Poor baby wasn’t protected by her parents. We as a people just really suck right now. – Sean Goulding on Twitter, September 10, 2021.
What is wrong with Americans these days, anyway?
According to the latest statistics from Johns Hopkins University, 655,875 Americans – men, women, and children – have died from COVID-19, a novel coronavirus known scientifically as severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Worldwide, 4,611,549 men, women, and children from all social strata, political beliefs, levels of education, and health conditions have died from COVID-19.
This week, in one state – Florida, my home state – 1,280 persons died from COVID.
Three days ago, in Texas – a Southern, Republican-led state just like Florida, only larger – a four-year-old girl named Kali Cook died from COVID-19, the youngest victim of the pandemic in Galveston County.
According to Galveston County’s The Daily News – “Texas’ Oldest Newspaper” – in the article Kali Cook, Galveston County’s youngest COVID fatality, was ‘beautiful’, mother says by staff writer John Wayne Ferguson, Kali went to bed on Monday night, At two in the morning on Tuesday, Kali’s mother, Karra Harwood, noticed the little girl – who “hated bows and liked to play with worms” – had a fever. Five hours later, Kali was dead.
Per The Daily News:
Health officials said they didn’t believe the girl was infected at her school. Contact tracing performed by the health district showed that no students or adults who were in close contact with her had tested positive for the virus, (Galveston County Local Health Authority Philip) Keiser said.
Like all children younger than 12 years, Kali wasn’t yet eligible to be vaccinated. Amid the two-month spike in coronavirus cases in Galveston County and across the country, health officials have pleaded with people to get vaccinated to help protect others against the spread of the virus.
Where did Kali Cook, who was described by her mother as “funny and sassy” and “full of life,” get infected by the virus?
At home, where her mother – who had tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday – was self-isolating in another part of the house with her fiancé to avoid passing the virus to Kali and her older siblings.
The kicker? Karra Harwood was an anti-vaxxer.
Per Ferguson’s The Daily News article:
Harwood and most of the rest of her family were quarantined because of their own COVID infections. She said she and her fiancé were out of work because of the pandemic.
Harwood said she wasn’t vaccinated.
“I was one of the people that was anti, I was against it,” she said. “Now, I wish I never was.”
Another case of 20/20 hindsight, one of so many stories of adult Americans who live in the Information Age, have access to a cornucopia of trustworthy, reliable, and carefully-researched medical data about how SARS-CoV-2 spreads, how to minimize their chances of infection, and – most important – how to get vaccinated – and then choose to scoff at reality for religious, political, or accept as Gospel the pseudo-scientific bullshit they saw on social media or listened to on the TV or the radio (usually from right-wing media stars like the late Phil Valentine, Dick Farrel, and Marc Benier, who died from COVID-19 and were vociferous opponents of mandates over masks and vaccines).
You’d think that 20 years after September 11, 2001, Americans would have learned that “rugged individualism” and “enlightened selfishness” are fine in theory but extremely lousy in certain situations. Our obsession with doing whatever we want, wherever we want, and whenever we want is a huge weak point in our society, and it’s one that conservative politicians and their wealthy donors both encourage and exploit.
I’m not going to delve too deeply into the sociopolitical underpinnings of why right wingers, especially those who are now the superstars of the Tea Party/Make America Great Again movement that saddled us with Donald Trump, Greg Abbott, Dan Patrick, Dan Crenshaw, Lauren Boebert, Madison Cawthorn, and Marjorie Taylor Greene, are the Pied Pipers of the anti-mask, anti-vaccine mandate movements. Suffice it to say that folks like the above-named persons know that many people don’t really care about others outside their own circle of family and friends.
That’s why I get so angry by stories like Kali Cook’s death from COVID-19 at the age of four and the tawdry tale of Erika Casher, the nurse that heckled 17-year-old Grady Knox – the grandson of a retired teacher who had died from COVID-19 – as he explained why he wore a mask and hoped others would do the same to prevent more deaths.
It seems, my friends, that Americans have forgotten what we, as a nation, can accomplish when we have a common purpose or face an existential challenge. We helped win the Second World War and set up the global structures that kept the world from fighting a third global conflict. We contained Soviet expansionism, at great cost in lives and treasure, and saw the Soviet Union slowly collapse under its own weight during the long twilight struggle known as the Cold War.
We listened to a dynamically young and charismatic President when he said we would send a man to the Moon and back before 1970, and by golly we did. We also pulled together – briefly, at any rate – after the traumatizing terrorist attacks in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania that took place 20 years ago tomorrow, and swore we would get the perpetrators of that horrible crime – and we did.
But now, thanks to those who keep on pushing the narrative that all that matters is the individual and the hell with everyone else, that vaccines and masks are an assault on “personal liberty and freedom,” and that the chances that a child will die from COVID are so astronomically remote that they are laughable, we have run into an existential threat that thrives on a divided nation.
When I look at our current national landscape marked by internal divisions along religious, regional, and political fault lines, I remember Abraham Lincoln’s speech of January 27, 1838, at the Men’s Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois:
Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant to step the ocean and crush us at a blow? Never! All the armies of Europe, Asia, and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest, with a Bonaparte for a commander, could not by force take a drink from the Ohio or make a track on the Blue Ridge in a trial of a thousand years. At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer. If it ever reach us it must spring up amongst us; it cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen we must live through all time or die by suicide.
Whether Erika Casher, Donald Trump, or Marjorie Taylor Greene – just three of the many folks who are on the record for scoffing at the necessity of masks to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 – realize it or not, they are proving Lincoln’s words from 1838 to be relevant in 2021.
Or, as cartoonist Walt Kelly’s Pogo said in a 1970 environmentalist poster, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”