With neither a medical nor scientific degree to speak of, I still feel confident enough to say with some authority that things in America have gone sideways on COVID. If you’re getting some real March 2020 vibes, you aren’t alone. Since all of our Thanksgivings were marred with the news of Omicron, and the existential dread of this immune-escaping variant – that happens to also spread like wildfire – has hovered over our collective heads as we waited “to see,” things in the United States seem to have gotten a little … well, hopeless and nihilistic.
Perhaps exacerbating it all has been the utter silence of the American government. Even today, when Biden wanted to give his “stark warning” to the American people, it was no more than three or four sentences, it was not broadcast live on television or any streaming social media, and it included the unsubstantiated claim that if you are vaccinated and boosted you’ll be just fine.
Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised. Even knowing what the Delta variant could do, our government and national public health had their own Mission Accomplished moment back in May – declaring vaccinated Americans good as gravy, boosters “likely unnecessary,” and masks a thing of the past. Before any child under the age of 12 could be protected, they implemented a foolish and sloppy “let her rip, Serg” plan that – for whatever reason – they thought would encourage people to get vaccinated. It was then that they revealed for us who they really are: the same circus that was in before, just with different faces, more clever catch-phrases, and varied ideologies on all the identity stuff. And by the same circus, I mean the one in way over their heads, but – in the end – privileged, beleaguered by American exceptionalism, and careless.
We all know how that went, and while we can quibble about responsibility until the sun burns out: from the Delta surge, the United States came out with tens of thousands of breakthrough deaths, over 1,000 children dead, and even less appetite by, welp, anyone to do anything about it. “Pandemic of the unvaccinated” or not, that is on Biden’s watch. The Biden that held a vigil for ‘400,000 souls lost’ the night before he was inaugurated could barely be burdened enough to have a staffer post a Tweet after the country passed double that just this week.
The truth of the matter is that just as the White House is silent now, the actions then were timed duplicitously in conjunction with several things insidious. Most notably: media and Republican pressure to get rid of masks, and, the beginning of summer. There is no way ulterior motivations were absent here. Among them could have been: of getting Americans back to work well before the September expiration of pandemic unemployment, off-year elections to focus on, to appease Republicans and incentivize vaccines under the pre-dystopian rulebook, and, quite obviously: the economy, baby. The full picture, we may never know.
And yet even understanding that politics and the economy is top priority for the neoliberals in our present-day capitalist dystopian hellscape, many of us continue – weeks later, and as Omicron literally explodes all over the United States – to feel bewildered by the Administration and its total lack of communication on what is to come, and what we can do. To be frank, though, I’m not sure why we should have expected anything different.
The promises made last year of always giving it to us straight, no matter how hard it would be, were lies. The pandemic game plan published to the Biden- Harris 2020 website was just that: a game. It was all talk, all a show; and one that effectively stopped shortly after the inauguration. In reality, besides throwing a lot of money people’s way, “challenging” Americans to wear masks for a couple months, and overseeing the roll out of vaccines (which continues to have bumps and hurdles in many ways), Biden hasn’t really actually done much on COVID.
This is the way things turned out to be for almost everything Biden ran on. Let’s face it: in absence of a robust spending economy and all time low in jobless claims (more likely a product of people either being kicked off pandemic unemployment, or – simply – dying), the Democrats don’t have much to tout this coming election season as having accomplished this first year. Sure, they have their infrastructure bill, and lead pipes being replaced are great and all. But what they have failed to do is glaring: lower prescription prices, substantive climate policy, immigration reform, paid family leave, an extension of the Child Tax Credits, student loan forgiveness, a higher minimum wage, expanded Medicare benefits, Roe codified into law, student loan repayment extension, consistently lower gas prices, a solution for record high inflation, answers and accountability on the insurrection on January 6th, voting rights, a robust COVID 19 testing program, public pandemic preparedness, universal preschool… I’ll stop there.
You may be asking yourself: how? How the hell could we be here? Only a year after elected, the guy who was “made for this role” is watching as America burns, and his entire caucus seems to be standing right there with him.
The answer is simple: we showed them who we are too.
When the Biden Administration and his CDC ripped off the masks in late spring, but people kept dying, we still went to Hawaii in droves. When we learned that Delta infections could breakthrough easily, and that the vaccinated could spread, the phrase “I got my vaccines, I’m protected, I’m tired of feeling sorry for the unvaccinated” became a normalized trope. Within weeks, stories of single moms being infected after being forced back into the service economy made the news. We still demanded our party of 15 be seated inside at Chili’s. When the CDC Director coined the phrase “pandemic of the unvaccinated,” full-knowing the issue was far more nuanced than that and that the unprotected included children and many vulnerable fully vaccinated adults, we lapped it up like dogs and used it to justify 4th of July parties, more vacations, and an obscene amount of finger pointing.
Similarly, as Delta has begun to surge again, and Omicron has exploded seemingly overnight, we’ve still kept spending. We’ve still kept traveling. In one breath public health tells us we’re in for a hard winter, in the next “but enjoy the holidays.” Our concern this winter isn’t whether we have enough ventilators or testing reagents, rather if toys and clothes would be delivered in time for Christmas. If it sounds bananas, it’s because it is; but the Administration is the ring leader, and we are the monkeys they’re feeding them to.
Admittedly, the return of pandemic restrictions are frustrating. Things closing, the expected fall out of a global pandemic – like product shortages and inflation – are annoying. But the more we all complain about it, the less likely Biden is to do anything about it. Because this normalcy: the vacations to Europe, and the ability to cram as many people into the movie theater to see Spiderman as possible, or to sit inside an Applebees and gorge ourselves on chicken fingers… these are the priorities of the American people that matter: the ones spending money, the only thing tangible Biden and his Democrats can show for their time in the majority thus far.
As we stare into the Nietzschean abyss of hopelessness, with a pandemic raging, and some still caring about each other -even those that don’t seem to care for themselves – it’s hard to see much different now than this time last year. I have always said that the Democrats are just another side of the same coin the Republicans are on. But it isn’t so much a coin as it is a side show. A side show in the most hopeless and dark circus that exists.
But hey, at least we can still cope through memes, right?
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