Part 2: Reframing Humanism During a Time of Crisis by Randy Best, NoVES Leader
Just as Humanism needs to center the Human in its framing, our National response to the Coronavirus Pandemic needs to center the Human as well.
While falling short in many ways, America is responding in ways that have not been seen since the 1918 H1N1 Influenza Pandemic. Americans are practicing Social Distancing and Sheltering at Home. Many businesses are closed and many are working from home.
These responses to a Pandemic are not new. They are new to almost all of us living today. These responses are also an example of Americans acting for the collective good.
Some people choose to ignore these restrictions. Most choose to abide by these new social rules.
Examples of selfish hoarding are over shadowed by acts of consideration extended to friends and neighbors. People looking out for each other, taking care of each other. These examples of human concern and generosity encourage me and help mitigate the stories of a health system in crisis.
The heroism of health care workers carrying on knowing that eventually they too will become infected is inspiring. People who work in Grocery Stores and other necessary services continuing to go to work, knowing that they are putting themselves at risk.
I do my small part by staying home and reflecting on how my life, and the lives of those around me, has changed, morphed into something that I am trying to wrap my mind around.
The Coronavirus Pandemic is eating up my mental bandwidth. Taking over my anxiety box, displacing the Climate Crisis that formerly filled up so much of my mental space.
The Coronavirus Pandemic can’t fully displace another resident of my anxiety box, concern over a corrupt and incompetent Trump Administration, because these issues are now so fully intertwined.
Just as the election of Donald Trump led to exposure of America’s racist underbelly.
Just as the Climate Crisis revealed the consequences of Capitalism’s excesses – the blind pursuit of wealth – and growth without limits – without regard for the planet and those left behind.
Now the Coronavirus pandemic reveals the political short-sightedness, greed, and incompetence of the Trump Administration and his enablers in the Republican Party.
I have a president whose concern with how a pandemic would affect his re-election, caused him to ignore the advice of his own health officials, and postpone mobilizing federal resources to address the problem. This delayed action has cost, and will continue to cost, human lives.
Until just a few days ago our President was talking about re-opening the economy after Easter.
On March 23rd President Donald Trump said that he wants to reopen the country for business in weeks, not months, and claimed, without evidence, that continued closures could result in more deaths than the pandemic itself.
"We can’t have the cure be worse than the problem," Trump told reporters at a briefing Monday, echoing a midnight Sunday tweet. “We have to open our country because that causes problems that, in my opinion, could be far bigger problems."
Make no mistake here, concern for the economy means that Wall Street is not making any money. The concern is not for the small business that are going under because they can’t stay open or people put out of work by sheltering at home policies who can’t pay their bills.
John Auerbach, president of the nonpartisan Trust for America’s Health, said widespread illness and death also have a powerful economic impact that’s impossible to ignore or play down. “If you don’t flatten the curve and minimize those who are getting infected, the amount of sickness will cripple business.”
On March 25th Trump Tweeted:
The LameStream Media is the dominant force in trying to get me to keep our Country closed as long as possible in the hope that it will be detrimental to my election success. The real people want to get back to work ASAP. We will be stronger than ever before!
Trump and his sycophants have asked us to sacrifice ourselves for Trump’s re-election and to save Capitalism.
We are now reaping the results of the increasing commodification of our lives, of human life, of life on this planet.
Trump walked back his idea to open everything up after Easter. He is now talking about continuing shelter in place policies for months and anticipating 100,000 to 200,000 American deaths from COVID-19.
Most pandemic experts in the Trump Administration are talking about a toll that is significantly higher, 400,000 or more.
Still, I am stuck with a president whose thinking is still at least a week behind the rest of us.
Expect to see Trump’s announcements about the duration of shelter in place timelines and COVID-19 death estimates to increase over the coming weeks to become more in line with CDC projections.
But wait, yesterday President Trump circled back again. Slate Magazine reported yesterday that…
Even as Trump warned of the problems ahead for the country and vowed that the government would use “every single resource we’ve got to keep our people healthy, safe, secure and to get this thing over with,” he also suggested he wanted a quick end to the social distancing measures. “We have to open our country again,” Trump said. “We have to open our country again. We don’t want to be doing this for months and months and months.”
Health officials continued to urge Americans to take social distancing seriously. “I want to actually just plea … to the American public, you know, as sobering and as difficult as this is, what we are doing is making a difference,” said Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “So we really need to continue to do that.”
The article continued, Trump once again continued pushing hydroxychloroquine as a potential treatment for the coronavirus and even suggested he could start taking it as a preventive measure. “If it were me — in fact, I might do it anyway. I may take it, okay? I may take it,” he said. “And I’ll have to ask my doctors about that, but I may take it.”
Leadership that goes against the advice of Health Care Officials in his own administration, endangers lives.
Joseph Stalin, is reported to have said: "One death is a tragedy. A million deaths is a statistic."
Contemplating so much human tragedy, so much death and a health care system stretched beyond its capabilities shakes my foundations. I am also afraid that I will become numb to it all.
The response of Trump, his Administration, and far too many elected officials is to place “the Economy” at the Center. It is to center “Corporate Interests” above “Human Interests”.
Centering Corporate Interests over Human Interests is reflected in the Congress’ $2 Trillion Coronavirus Rescue Package signed into Law by President Trump on March 27th.
