, our leaders have issued conflicting, baffling commands in a feeble attempt to restrain the damaging effect of COVID-19. Arguably the most dumbfounding measure has been the Democratic National Committee’s license to stage its voting contests despite the government’s inexorable instructions to stay home as often as possible; if not, then it must be the DNC’s pursuit of this license, despite abundant opportunities for embarrassing press. Alas, the DNC has multiple powerful and compliant allies in the corporate media, all of whom have overlooked this story of blatant hypocrisy and potential illegality. Today, one had to scroll to the very bottom of CNN’s home page to learn that Wisconsin was even hosting a primary, to say nothing of the attendant controversy. CNN blamed “local Republicans” for their demand that the primary proceed as scheduled, an excuse which, if accepted, would not exonerate the DNC for its acquiescence, much less its now-forgotten decision to host primaries in three other states on the seventeenth of March.
Viewers of the Overwritten Report will recall that those elections afforded neoliberal mouthpieces time to champion Joe Biden, the Democratic Party’s ineluctable nominee, and to castigate Bernie Sanders for actively campaigning. The problem, as these party loyalists and apologists saw it, was Sanders’s interference in Biden’s coronation, a fait accompli that was somehow symbolized in the coronavirus’s barriers to voting. Noticeably, the same people calling for an abridged primary today had, less than two months ago, called for a brokered, protracted convention—but only if Sanders entered as the leading candidate. Of course, they said nothing of Sanders’s true moral crime, which was his obsequious silence on the inanity, inequity, and injuriousness of staging a primary in the midst of a pandemic. No informed witness could look upon this scheme and call it democratic, any more than the DNC’s tilted primaries of 2016.
Still, one might inquire of the benefit in hurrying these doomed contests along when the threat to public health is almost as clear as the inevitability of Biden’s victory. Will this haste really better Biden’s prospects in the general election? Perhaps not, but the possibility of a miniscule advantage, regardless of how nebulous, no matter how remote, is much too appealing to be passed over by the insatiably opportunistic DNC. Why should the DNC—an organization, mind you, and not a human being—lament the preventable infection and death of a few thousand people, especially if the pile of corpses poses an obstacle to Trump’s re-election campaign? The choice couldn’t be clearer, nor could the corollary: the Democratic Party doesn’t care about the people it claims to represent.
We never would have had this exceptionally resonant piece of evidence without the coronavirus. Our notion of a benevolent government and well-intentioned representatives has proven incredibly tough to discard, but if the footage of people standing in line to vote in Wisconsin does not nudge us, then what will? Certainly the moral and ideological failings of our preferred politicians cannot dispel our collective illusion . . . perhaps the coronavirus will help us understand the depths of our sickness?