Here is what I fear right now (other than being told I have COVID-19 and that unfortunately, someone more important needs a ventilator at the moment, so please go home and suffocate surrounded by your loved ones). I fear trying to get somewhere I need to be, maybe to a elderly relative in distress, and running into this:
“Sir, I need you to stand over there. Right there. Sir? Sir? I am asking you to stand over there. No, not there. There. Yes, there. This area is closed. Sir? I’ve asked you several times. Sir? I’m not going to ask you again. Sir? Thanks for your co-operation.”
And so on.
The speaker is usually a soldier or a police officer, often a kid with a gun and a set of orders and no discretion to make exceptions. You could collapse in front of him, and as your last breath rattled out, he would ask you to please stand over there. No, not there. There.
Any reporter with experience covering ugliness will recognize that conversation instantly. Given my temperament, I’ve had it more often than most. On a few occasions, it’s ended with a gun cocked under my nose.
Granted, Canadians are not there. We are restricted, not locked down like the citizens of some other countries. But ugly is on the move, and it always arrives sooner than anyone expects. The Canadian military is poised for deployment, to help cope with its arrival.
Anyway, about the soldier who tells you to stand over there: I actually understand it.
Everybody has a story or an excuse when things get bad, and you can’t let kids in fatigues with guns decide whose story earns a pass and whose doesn’t.
The safest thing for a high official to do is devise rules for the stupidest among us, and give them to law enforcement to enforce. Because the stupidest are the ones who are going to do stupid things. They already are.
We should be thankful, though, that Canada doesn’t have the liberty/superstition cult that’s become such a lethal stupidity threat south of our mercifully closed border.
All over the southern U.S., governors and mayors are resisting sensible safety measures, citing the trinity of American gospels: evangelical Christianity, unshackled free enterprise, and rugged individualism.
Donald Trump’s bootlicking thralls at Fox News Channel for weeks mounted a co-ordinated effort to downplay the pandemic, scorning science, as did Trump himself. Almost certainly as a result, drunken spring breakers in Florida turned themselves into COVID-19 vectors, spreading disease and death. As did many others. Belief in the seriousness of the pandemic actually breaks down along partisan lines. Seriously.
Some evangelical leaders are still holding church services, because liberty and Jesus. Jerry Falwell Jr. contemptuously ordered his fundamentalist Christian university in Virginia to reopen last month. Soon, students began showing COVID-19 symptoms.
A legislator/pastor in Idaho is insisting his congregation assemble, decrying social distancing as a government plot. Other religious leaders have done the same, much like the Bishop of Zamora defied civil authorities during the 1918 flu pandemic in Spain, urging his flock to kiss religious idols. Go read about how that turned out for Zamora.
The pious fool who runs the Hobby Lobby chain of stores has reopened some of them, declaring “We can all rest in knowing that God is in control.”
A theory: some of these people have been panting for this all their lives. They believe that when the end of days arrives and the tribulations begin and death spreads, that their god will pluck them from Earth so they can watch it all from their tailgate party in the clouds. They WANT this to happen.
Charming, isn’t it?
For the record, In principle, I believe the liberty/superstition cultists have the absolute right not just to infect one another, but to hang around malls licking the handles of shopping carts if they want. The trouble is, they don’t all wear Fox News t-shirts or red MAGA hats, which would at least identify them and allow sensible people to run in the other direction. And we don’t all have disinfectant wipes to sanitize the cart handles.
Oh, and who appears to be in charge of the U.S. COVID-19 response? Jared Kushner, who has now taken to holding White House briefings, while the hapless Vice-President Mike Pence, who is nominally leading the effort, stands by, sternly bobbing his head.
When this happens in tinpot dictatorships, the world laughs. Gulnara Karimova, the daughter of Islam Karimova, the late president of Uzbekistan, was, among other things, the country’s permanent ambassador to the UN and senior government advisor, when she wasn’t being a glamorous model or a businesswoman (sound familiar?). She was an object of universal mirth and ridicule.
And yet, Republicans think it’s just great that their president’s daughter and son-in-law are helping run the country. Imagine? Your very health and life depending on Jared Kushner? Or, for that matter, on his father-in-law, who in the middle of a pandemic brag-tweets about the huge ratings of his daily briefings?
Anyway, here we are, our world shrinking, battered by a virus whose objective allies are trying to stupid us to death.
It’ll be interesting to see what happens when Trump’s legions start running into that soldier who wants them to please stand over there. My guess: some of them show up with assault rifles, waving that weird coiled-snake “Don’t Tread on Me” flag.
The Trump administration has, after all, designated gun shops essential businesses.
Heaven help my sensible American friends. But that border needs to stay closed.

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