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Red and Blue Make Purple

In all my years, I have never found truthful and factual information so difficult to come by than of late. I would say that I am a conservative by nature – but please note that I am not party lever-puller. I vote by conscience, by candidate policy and platform, and by the record and integrity of the person running, regardless of party. Yes, I know how partisan politics work and I know voting for a red senator and blue congressman may well not work out so well! But I feel I have to vote with my heart as well as my brain. And during this whole virus fiasco, both sides have acted horribly. I am 100% convinced that if this were not an election year, that the BS and rhetoric with which I am buried in daily would not exist; certainly not to the extent it does currently.

The president spends 80% of every briefing trying to blame someone. I guess in a way that while not excusable, it is understandable in that every news report I hear is about little more than finding a new way to accuse or blame him for it all. The finger pointing is reprehensible and useless on both sides. “Facts” are diluted truths at best and any that cannot be manipulated to suit the specific agenda are cast aside – by both sides. It is one giant heap of pre-election posturing with a deadly virus mixed into the middle of it all. Democratic news media (every think you’d hear that term in the USA?) was basically celebrating the market crash as the economy was the one positive point the Republicans were clinging to as a key to their re-election. And the Republicans seem to be inciting (or at least encouraging) protests against shelter in place policies, contrary to best medical advice.

Honestly, I feel that both sides are right and both sides are wrong in most everything I hear. Because there are no absolutes, there is no completely right or wrong position. Because we simply don’t know. But the public doesn’t want to hear “we don’t know” so they do the next best thing: give us their opinion. The problem with opinions though, is that they are built with each person’s unique perspective. And if you’ve read my previous posts over the last year or so, you know my thoughts on perspective.

It boils down to lack of information. There is now a school of thought that this virus may actually have first appeared as early as last September; that many folks have already been exposed – had a mild dose of the flu and moved on. Among people in my social circle, many of them extremely bright and logical engineers, they all feel strongly that they experienced this flu in late December and early January. Not proven yet, but a lot of people believe it was actually here months ago. Which would mean millions more people have either been exposed but did not catch it to any extent such as to cause health issues (asymptomatic) or they had it and recovered and chalked it up to a cold. Either way, it means millions may be staying at home and out of work unnecessarily. Which is a shame but we have no way of knowing who is now immune and who isn’t yet.

They (the experts) don’t know if you can catch it twice, nor do they know if you definitely do get antibodies for any level of immunity at all. Testing to determine if you are actively infected is getting better, quicker, and easier – kudos to whichever party intends to take credit for that. But the problem with that test is that it only tells you if you have been exposed; a negative test result is completely useless the next day as you can be infected by someone on your way back home from the test. But there is also a test to see if you’ve already had it – the antibody test. But apparently that test, or rather, none of the dozen or so varieties of that test, are yet proven to be accurate and thus are essentially useless. It would be great to know if you’ve already had the virus, a mild case or even an asymptomatic case, and that you can’t catch it twice and therefore are safe to emerge and go mingle in society. But we are not there right now. So we wait.

I watch new cases climb, and then I watch them fall, in my mind indicative of a wave, which is how I personally envision this bug – sweeping through streets and towns and then moving on. But by listening to the hyperbole and overdramatized sensationalism on the news, people are terrified to emerge again. To me, logic seems to imply that once the new cases fall, those “out there” in the world have either had or not, but since no one new is getting infected, it must be OK to come out. I mean the people living in shelter are safe because they’ve been sheltered. And the ones “out there” have either been sick and recovered or not, but they are not getting sick. The virus has to die off at some point – right? At some point, those “out there” are not infected and the people who have been inside are not infected, so who can possibly infect anybody at that point? Yes, the virus can live on surfaces for a period of time, but at some point, it has to be dead and gone. Problem of course, is, no one knows where that point is. And the bigger question is – how long do we wait?

Reminds me of the old saying “cure the disease but kill the patient”. We can eradicate the virus with certainty, but our governments will all be broke, our people will be at war with each other, and our society will collapse. Like the emperor’s new clothes, a few daring folks have broached that subject, that perhaps at some point we have to let people to leave their homes and go back to work, knowing that some of them may likely be exposed and possibly become ill. Those that utter this are immediately attacked as barbarians willing to “sacrifice” people at the expense of the economy. Well, the truth is, we never did this before – we never tried to shut down society due to a viral outbreak. Never. We took steps in the Spanish Flu outbreak in 1918-1919, but nothing like this. And that flu killed fifty-million people. Yes – 50,000,000 people, dead. Perspective.

