Alan Zendell, February 28, 2020
Mother Nature has a way of punishing hubris. It’s happened many times throughout history, and it may happen again if we keep ignoring the advice of scientists and medical professionals.
When I lived in the Northwest I was awed by Mount Rainier and its sister volcanos. But I didn’t fully appreciate why the native Americans who lived there before Peter Puget discovered the Sound built a religion around them until I saw Mount Saint Helens explode. The Indians understood that those hypnotically beautiful mountains had the power to disrupt their lives and completely alter their landscape.
Our current leaders understand it too. It’s naïve to assume they don’t. The problem we face as a nation and an international community is that personal greed and political ambition too often come ahead of the common good. Regardless of what they say to appeal to their ignorant base, our leaders know the threat climate change poses. They know South Florida and the Mississippi basin in Louisiana will be underwater in our lifetimes, and coastal cities like Houston, New York and Boston will look like Venice later this century – but the social and economic consequences will neither occur on their watch nor affect their personal fortunes.
Thus, we have this Orwellian war against science and reason. Windmills are bad and coal is good. Immigrants are bad but Neo-Nazis are fine people. Melting polar ice caps threaten the flow of the Gulf Stream, while melting permafrost releases methane and God-knows-what-else into the atmosphere. Rising temperatures and sea levels are hoaxes. Tax cuts are good, but providing health care for Americans at a reasonable cost is bad. And while we’re at it why do we spend a fortune on the NIH and CDC, who waste tax dollars preventing things that will never happen here? We’re not one of those shithole countries. We’re building walls and withdrawing from the world community.
What could possibly stop this juggernaut of ignorance and stupidity? Maybe a microscopic, dumb little virus. Maybe it was a mistake to tell our allies to fend for themselves. Maybe it wasn’t smart to show the rest of the world they couldn’t count on us anymore. It’s possible that without America’s ability to mobilize vast amounts of resources quickly and provide the kind of international leadership no other country can, that we’ve condemned the world to a pandemic that we’ll be paying for in lives and lost prosperity for decades.
There’s no worse scenario for the outbreak of the novel coronavirus than for it to have occurred in a city of eleven million people in China. The Chinese government always suppresses information about anything that might make it look weak. Chinese physicians who understood what they were treating tried to speak out and were arrested. Thus, a dangerous virus with a fourteen day asymptomatic incubation period is spreading. Epidemiologists say it will be impossible to contain.
When only the health of average citizens was at stake, our leaders didn’t care enough to act. Responsible people at the CDC and WHO insisted that we needed qualified feet on the ground at the source of the infection if there was any hope of slowing it down. But Rush Limbaugh declared that the new coronavirus was just a bad cold, and our president couldn’t tolerate a situation that might interfere with his re-election. But he and his advisors failed to anticipate that fear of the virus might cost him his strongest asset, our booming economy.
World markets including our own crashed this week. The Dow Jones average fell by more than eleven percent, taking all those vaunted 401K’s with it. Trump must have soiled his pants, but even then he couldn’t display real leadership. Today, while he stood before television cameras pretending this would all be over soon, and people like Anthony Fauci spoke the truth into the same microphones, our stock market suffered the worst point drop in its history.
As the truth emerged that the CDC was hamstrung by its gutted budget, and we learned that only 200 coronavirus test kits had been allocated to California, where one County alone needs 8,400, Donald Trump finally acted. He put VP Mike Pence in charge of containing the outbreak in the United States. That’s the same Mike Pence who, as Governor of Indiana, when told by the CDC that the state had to begin a needle exchange program to combat the worst HIV epidemic in the country, responded, “I’ll pray on it.” Then Trump took a page from Xi Jinping’s book, announcing that all statements by qualified medical researchers would have to get Pence’s approval before they could be released to the public.
Mother nature works in mysterious ways, but she always wins in the end.