I’m happy to debate Tony Martel on the coronavirus.
I will start out by noting that I have been a critic of liberalism and global free-market capitalism for the past twenty years. So there is nothing about this particular crisis that comes as a surprise to me. It has exposed many of the flaws that I have been concerned about for years.
As with deadly tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and other sorts of predictable natural disasters, pandemics have always been one of the most serious threats to the human race throughout history. The Spanish Flu killed more Americans than all the wars of the 20th century combined. We were overdue for a major pandemic. It was inevitable that a major pandemic would collide with our globalized economy with its just-in-time manufacturing system and supply chains stretched all across the world and with our bloated and highly leveraged financial sector. It was inevitable that a major pandemic would collide with the unsustainable gig economy and our ridiculous and unaffordable health care system too. As I pointed out in the last article, the Trump administration literally ran a simulation that predicted it would happen last year and that 586,000 Americans would die in a pandemic.
It is true that the United States has dealt with plenty of deadly diseases over the past century. I’ve already noted how we eradicated malaria, yellow fever, polio, measles and smallpox which used to cripple and kill millions. I have also noted the success of our public health system in coming up with treatments for HIV, a vaccine for H1N1 (swine flu) and containing the spread of SARS, MERS and Ebola. In light of this track record, I tend to have far more confidence in our public health system to deal with coronavirus than in conspiracy theorists and random nutters and cranks on the internet. Each of these diseases presents its own unique challenge and threat. HIV is a sexually transmitted virus that can be countered with condoms and anti-retroviral therapy. Zika was carried by mosquitoes. The Spanish Flu was an influenza. SARS was a highly lethal respiratory disease. H1N1 was a highly infectious influenza but it wasn’t particularly lethal. Ebola is an extremely lethal haemorrhagic fever, but it isn’t highly infectious like H1N1. As for the Black Death, we now know that it was a bacterial infection that was carried by flea infested rats.
COVID-19 is highly infectious like H1N1 while being a more moderately lethal and thus deadlier version of SARS. It destroys the respiratory system like SARS and can attack other vital organs. It is spread by asymptomatic carriers and can incubate for up to a month. It is the worst kind of virus to deal with because it doesn’t burn itself out like SARS or Ebola and it can spread like H1N1 while killing and crippling far more people. Unlike the flu, it doesn’t appear to be a seasonal virus either. It is rapidly spreading in the tropics. The flu is an influenza while COVID-19 is a new type of coronavirus like SARS and MERS.
The actions taken by governments all over the world reflect the unique nature of the threat posed by the virus. COVID-19 swiftly overwhelmed the hospitals in Wuhan which is why China locked down a city larger than New York City and welded people inside their apartments to contain the virus. When even that wasn’t sufficient to contain this escape artist, China locked down dozens of cities over and half the country in February to smother outbreaks in other areas. South Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan all swiftly developed testing and sophisticated surveillance and alert systems and imposed quarantines to contain the threat. The virus devastated Italy and Iran and has forced Spain, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Honduras, Venezuela and Argentina and many other countries to impose national lockdowns. The European Union and Russia have closed their borders. Even Justin Trudeau closed the borders of Canada.
I haven’t paid much attention to the conspiracy theorists. I don’t know what nonsense is circulating on their websites, but the idea that this virus is specifically about Donald Trump and the Democrats and America’s dysfunctional politics is laughable. This is a global pandemic that every country in the world is dealing with right now. Mortal enemies like Iran and Saudi Arabia agree it is a serious threat to the health of their citizens. If the United States sunk into the ocean tomorrow, the rest of the world would still be dealing with the problem and making the same kinds of difficult choices. Extreme actions are being taken to save the health care system because no nation has herd immunity and there isn’t a vaccine. So far, most of the people who have died from the virus are not even Americans, but it looks like that is about to quickly change. Russia and Iran are authoritarian states. Are Canada and the United Kingdom authoritarian states? What exactly unites Venezuela and Saudi Arabia with Germany and France?
There ISN’T any global conspiracy. No politician or government in the world wanted to shutdown their economy to deal with COVID-19. It was either that or the alternative which is to let the virus spread like wildfire, destroy the health care system and kill millions of their citizens while also destroying the economy anyway and their political careers in the process. Are we supposed to believe that there was a secret plot to tank the stock market and the global economy and wipe out trillions of dollars in wealth? The truth is that our own government and elites were blindsided by the virus, which they hoped would just go away “like a miracle,” and that it has upended their plans and now they are scrambling.
Natural disasters have always happened and killed small businesses. Hurricane Michael flattened Panama City. Hurricane Katrina wiped out the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Shit happens and we deal with it and move on. Sometimes in life we have to make difficult choices and cut our losses. In this case, the virus is an invisible enemy. It is only killing people. It is not causing catastrophic physical damage like an earthquake, a tornado or a hurricane. In those types of natural disasters, it is psychologically easier to accept loss.
It is not “cowardice” to take shelter during a tornado or to get out of town during a hurricane or a devastating flood. Similarly, it is not “cowardice” to isolate yourself and your loved ones during a pandemic. It is foolishness and stupidity to throw your life away for nothing during a natural disaster. It is selfishness to spread a lethal virus in your community during a pandemic. It is prudence to avoid unnecessary actions which could harm others. We are commanded to love our neighbors, not to be a narcissistic jackass and a liberal ideologue who would rather see people die than be momentarily inconvenienced.
It is not too much to ask to wear a mask in public as a courtesy to protect others during a pandemic. It is not too much to ask to go fishing instead of going to the bar or to go for a walk or exercise at home instead of going to the gym. There is nothing stopping those who are concerned about the impact of the shutdown on small business from financially supporting their local businesses. It is possible to stream religious services on your smartphone or to educate your kids at home. It might be a good time to repent and to study the Bible during a plague. It is possible to order takeout from restaurants. It is possible to pay your barber or mechanic in advance. The economy will come back, but the lives that are unnecessarily lost and put in danger due to your own individual self absorption won’t come back.
Don’t be the stereotype of The Ugly American who indulges in arrogance, ignorance, foolishness and paranoia and who spreads conspiracy theories and fake news and seeks attention with publicity stunts about the tyranny of quarantines only to get sick or transmit the virus to others in your community. It is not a good time to draw attention to yourself whether it is from the authorities or the Lord. It will also only end up putting some nurse or doctor in danger during a pandemic. Your liberty will still be there when the crisis is over as it was after the Spanish Flu pandemic. Try to be a good neighbor and citizen for once.
Note: The virus doesn’t have a race or political party. It is an equal opportunity killer.