I’ve recited these numbers before, but in 2008-2009 H1N1 took the lives of ~284,000 people globally. In the 2017-2018 season, 80,000 Americans died from the flu – what did we do? Nothing. Most folks barely batted an eye. But of course, it was not an election year. Does that make those people who died during those outbreaks “expendable”? Of course not! Were they “sacrificed” to keep our economy going? Absolutely not! But annual flu deaths are a norm for us; we’re numb to it. It is how our brains rationalize the risks of living to an acceptable level.

This flu is highly contagious and is a respiratory virus – two really bad characteristics. And I am sure the world “freaked out” as people began catching it and dying. The rate of acceleration of cases and deaths was nearly impossible to digest. But then, the world was subjected to an endless stream of non-stop images of hospital corridors lined with sick people, people crammed into room on ventilators, interviews with “first-hand” stories of the horror. But which to believe and which to not? Because so many of the media’s stories were sensationalized, exaggerated, misrepresented, and in some cases – flat out lies.

A video shot in a hospital in Italy was later used again only the second time was captioned and discussed as being shot in NY City – a complete lie used to provide heightened drama and effect in the report of how bad it is in NY. A Tweet of a sobbing nurse who claimed she had quit her job in fear for her health due to insufferable working conditions with no respirator, was quickly discovered to be nothing of the sort – she suffers depression and is bipolar and had not worked in that hospital in over a year. She was caught, but not after her Tweet that CBS news picked up and used on the air, and was re-Tweeted 9.5-million times – including a share by Bernie Sanders. All a lie, all to help propagate more fear. Another guy’s photo was shown on a CNN report on the horrors that the virus had brought to his town; once aired people started texting and calling him to see if he was OK, which stunned him as he knew nothing about the news report. It turned out the picture used to show the horror and chaos was actually taken during an impending hurricane impact a year or so ago; they just “repurposed” it to help make the situation appear more dire than it really was.

And the numbers….NY City added some 3,000 people to the death total because “they probably died of the virus”. Stories are popping up all over of families going public protesting that their loved one’s death was documented as a COVID death but in fact, was not. We are being bombarded with false data, mistruths, and inflated statistics in order to heighten and prolong the panic; continue to crush the economy in an attempt to ruin the opposition’s re-election chances. It is an all-out media war to trash the opponent. This virus is bad enough – no need to pad the numbers.

Not that the other side is any better. Desperate to get the economy restarted, many states are being pressured by the President to ending their shelter in place policies and to go back to work, even though it appears to be too early to do so. Infection rate curves, while perhaps beginning to flatten, continue to climb, as do deaths. The virus is obviously and clearly still active and it is not yet time to do that, yet they the President is pressuring them to do so. In fact, now the Attorney General is getting involved threatening legal action on states that do not lift the restrictions and continue to require their people to stay home. How insane is that? Georgia is opening all the worst possible businesses I could imagine: massage parlors, tattoo parlors, and beauty salons!! Yet their new cases continue to climb.

The reality is that, like most all things in life, the right answer is in between, kind of like that bell curve I wrote of recently. One party is on the “doom and gloom” side telling us to hide in our basements and the other party is off telling everyone “everything is awesome” and to come outside and play. Neither is right and neither is wrong; at least completely. Both sides have a point and at the same time, both sides are off their rocker. We do need to begin emerging. Stanford University, among other sound scientific sources, have been publishing papers that while extremely virulent, it is not the apocalyptical end of days plague we were first led to believe it was. It is far less deadly than we had been led to believe, with many of the latest figures placing it in the exact same range as the “ordinary” annual flu and primarily affecting very old people. In my state, no one under 50 has died from it. In fact, something like 75 or 80% of the deaths have been from nursing homes.

But given the complete saturation of the news media, anyone suggesting people go back to their lives is attacked. Sadly though, the longer we hide from it, the longer the naturally occurring immunity we need to build up will take. We need to examine infection rates, we need to understand risk pools, and we need to assess it at the local level. Washington has absolutely no idea of what goes on in my state, but my governor does, which is why I fully agreed with leaving the control to require sheltering, or not, in the hands of the state. They know better than anyone when they are ready to take their foot off the brake. The question is, which will be motivated by political pressure versus the voice of their people and the well-being of their economy?

