Saturday, March 14, 2020

What We're Seeing Now: Unmasking of What "Pro-Life Politics and Religion in US Have Always Meant

The photo of grafitti on a wall in Munich is by Peter Kneffel, AP, by way of The Guardian 

I'm continuing to provide information and commentary about the coronavirus pandemic, and, in particular, about the response to it in my country, the United States. I'm doing this because so much disinformation is circulating — "It's just the flu," "All these preparations and precautions are ridiculous panicky reactions infringing on my liberty," "It's a Democratic ruse to re-impeach my president," "It's a foreign virus and a foreign plot to bring my country down," "The death rate is minimal right now and this shows us that the concerns are overblown." And on and on.

I also keep hammering on the "pro-life" matter because it has to be faced: what is happening now in the US is happening as a direct result of the choice of more than half of the nation's white Christians to place Donald Trump in the White House in 2016 — claiming pro-life intent. What we are seeing now is a an unmasking of what "pro-life" politics and religion in the US have always meant, where it has always been leading, what it is always pointing towards.

The utterly repulsive picture we're now seeing of what "pro-life" politics has led to in the US: if we care about our future — if there is much of a future after this — we must not ever allow ourselves to unsee this picture. "Pro-life" white Christians own Donald Trump's life-threatening non-response to a serious pandemic.

Here's my selection of commentary today:

Heather Cox Richardson, "Letters from an American: March 13, 2020":

"'I don’t take responsibility at all."
This quotation, from Trump's answer when a reporter asked him if he took responsibility for the lag in testing for the novel coronavirus, will be in every single history book written about this era.

"'No, I don't take responsibility at all,' he said.
Here are the facts: Trump has reportedly not stressed aggressive testing because he didn't want the number of cases to increase (yes, this is insane); his administration rejected a World Health Organization test adopted by nearly 60 other countries at the end of February (no word on exactly who made that decision or why); and on his watch, former national security adviser John Bolton disbanded the global health security team on the National Security Council and eliminated the post tasked with leading that group after Rear Adm. Timothy Ziemer's sudden exit from the position in May 2018. Former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Bossert, who had been pressing for a "comprehensive biodefense strategy against pandemics and biological attacks," had also been forced out in April 2018. 
Donald Trump and his executive team are actually uniquely responsible for this botched response.

The GOPers and the conservatives who have embraced Trump have enabled and protected a president who will bear responsibility for the death of many of our neighbors, friends, and loved ones, and for an economic nightmare. All this has long been in the making—an outcome of the right-wing project to undermine and vilify government. The country did not reach this point by accident. The right got the diminished government it wanted, led by the diminished president it celebrates and supports. And that is now killing us.

Trump didn't just want to keep the numbers low; he made an effort to see that they stayed that way, all so it would be easier for him to preen on the campaign trail. While this intentional failure to test was underway, so was the spread of the virus across America, now confirmed in all but two states. We don't know how many cases there are. We can't—because mass testing has still not occurred. Containment was always a myth here because of the lack of early response, and now it's utterly busted, no matter what Larry Kudlow says. This failure will cost dollars and lives. Very possibly lots of both. On Trump's watch.

As we begin asking questions about the deep roots of what has happened in this dark kairotic moment of history, one question we need to ask ourselves very seriously: how did we, as a human community, allow the notion to grow among so many of us that the call to social solidarity, to a consideration of how our behavior and exercise of personal liberty affects those around is, is an exercise in fascism.

How did we let ourselves grow so selfish and blind that many of us shout "fascism!" when asked simply to exercise basic precautions to keep ourselves and neighbors safe: avoid social contact as much as possible in a time of active pandemic; restrict our interactions with others to avoid contracting infection or infecting others, etc.? 

How did we permit such asociality to preen itself in the way in which it now preens itself in the way it now does among many of us who are willing to place the lives and safety of our neighbors at risk in order to enjoy our unrestricted personal liberties? It's not that we are selfish. That's a given. 

It's that many of us have now come to celebrate selfishness as virtue. That is not a given. And we cannot and will not build a humane world as long as we permit selfishness to masquerade as virtue.

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