Thursday, May 21, 2020

Where are the poor people?

Yeah, seems like years this has been going on.  Back in the day, when we were young an innocent, news broke that a killer virus was being reported out of China.  At that time, keen news watchers heard something about this and Trump and travel restrictions to China and racist immigration policies.  But at the time we were caught up in WWIII, which Trump had started back when he murdered an Iranian military official. So things were a bit muddled.

As news picked up, and WWIII turned into the biggest flop since Mars Needs Moms, the press began to turn its attention to this killer virus.  What was it?  What did it do?  It appeared it was something that was super contagious, that would spread as soon as you breathed, could infect an entire room of people, and everyone would die.  Almost overnight, predictions of Bubonic level carnage were flying around the headlines, with visions of hundreds upon hundreds of millions infected around the world, tens of millions dead, and in America alone the deaths were predicted to be in the millions.

That will grab your attention.  Almost from the beginning, there was a song and dance about Trump, doing too much, panicking, not enough, killing people, backing off and trying not to be political, hysteria, just go to the Chinese parade, we're all going to die, wear masks, don't wear masks, something, everything, nothing, who knows? 

And then somehow things settled in.  We realized millions were not going to die, thank God.  We realized it was more complex than 'killer virus kills everyone all the time.'  We began seeing trends, albeit  sparsely since the national press settled into the habit of repeating over and over two stats to the exclusion of almost any other details;  deaths and new cases.  The second stat being almost useless since it could have to do with the scope of testing, which itself has been all over the place in terms of effectiveness and scope.  

As government leaders, at the prompting of health officials, began to take drastic measures by shutting down businesses and various industries, many began to panic.  The market plunged, and almost overnight we were told to expect a new Great Depression.  As the death count climbed, many embraced whatever means possible to stop this, including a totalitarian police state equipped to arrest anyone and everyone breaking the quarantine.  Rod Dreher, champion of religious liberty, approved that message.  Many others did as well. 

We began seeing memes calling us the next Greatest Generation, our healthcare professionals the new heroes hitting the beaches of Covid-19 to save the world, and endless stories featuring people in their homes finding ways to cope with the horrors of being home, often in upper middle class and high end, three story homes and estates.  

As things unfolded, there was one noticeable vacancy in all of the news stories.  Somehow, we heard about the unemployment numbers and Great Depressions and all, but we weren't seeing the stories about the actual people being harmed by the numbers.  We heard in the vaguest of ways that the economy was being hurt, and sometimes how this might impact the November presidential elections.  But the particular stories weren't there.  That is, those special Eye on America stories that zero in and put a face on the suffering.

In terms of the actual Covid virus, we had those stories in plenty.  Doctors, nurses, patients, yoga instructors, CEOs, celebrities - those who contracted the virus were given entire news segments, their plight unpacked, their suffering chronicled.  Heartbreaking stories of healthy young people suffering with the infection were repeated often.  Those who died, especially if they were first responders  or medical pros, were also given the spotlight.  Day after day we saw and read touching accounts and tributes to those who fell to the virus, or at least were infected, with horror stories relating just how terrible this sickness can be (bonus points given for those who downplayed the virus and then came down with the sickness).

And yet, almost nothing about the poor.  Day after day we saw stories about police giving parades for kids who missed their birthday parties, people putting golf balls off their foyer balconies, celebrities and comedians enduring the loss of an audience to bring out their punditry, upper middle class teens canvasing their neighborhoods, stars singing songs for the graduating class.  Touching stuff.  But nothing about those poor.

Oh, we hear about the poor in other times, so I know it can be done.  I remember in the 80s, when Reaganomics was kicking off, the press never seemed to go a day that it didn't find someone who was falling through the cracks.  The economy might be booming, but here were all those who weren't feeling the love.  Same thing last year.  Many days went by without mentioning of the economy.  When it was mentioned, however, we were often treated to anecdotal stories about those who weren't keeping up with this mega-recovery we were seeing.  No matter how much better things seemed, the press always appeared capable of finding those who weren't beneficiaries of this robust recovery.

And yet, for all the time the press has to cover the latest virtual graduation party or pet stunts filmed for Youtube, it doesn't appear capable of finding stories about those who are suffering, losing their savings and finances, slipping into poverty, facing hunger and even losing their homes, as a direct result of the shut downs and social distancing measures.   In all this time, I've seen one segment - on CBS This Morning a couple weeks ago - focusing on the rural poor losing their government aid and unable to put food on their table.  Beyond that, I've seen almost nothing.  Only the most general references to unemployment numbers, but nothing connecting the suffering by direct line to the measures being taken to combat Covid-19.

