What Would You Say

First of all, before I get to the real subject of this blog post, let’s all agree on one thing. “What Would You Say” is one of the best songs EVER. Of the thousands of songs in my purchased music library, there are only a few where I NEVER skip to the next song when they start playing. This gem by the Dave Matthews Band is one of those songs. If you don’t agree with me, then I think maybe we can’t be friends. Some things are simply too important.

Do those last couple of sentences sound like our modern world of politics? Of course they do. Seemingly every day, we find a new way to explode into further division, and all too often, our President is the one to light the match. The latest such incident occurred when NBC reporter Peter Alexander asked a question that, prior to 2016, would have been considered a softball by anyone on either side of the aisle:

“What do you say to Americans who are watching you right now, who are scared?”

This is what the President said (I listened to the clip and wrote it down):

“I say that you are a terrible reporter, that’s what I say. I think it’s a very nasty question, and I think it’s a very bad signal that you’re sending out to the American people. The American people are looking for answers, and they’re looking for hope. And you’re doing sensationalism.”

So first, analyst of all things that I am, let’s break that down. The President said he would say to Americans that we are all terrible reporters. Well that makes me feel like he’s talking right over my head – I’m not a reporter at all, although I’m sure if I were, I’d be a terrible one. The bad signal thing, I’m not really sure where to start with that – perhaps someone cut off the Presidential limo on the way to the press conference after signaling they were turning the other way.

But then there’s the second to the last sentence, and that’s the one that intrigues me the most. It’s basically restating what Mr. Alexander was getting at in the first place. Many of us ARE scared (even if YOU aren’t), and many of us ARE looking for answers and for hope. So what would YOU say to THOSE people?

Let me rewrite that a second so it’s now clear that I am speaking directly to you, the reader of this blog post: what would YOU say to those people?

What if I asked every adult American with the ability to speak, what would he or she say to scared Americans right now? I would fully expect millions of unique takes on that. But how many would answer with “you’re a terrible reporter”? Is that how YOU would answer? And to be fair, think back to before the actual question was even asked and the actual response was even given – before it would have even occurred to you to respond with “you’re a terrible reporter”. If I were President – a truly horrifying concept for everyone involved, here is how it might have gone down:

“What do you say to Americans who are watching you right now, who are scared?”

“I would say that this virus has offered us an opportunity to do something that seemingly nothing else could – a chance to break through our divisions and recognize we are all Americans, and we are all fighting this common foe. And I would say we have a long way to go before we win this fight – but we will win it. I want the American people to know that their Government is doing everything it can to protect them from this threat, and that it will continue to do so until the threat has been mitigated. We have the greatest health care workers in the world, the strongest medical research community in the world, and the most resilient people in the world. We will prevail, because we are the greatest nation on Earth.”

I even threw a couple of “Murica” sentences in there at the end, because dammit, that’s what many of us want to hear right now. Don’t make us promises nobody can keep, don’t give us specifics nobody can predict, just tell us we’re awesome and we’ll get through this. If ever there was a time for rah-rah speeches devoid of real content, that time is now.

What would YOU say?

Here’s what Dave Matthews would say:

“I don’t understand at best. I cannot speak for all the rest. Every dog has its day. Every day has its way of being forgotten. Rip away the tears. Drink a hope for happy years. And you may find a lifetime’s passed you by. Everyone goes in the end. Don’t cut my life line.”

What would YOU say?

If you a monkey on a string?

That’s a thick string but you get the point.

Ma Ma Ma My Coronavirus

So here I am again, apologizing for not having posted in a while. I’d love to say it’s because my day job is interfering again. But actually what happened is I contracted the coronavirus and succumbed to it. I was THIS close to figuring out what that bright light was, and then I realized I forgot to turn off the iron, and by the time I took care of that, the dimensional rift was closed, and so here I am. Again.

Disclaimer: I did not contract the coronavirus (that I know of), and I did not die (that I know of), and I did not resurrect (no deity would ever agree to that, so I’m certain of that one). I did, however, forget to turn off the iron. Fortunately it has an auto-shutoff feature.

Everybody else is talking about the coronavirus, so I figured I might as well get in on the action. Before I proceed, I need to remind you to take the necessary precautions. Since the coronavirus is all over this article, please wash your eyes thoroughly before reading. Please also disinfect the mouse pointer and individually scrub each pixel on your screen. Please do not let the words in this blog post gather in a public space, and if you’re drinking a martini while reading, please make sure that it is fist bumped, not shaken.

Our world was polarized before this virus hit. And only in such a world could a virus get politicized. There could not be a more apolitical organism (can I even call it that?) than a virus. It will hijack the reproductive machinery of any cell, with no discernment for political party, gender, religion, or predisposition toward pineapple on pizza (boom).

I’ve heard and even made the argument that this virus is no worse than the flu, which has admittedly killed far more people. But the flu is already far more widespread and has had far more time to do its dirty work. I’ve also heard and even made the argument about only 2% of us actually being as risk – primarily the elderly and people with existing health conditions. But therein lies another difference between the coronavirus and the flu: the coronavirus kills a lot more at-risk people. And that alone ought to be enough to convince you that health organizations are not going overboard at all in response to this virus. I had tickets to the Frozen Four College hockey tournament in Detroit, which has now been closed to fans. So yeah, I’m disappointed. But I also have an 89-year-old mother who would probably not survive the coronavirus. Which should be more important? And why should the answer change when we raise it to the level of our entire society? We all know and love somebody in the 2%.

Meanwhile the President is telling us Europe and Mexico are the reasons we have any specks of coronavirus in America.

Instead of lashing out and looking for an enemy to blame (like we do in response to just about everything we don’t like), we should take this opportunity to recognize the real lesson from all of this: our perception of ourselves as the dominant species on Earth is arrogance at its extreme.

In 1897, H.G. Wells’ “The War of the Worlds” was published. You will have difficulty finding a more incredible literary response to two (at the time) fairly recent developments in our understanding of the universe around us: the first detailed map of the planet Mars, and newfound insight into how vulnerable we are to creatures too small to be seen with the naked eye. Wells’ Martian invaders were profoundly more advanced than us, and they quickly pushed us to the point of extinction before falling prey to microscopic warriors.

Viruses are the ultimate suicide bombers. Not only do they not care, they don’t even not care. They’re not even alive. In fact, for something that small and uncaring and unalive, they are remarkably accomplished. I don’t think viruses get enough credit for the impact they’ve had on the world. Perhaps this latest virus is just the embodiment of a protest.

This is nothing new, either. We have routinely fallen prey to things without brains, throughout our history, at rates that make wars look like child’s play. The Black Death. The Spanish Flu. Tide Pods. We like to think we are all that. But we are not even some of this.

And so it shall pass, that we will survive the coronavirus, and eventually even our economies will fully recover, and life will return to its arrogant equilibrium. And then an asteroid will smash us to pieces.

Is that a virus or a rock?