It represents a compromise between House and Senate interests. Between Human and Corporate interests.
As a compromise, it attempts to strike a balance between Human Needs and Corporate Greeds.
Provides $560 Billion in relief for Individuals ($1,200 for some of us and unemployment benefits can really add up)
- Provides $560 Billion in relief for Individuals ($1,200 for some of us and unemployment benefits can really add up)
- Provides $500 Billion in largely unrestricted relief to Big Corporations
- $377 Billion to Small Businesses
- $339.8 Billion to State and Local Governments
- $153.5 Billion for Public Health
- $43.7 Billion mostly for Education
- $26 Billion to enhance the Safety Net
Much of the economic relief included in this legislation amounts to continuing the policies of Trump’s tax cut for the richest Americans, more Socialism for the wealthy while sacrificing the rest of us to the so-called Free Market that is more and more out of reach.
NPR reported that: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, described the legislation, known as the CARES Act, as necessary emergency relief and vowed to put partisanship aside to get it done.
"No economic policy can fully end the hardship so long as the public health requires that we put so much of our commerce on ice," McConnell said in a speech on the Senate floor. "This isn't even a stimulus package. It is emergency relief. Emergency relief. That's what this is."
I have a feeling that Big Corporations can expect an additional windfall in the near future.
I need to see real leadership at the top. I need to see a plan to beat COVID-19 and it just isn’t there.
Misinformation abounds. That much of it emanates from the President and his Fox News echo chamber makes it so much worse.
I am morbidly fascinated by those who pick up on this misinformation and obtain drugs falsely touted as Coronavirus cures that often come with dangerous side effects.
Amanda Marcotte wrote in Salon:
So why are so many people so eager to get their hands on drugs that are clearly dangerous and may do no good?
The most immediate reason is simple: The people rushing the pharmacies are Republicans, and both Donald Trump and numerous Fox News personalities have told them these drugs are a "game-changer" that can save them from the coronavirus.
But there's a reason these false or unproven claims are resonating with the ordinary citizens of Trumpistan. The hope that there's a hard-to-get miracle cure that will save them speaks directly to the poisonous social Darwinism that guides modern conservatism.
It reflects deep hostility to the very concept of a shared public good and a fierce attachment to a racialized ideology of individualism that treats public goods such as health care as things to be hoarded by those with the privilege, money and status to do so.
Conservative ideology simply doesn't allow for the possibility that anything, including pandemic management, is best managed with a "we're all in this together" mentality. Instead they're drawn to this fantasy that there's a Platinum Member COVID-19 status that can be purchased, which will allow them to opt out of the suffering of the plebeian class that has to quarantine or risk sickness and death.
Somehow, the knowledge that people are being conned into looking for miracle cures does not make me feel any better.
I waiver in and out of closing my mind to the reality before me, as it is so terrible to contemplate. And I know that I am among the lucky ones. I have the resources to get by. If, when, I get sick, there are several factors in my favor. Many are a lot less fortunate.
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted:
"COVID deaths are disproportionately spiking in Black & Brown communities. Why? Because the chronic toll of redlining, environmental racism, wealth gap, etc. ARE underlying health conditions."
"Inequality is a comorbidity," she added. "COVID relief should be drafted with a lens of reparations."
If the impact of the Coronavirus Pandemic is likely to be extreme in the richest nation in the world, I shudder to think of how it will play out in developing countries.
I avoid despair by maintaining connections with others. As conditions worsen, I will look to others, to support each other thorough our grief.
How do I center Human Interests and Human Needs as I struggle to find a way forward?
I look to others who are centering Human Needs as they look toward navigating the Coronavirus Pandemic. Plans that Center Human Needs are out there.
The Poor People’s Campaign produced one such plan. It has 6 points and calls for:
1. Immediate, comprehensive and permanent paid sick leave for 100% of employees for this pandemic.
2. Immediate health care for all, including 100% free COVID-19 testing, treatment and quality care to all, regardless of income, age, disability, citizenship or any other factor, and including the uninsured.
3. A guaranteed and adequate annual income / universal income, including rapid, direct payments to all low-wage and temporary workers, from grocery, fast food and delivery workers, care workers, and pharmacists, to other workers who remain on the front lines and are severely underpaid.
4. A national moratorium on evictions, tax foreclosures, rent hikes, and a national rent freeze. This includes an immediate halt to encampment sweeps and towing vehicles of unhoused communities. Federal resources must be directed to local and state governments towards opening and preparing vacant and habitable buildings, properties and warehouses to house and provide adequate care for all people who are homeless. This includes ensuring education, food assistance and health care for homeless children and provisions for medical testing, treatment and respite for the homeless.
5. Debt forgiveness for medical debt, student debt, water, utilities and other forms of household debt.
6. Protections for our democracy and the right to vote with expanded opportunities to vote during this crisis and an expanded census to ensure every person is accounted for.
These six points are not the whole solution. They could become a Human Centered part of the solution. The $2 Trillion CARES Act falls far short of achieving these six proposals. It goes part way on one or two of them.
Political change is necessary to move toward achieving Coronavirus Pandemic solutions that truly focus on Human needs. Until then, political compromises will make limited progress.
What can I do? I can overcome my apprehension and inertia, connect with those around me more for better self-care and strengthen my connections with communities of concern, with all of you, with NoVES. I believe that we can get through this together.