Covid Metamorphoses #50 – Chickens

It didn’t have to be this way, but somehow you knew it was always going to be this way. The situation we find ourselves in now–more infections than we had back in March or April, but everything opening up instead of closing down–was avoidable. Nearly every other country on the planet has handled this crisis better than the USA.

The problem isn’t Donald Trump. The problem isn’t even Mitch McConnell, or Brian Kemp. This isn’t some new development. This is a case of chickens coming home to roost. Because increasing profits through cruelty and violence and neglect has been The American Way for some time now. You can argue it goes back to the very beginning, when we genocided the Native Americans because we wanted their valuable land, or we enslaved Africans because we wanted their valuable labor. How many people died last year because they couldn’t afford health care? This is a country that values the fiscal health of its health-care industry more than it values the physical health of its people. This is a country that does nothing about impending environmental catastrophes because it might reduce this quarter’s profits and jeopardize the rate of return going to their investors. This is a country that is willing to let people get sick and die from drinking poisonous water if it means they can make some money.

There are no repercussions for the powerful, no punishment, no accountability. An article appeared this week about Jared Kushner’s White House Coronavirus Task Force. Remember that? He convened a bunch of CEOs and financial wizards and college ex-roommates, a team of people who, in the words of one participant, “get shit done. ” Guess what? They haven’t done shit. But at least they tried…oh wait.

Most troubling of all, perhaps, was a sentiment the expert said a member of Kushner’s team expressed: that because the virus had hit blue states hardest, a national plan was unnecessary and would not make sense politically. “The political folks believed that because it was going to be relegated to Democratic states, that they could blame those governors, and that would be an effective political strategy,” said the expert.

Someone should go to jail. Someone should be fired. Someone should resign in disgrace. Someone should at least take responsibility? Or even apologize? Admit they were wrong?

Not in this fucking country. A lot of people in this country decided a long time ago that it didn’t give a shit about the ethics or morality involved in running this country. If something provides the illusion of security, if it allows people to believe a soothing truth instead of confronting an uncomfortable lie, then people are happy to go along to it.The Bush administration tortured people, detained them, and many, many other illegal things (the invasion of Iraq would be one). To the rest of the world, George Bush and Dick Cheney, like Henry Kissinger, are considered war criminals. But not here. Oh hey, do you remember Maher Arar? I’ll link to the Wiki entry on “extraordinary rendition.”

Maher Arar, a Syrian-born dual Syrian and Canadian citizen, was detained at Kennedy International Airport on 26 September 2002, by US Immigration and Naturalization Service officials. He was heading home to Canada after a family holiday in Tunisia. After almost two weeks, enduring hours of interrogation chained, he was sent, shackled and bound, in a private jet to Jordan and then Syria, instead of being deported to Canada. There, he was interrogated and tortured by Syrian intelligence. Maher Arar was eventually released a year later. He told the BBC that he was repeatedly tortured during 10 months’ detention in Syria—often whipped on the palms of his hands with metal cables. Syrian intelligence officers forced him to sign a confession linking him to Al Qaeda.

Seems a little harsh, but you can’t be too sure about these things. I wonder what happened next.

He was finally released following intervention by the Canadian government. The Canadian government lodged an official complaint with the US government protesting Arar’s deportation. On 18 September 2006, a Canadian public enquiry presented its findings, entirely clearing Arar of any terrorist activities. In 2004 Arar filed a lawsuit in a federal court in New York against senior U.S. officials, on charges that whoever sent him to Syria knew he would be tortured by intelligence agents.[US Attorney General John Ashcroft, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge and FBI Director Robert Mueller were all named in the lawsuit. In 2009, a U.S. federal appeals court ruled that U.S. law did not allow victims of extraordinary rendition to sue U.S. officials for torture suffered overseas.

So when federal agents grab people off the street in Portland and illegally detain them, please don’t say thing like, “This is America. We don’t do this here.” Or even, “What is happening?” The only un-American thing about it is the police have (so far) eventually let the people go. This isn’t Nazi Germany. It’s America. It’s always been America. Go ask Joe Hill. Go ask Fred Hampton.

The only reason America exists at the moment–in some respects, the only reason it’s ever existed–is for wealthy people to make as much money as humanly possible. To the people in charge of this country, the only freedom that matters is their freedom to make, and keep, as much money as possible.  Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, and Elon Musk have personally accumulated $115,000,000,000 during this pandemic, and Congress approved a $694,000,000,000 discretionary spending budget for the military next year that includes building more bombers/ships/etc.

Philosophers through the ages have asked, “Why are we here? What is our purpose on Earth?” Well, if you’re a working American in 2020, the only reason you are here is to provide labor so the wealth that labor generates can go into somebody else’s pocket. End of story. Anything that impedes that process, or even slows it down for a few months, is a problem that needs to be solved. And the people in charge of the USA have decided the best solution is for them to stay home and you to get your asses back to work. The sickness and death that will result from that decision isn’t their problem. Hell, it’s not even a problem. It’s just the cost side of a cost-benefit-analysis, and I’m sorry to inform everyone that the cost of your death doesn’t outweigh the benefits of your labor.

Some days I follow this argument down a darker road, until I stumble into ideas about eugenics and controlled genocide. I’m not sure I’m willing to give the people in charge that much credit. Much like Bush-9/11 theories, it presumes a level of competence and coordination that, given the people involved, makes it hard to be 100% certain.

There’s a NYT article today about a school in Indiana that re-opened this week. Within hours they had to start quarantining people after a student tested positive. The community has no idea what to do.

One father whose daughter goes to the middle school with the positive case said he felt conflicted about his three children attending classes in person. Few people in the community are wearing masks, said the father, who asked not to be named because he worried that his family would face backlash.

“I have all these concerns,” the father said. But he has to commute at least an hour to work every day, so remote learning was not a good option for his family.

“It’s just a mess,” he said. “I don’t know what the answers are.”

The article didn’t provide any answers, but if you’re reading, Unnamed Father, let me tell you what the answers are.

1) Suspend all loan payments, including mortgages and rent, until the pandemic is over, and add the payments onto the back end of the loan.

2) Pay people to stay home.

3) Divert spending on military and police towards social resources.

4) Institute a temporary crisis tax on the ultra-wealthy to offset spending.

5) Don’t worry about the stock market.

Within a month, you could start reopening things–gradually, carefully. A month or so later, you’d start to see a spike in cases again. In which case, you reinstate steps 1-5. This continues until we get a vaccine.

But if you did that, people might see government as a thing that helps people, an important entity that provides a service. And the people who run this country–the plutocrats, and the politicians who do their bidding–would rather die than see that happen.

Well actually, they’d rather see you die. But I think you get my point.

About ScottCreney

Scott Creney lives in Athens, Georgia. He is the author of "Dear Al-Qaeda: Letters to the World’s Most Notorious Terror Organiztion".
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