Let Them Eat Masks

Hard to imagine one news cycle completely capturing the existential “reducto absurdam” of our self-infected times. How America’s tone-deaf, tin-ear and tin-pot elected, appointed, self-appointed and anointed “influencers” mirror the “winners take all” culture they serve starting with its virus twins: lethal socioeconomic inequalities and omnipresent COVID-19. 

Within twelve hours and seven time zones of each other, the mountain toppers and America’s material-complicit Valley Girl, Instagram-posting in the shadow of rising death counts, diverged on market capture while coinciding on message release. Davos-based, World Economic Forum oracles predicted violent shock revolutions unless urgent, re-stabilizing structural reforms reverse embedded inequalities of wealth, mobility, opportunity, access to quality healthcare and environmental justice, under a one-size fits all rule of law.   

On discordant cue, the White House sequel  featured the current President’s “first daughter” with plus-one, twenty-funding industry mavens in tow launching its “Find Something New” advertising campaign (website & virtual roundtable). SNL producers and late-night comedy hosts could only envy and marvel at such alternate universe timing flattening lifestyle curves with relevant job creation verve and swerve. (The White House’s “Find Something New” – Associated Press).  Echoes of Stephen Sondheim’s 1973 “Send in the Clowns” Broadway hit ballad’s lyrics of regret, “Isn’t it rich? Isn’t it queer? Losing my timing this late in my career? And where are the clowns?  There ought to be clowns… Don’t bother they’re here”. 

Nothing succeeds like perfect timing juxtaposing galactically morality-separated worlds. Three plus million infected Americans, others still mourning their 140,000+ (at the time of this post) family members needlessly dead and sacrificed, buried, or cremated in solitude without any mention of their names from the presidential bully pulpit.  Refrigerated trucks in Texas and Arizona warehousing corpse overflows from morgues.

“Find Something New” is “do as I say, not as I do-ism” word made flesh.  The ensconced top-down instruct over forty million, huddled mass unemployed, trickle-down survivors, to go long, go wide, go deep and “go fish”.  Fabled, unfortunate Marie Antoinette of French Revolution fame in 1789 could not have miscued the moment better before she lost her head.  

If only the trillions spent on healthcare in a country so obsessed with making sure the most vulnerable can’t access any had managed to drop some coin on heavily predicted and expensively modeled “PREPO” – pre-positioned pandemic PPE (masks, gowns, gloves, respirators). In a world where punishments fit respective crimes in theory, imagine the job creation connectivity between tracing and tracers, testing and testers or a universally accessible and affordable vaccine administered by those trained and deployed to do so. 

If only sanctified wise-heads, predictive modelists, visionary seers around corners, anyone in confirmed ascendency other than the doomsday constituency, had stockpiled and prepared for biomedical threats that fly through the air and breeze through walls, borders, gated communities, cramped prisons, Navy ships, school yards, and nursing homes.   Piercing the political bubbles of elected officials refusing to wear masks while practicing the finer arts of “monkey see, monkey do” deals.  “Shoulda-woulda-coulda” in dying color.

A nation drastically short on inspiration needs much more than respirators to combat a combination of coronavirus industrial and societal decomposition aligning with the putrefying stench of acrid hypocrisy.   This in a country where, according to www.inequality.org, “CEO pay has jumped over 900% during the past four decades” while “typical U.S. worker pay is up 12%” over the same timeframe. This in a country where “ten percent of American adults own 84 percent of the nation’s stock” and where the “richest 1% now account for 70% of all unpaid personal income taxes”.  

This in a country downgrading legislative renewal of pandemic unemployment benefits from the rate of $600 per week because if offends the unnatural order overseen by predatory political and business elites in a neoliberal financialized hierarchy that can’t meet its own daily payroll or even fake quarterly returns without expensive lobbying assistance. Tough love capitalism for those at the bottom asymmetrically coexisting with benevolent socialism for those at the top. $600 per week during pandemic death and infection surges characterized as unearned benefits by corporatist rent seekers skilled at manipulating massive public treasury wealth transfers to themselves.  

Will incoming world disorder nostalgia help to cement the culturally and economically disenfranchised and then discarded, Bannon’s so-called “untouchables, deplorables and hobbits”, more securely in their politically commoditized places? Trends, fortunately, are not positive.  

To quote George Bernard Shaw (with gratitude to UK union-cooperative movement leader, Alex Bird), “A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul. It’s simple. If you’re poor in any way you are Peter. You’re being robbed. You not only have a reason to hate your government, you should. And if you’re wealthy, unbelievably wealthy, you’re Paul. You have no reason to hate your government. You love your government. You support your government.  But frankly, you (and your government), should be very, very afraid of Peter.”  

In “Trying Something New” without first actually stepping through the “America First” Looking Glass, how could pandemic lockdown unemployment benefits not exceed the meanspirited and precariat full-time take-home pay of too many frontline workers risking their lives to serve privileged and inherited, passive wealth classes deliciously social distancing?  Especially when COVID-19 surge rates are going through the nation’s collective roofs requiring urgent homeowner mortgage and rental assistance to forestall pandemic evictions?

Sometime during the first half of the nineteenth century with the French Revolution ending and Napoleonic France beginning, that country’s literary icon, Honore de Balzac, wrote, “Behind every great fortune lies a great crime”. Who knew he was talking about stolen, subverted, hacker-outsourced, and quid-pro-quo-offshored elections seeding the godfather’s 45th presidential administration” with an entire “made” political party rushing to pucker-up, “leave the gun – take the cannoli”, and kiss the ring?   

Evidently, this is a time of bending and distorting history to fatten wallets and egos, to inject out of context propaganda benefitting power dealers and servicing conspiracy theory addicts with enough synthetically powdered, pixie-dixie dust to drug the next electorally abused victims’ cycle. Like Pogo’s revelation, “we have met the virus and it is us”. 

A different reality greets the countries that get the pandemic right.  In these unobtanium lands,  the status quo heavens and seas start to part, the earth’s classist tectonic plates shift, and downtrodden peoples begin to sense the sweet perfume of freedom by ending endless workplace exploitation.  

Back in the Kingdom of Oz, the world’s self-proclaimed, manifest destiny, indispensable nation remains locked and chained down in front of zooming and teaming digital screens with nowhere safe to go domestically and no foreign borders open to MAGA medical outcasts. Americans fighting doom-scrolling stare at forever animated, GIF-loop restaurant fortune cookies aphoristically and digitally parroting, “no healthy economy without healthy people”, and wonder loopily what it means.