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How We’re Living: It’s Not Dark Yet, But It’s Getting There

David Phillips

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A little over two weeks ago, my life was barely affected by the Coronavirus outbreak. I work in education as a manager of teachers who hold in-person classes for students taking standardized tests. On Friday, March 6, the first university in one of my markets (the University of Washington) cancelled all on-campus classes.

By the middle of the following week, nearly all other schools had followed suit. The week after that, it WAS all of them. Since we hold many of our classes on college campuses, this forced my company to move all of our teachers and students to the online platform as well.

Since me and my wife work from home already, the series of closures, travel advisories, and now – as of Thursday for us – full lockdowns haven’t impacted our lifestyle that greatly. We have work to do – at least for now – and our dogs couldn’t be happier to have us home ALL the time. In the short term, we will likely save money by not eating at our local Indian joint twice a week.

Probably the strangest thing for us is simply not having the option to go out for things other than essentials like food and medicine.

We are not fools, though. We know the longer this goes on, the more at risk we, and everyone else, become. It’s not just about getting sick. While that’s certainly a concern (as someone who was visiting family in the ground zero territory of Seattle less than a month ago), the truth of the matter is that more people are likely to go bankrupt from the virus than die from this debacle.

While my work is conveniently situated to give me the best chance to stay healthy, I do not work for a company that provides essential services. Like most of us, my income depends on the discretionary spending of others. And if you believe the reports that are coming out of the more respected newspapers and web sites, the impact on our economy due to business closure is going to be devastating. One site suggested our GDP may dip as much as 24% next quarter.

What that means is even if you do the right thing by staying in as much as possible, washing your hands like a fiend, and avoid touching your face, you still may not fully survive the virus. While I would urge anyone with a 401k to hold tight and look away from their account balance, at least that’s money you are counting on for later. If you are a server, a retail worker, or someone living paycheck to paycheck, this shit is real for you right now.

All of this would be less terrifying if it were happening during a time of competent leadership. And if you’re still wondering if we have that, I’m here to tell you: we don’t. With every trip to the podium, the president makes it clear he is overmatched in every way: by the science, the media, and the facts. He is far more worried about how this crisis makes him look than by what it is doing to the people he supposedly represents. Namely, us.

We are currently being visited by two national disasters. COVID-19 and Donald Trump.

To be honest, I’m surprised it’s taken this long for our luck as a country to run out. Donald J. Trump has lived a life of incredible good fortune the last four years. Think about it: the Republican Party was too splintered to stop his ascent; he survived (with apparent ease) the Access Hollywood tape; the Democratic Party put forward the most unpopular opponent in polling history to run against him; he inherited a growing economy from his predecessor at a relatively peaceful time; and finally, thanks to cowed Republicans in the House and Senate, escaped removal from office despite his many impeachable offenses.

His run of luck ended with COVID-19. He now has a flatlining economy, a plummeting stock market, and a deadly pandemic in his tiny, incompetent hands. People are rightly afraid to shop for groceries and walk the streets. I think this is the end for Donald Trump.

The sad fact for those of us who didn’t vote for him is that it appears the price of his likely downfall will now come out of our pockets. And for those who did support him? They are about to find out that the cost applies to them, too.

There was no reason not to see this coming. Trump never hid who he is. A vulgarian. A flim-flam man. A barely literate member of the lucky sperm club who was born with way too much money, and way too much confidence.

A fool.

Still, with the help of the electoral college, Donald Trump became president despite his nearly three million fewer votes. Again, what amazing luck.

The sad fact is, while the virus itself isn’t Trump’s fault, his devastatingly incompetent response is. This man actually reduced our testing capacity to keep the numbers down. He made no plans to increase the number of masks and ventilators on hand to help care-givers and the afflicted. Most significantly, in 2018, he fired the entire pandemic response team created by the Obama administration.

We simply never had a chance with this guy.

So, how are we doing here at home? Right now my wife and I are watching a Metroplitan Opera presentation of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin. We are sheltering in place. We have canceled a birthday dinner for my mom so as not to put her and my dad at risk. We have postponed a visit from my father in law until a safer time – whenever the hell that might be.

In short, we are okay. But I live in full knowledge that it’s going to get worse – likely much worse – before it gets better.

As Bob Dylan once said,

Well, my sense of humanity has gone down the drain

Behind every beautiful thing there’s been some kind of pain

It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there.

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