In the meantime, we now know there will not be deaths by the tens of millions worldwide.  We know there won't be deaths in the millions here in the USA.  This is good.  We also know that the virus has certain patterns, though we don't know the extent of what it does and how it strikes.  There have been stories about getting it twice, or causing complications among children, but these are not clear yet.  The science, in all honesty, has been more wrong than right in its guesses about this since the story first broke. 

We do know that sweeping, blanket umbrella measures don't seem to match the results.  New York City implemented near draconian measures and yet it, along with New Jersey and Boston, accounts for almost 50% of the deaths in the US.  Meanwhile California, only days ahead of New York, has had proportionately small numbers.  In that State Up North, the numbers have been far worse than here in the Buckeye State.  Despite Michigan having far more harsh and intrusive restrictions.  A full 1/3 of all deaths are from nursing homes and similar care facilities.  A single prison in Ohio has contributed a massive number to the total cases.  So there appears to be trends we could focus on and perhaps find more targeted ways of reacting to the viral spread. That way we could balance fighting the virus with making sure extreme, and possibly ineffective, measures won't create serious crises down the road.

We have the stories about the virus to encourage people to do whatever to stop it. And yet, virtually no focus on those poor being hurt.  No news stories showing the inner city slums, with the single parent stuck in a one bedroom loft, no heat or air, no income, only the stimulus check that may or may not have come yet, no food, nothing.  Instead it's those happy people showing how they're learning to cook or to play the ukulele as ways to endure the untold terrors of being stuck in their upper class homes.  Just like we never hear about thousands of Blacks murdered in a given year, unless we can pin it on White racists.  Or the needs of a woman making a sexual assault accusation suddenly matters just when it can be used against opponents of the political Left, and not a minute before.  A devilish trend to be sure. 

So it's not surprising that many see those concerned about the lock-downs and closed economy as nothing other than heartless bastards who don't care if babies die, as long as they can get back to the beach and the hair salon.  After all, they're not being fed a daily diet of 'poor starving and the future deaths due to shutdown' emphasis the way they are 'if we don't stay shut down, we're all going to die from the coronavirus' narratives.  And that's the response from the ones who are in good faith trying to grope around and find the best way to handle this crisis and balance how to ensure as many are protected from all sides as possible.

Those who have jumped on this from the beginning to score political points, or hope that the suffering and death lasts until November, are given a godsend.  With virtually no attention paid to the detrimental side of our anti-Covid measures, they are free to exploit the media narratives and memes, repeating the same one or two stats over and over, and insisting that those who even mention the economy are just greedy killers willing to throw the least of these under the bus so they can go bowling again.  Oh, and they're probably racists, too. 

Sure, there has been ugly on the other side.  Extremism begets extremism, and as those jockeying for unchecked measures to fight this despite the changes in models and predictions dig in their heals, those on the other side have become more extreme.  To some, you'd think there was nothing big about 90K dead in a matter of a couple months.  In any time in history, it's been appropriate to meet such challenges with some level of sacrifice.  We won't even get into those who have begun embracing the culture of death attitudes about the sickly and elderly, essentially donning their best Ebeneezer and saying since they were going to die anyway, they had best do so quickly and decrease the surplus population. 

But all of this is being argued because a key problem with the measures used to combat this - the shutdowns - has set up an economic crisis that could easily bear bitter fruit in the months, if not years, to come.  If the liberal narrative is true, and economics is a pro-life issue since poverty breeds disease, hunger and death, then all we're doing is robbing Peter to pay Paul in terms of what we're doing.  If the press was to focus on those who are losing everything and slipping into poverty now, much less in the future, it might yank the discussion away from the extremes and allow people to have a mature debate based on facts.  If we were to see daily stories about this or that particular individual who has lost everything, is on the verge of poverty, and facing health problems and crises down the road, it might shift the debate. Unfortunately, we have almost nothing to go by since beyond the latest Zoom party and two stats repeated daily, the press appears quite silent. 


  1. The degree of abuse of the most vulnerable in our society by those who often claim they are the most caring has been sickening. The only people treated worse were old people in retirement homes in New York. I work in a grocery store and the taped announcement of "we're all in this together" just gets bitter laughs.

    1. One of the great scandals of our age is the ease with which we've been trained to only see human suffering as important if we can exploit it. The press has done this as part of its manual of style. Too many Christians have jumped on board.


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