Of course, we never truly shut down; we must remember that. Food and grocery workers have remained out there, gas stations, liquor stores, gun stores, home improvement centers, and the like have remained open, deemed as “essential”. Not sure how they made those determinations…but we all became accustomed to some people remaining exposed and at risk and accepted that. But now when we want to let the sheltered folks back out? Outcry!! “You are putting my life at risk just for your economy!!” they cry. Really? What about the poor checkout clerk at the local liquor store you depend on so heavily? No problem with he or she being out there and at risk.

And remember the reason we were given to shelter: not to avoid people from becoming ill but to avoid people from becoming ill all at once – to flatten the curve. But thanks to the media, people have been whipped into such a panic that they now do not want to even consider going out until there is no virus remaining anywhere. And that is just not realistic. People will catch it, people will die, and families will mourn – just like every other flu season. But this time, a preponderance of blame and accusation will be cast forth by the media. This is such complex, convoluted twisted web of deceptions, lies, exaggerations, misinformation, and massaged statistics that we will likely never know how many people really had it, nor how many people actually died from it. Each side will trot their own partisan data to support their claims and neither will be accurate or correct. That is our current reality.

As I ponder all this, I increasingly begin to suspect a nature/nurture predisposition towards this sort of thing; no…not susceptibility to the virus – rather, what one’s perspective will be on it. Some people will believe that the sky is falling and will engage their fight or flight instincts, while others will think it is all overblown and is not such a big deal. I arrived at this just moments ago reading an article on climate change and it occurred to me that, when we not busy panicking over this virus, that we were hotly debating climate change. Half (speaking in generalities here) the people were ten feet off the ground exclaiming that we had destroyed the planet and the end was near and the other was (of course) suggesting it was all hype and the earth is fine. And as I have written many times, those are the polar opinions and the truth lies in between. Yes, this is a virulent and nasty bug, no it is not the end of days.

In all the history of the world, we were provided medical advice on outbreaks and we picked and chose which advice we would follow, or not. What has a lot of people up in arms now is that it has become mandatory advice. There is a fine line between societal freedom – democracy – and a dictatorship. I know, I know…. inflammatory words. But free people need to be ever vigilant of the government taking more control of their lives than is reasonable. It is an extremely difficult and sensitive balance and like all else, the balance point varies from person to person. But I always get a little edgy when I hear my government tell me that they know better about what’s good for than do I. Think of the seatbelt controversy when they were made mandatory. But it made sense; the data clearly proved that seatbelts save lives and once that data was accepted as valid, making it mandatory made sense.

Could you have ever imagined being told you have to stay at home? You can’t go out except for essential items? You can’t go to work? But as it was presented, it made sense: millions will die they told us – millions. You can avoid that if you just listen and stay home. And so we did, most of us…. Oddly, they decided it was acceptable for some to stay out in the world. But we accepted it because it seemed to make sense. Then they closed the churches – they overrode the First Amendment declaring it a national health emergency. And somehow, we accepted that too.

Now imagine getting arrested for paddle boarding alone in the ocean? For walking in a park? They endorse, allow, and permit thousands to flock into Walmart but arrest a single person for floating in the ocean? Yet people accept it – “no, that makes sense” they say, “he violated the stay at home order, he deserves that”. And we accept it. How is it that walking in an outdoor hundred-acre park is unacceptable but 500 people crammed into a Walmart shopping for coffee makers and socks is OK? Every State park in my state is closed – concrete barricades installed in most cases. Arrest is to be expected if you venture inside. You can’t take a walk in the fresh air because someone might breath near you, but Walmart and the grocery store are fine…why, again?  No one, not a single person, under the age of 50 has died in our state from the virus. In fact, nearly 80% of the fatalities here are connected to nursing homes. Parks are not the high-risk areas; beaches are not the high-risk areas – crowded and congested stores are the high-risk areas. But parks and beaches do not generate revenue while big box stores like Walmart and Home Depot do. Liquor stores too – huge tax revenue from liquor sales so they all remained open. Risk versus reward – simple equation. But in this case, our government is making that decision for us. And the hair on the back of my neck has risen.

Believe me dear reader, I know I am all over the place in my posts. And I’m sorry but that is just how it has to be right now; I am truly struggling to reconcile all this; to balance the paranoia and mistrust against the facts and the genuine risk of the virus. The hidden political agenda of both sides that creates actions and policies to either further their mission or to create distraction from the real facts and issues is terribly unsettling to me. And the news media is useless – you have the Republican channels and newspapers or the Democratic channels and newspapers – all carefully scripted to trash and diminish the other side while pedestalizing their side. And again, ultimately the truth lies patiently waiting to be discovered, somewhere in the middle.

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