“There are decades where nothing happens, and then there are weeks where decades happen.”- Lenin
“No war is over until the enemy says it’s over. We may think it over, we may declare it over, but in fact, the enemy gets a vote.” — General George Mattis
As it stands, our country is currently in the throes of an extended attack on our homeland. An attack being levied by, for all practical purposes, an alien enemy invasion.
This alien enemy is immune to all of our guns and firepower and military might. Invincible against our tanks and F-18’s and Seal-Team-Sixes.
It has now successfully infiltrated our borders, built up its forces, and is waging a multi-front war across all of our cities and towns.
This alien enemy has no discernable politics or ideology. Its mission is as singular as it is all-consuming; to feast off as many human bodies as possible.
There will be no retreat or surrender. There will be no treaties or prisoner exchanges or rules of engagement.
The enemy is as ruthless as they are indifferent, preying upon the weakest among us: the infirmed, the sick, the old, the vulnerable.
During this first wave of the invasion, our doctors and nurses are our only soldiers prepared to fend off the attack. They are guarding the castle, fighting it out in the trenches.
We are still only in the opening salvos of this onslaught and our frontline soldiers are already getting beaten back. Trying desperately to hold the line while the full force of the impending attack swells up on the horizon.
Many of these brave soldiers will inevitably fall victim to the enemy’s blows. They will be taken off the front lines without any replacements.
And most distressingly, they are woefully ill-equipped to defend themselves against the alien horde. The enemy breached our perimeter defenses before we were ready and so they were forced to enter the fray ill-prepared and under-equipped.
These frontline soldiers’ only mission now is to hold off the enemy’s advances long enough for the cavalry to arrive. The calvary being the scientists working tirelessly to build a weapon that will prove effective against the invaders. Drugs, antivirals, antimalarials, antibiotics, vaccines, anything that can help neutralize the alien offensive. These white-coated troopers locked in a deadly race against a doomsday shot-clock.
The fate of the country hangs in the balance.
— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —
America is straddling a pivot point in the course of our history. A moment where the next months will dictate the course of the subsequent decade. One misstep here, one overstep there, and the tracks of that decade could be irrevocably laid down. Our history set.
Paradoxically, even though most of us are well aware of what a perilous time it is, the red-alert buttons and warning-signs feel like they lack a raw, emotional component. We know a pandemic is ravaging the countryside and cityscape, and yet, it does not have the same visceral impact of an attack by a foreign nation or a natural disaster. It’s not registering on our nerve endings in enough of a way to feel like the extreme economic measures taken to control it are justified. We’re being told that in order to save our country, we need to sit at home, scroll Netflix, and watch our bank accounts bottom out.
This inability to accurately assess the risk this pandemic poses is precisely what makes the enemy so formidable. It preys upon a trap door in our psychology that prevents us from appropriately responding to threats that barely register on a standard microscope. Prevents us from all rallying around a singular cause.
No fight-or-flight hormones released. No chest-beating and war chants. No photo-ops on aircraft carriers or smoldering rubble. No pandemic themed country ballads. No American flags from your balcony or car window.
It’s just doctors and nurses trying to keep people alive while lab geeks armed with Petri dishes race for a cure. And you, well you’re just trying to avoid everyone at the grocery store.
And this is the problem. While some parts of the country are preparing for the apocalypse, some others are convinced that this is all just media-induced hysteria, and still more just can’t be bothered to try and understand what’s going on at all. This kind of thinking is precisely what makes a pandemic so dangerous and difficult to guard against. The risk models change daily. The predictions are always in flux. And if you only start reacting by the time the visual clues are manifestly known, by the time dead relatives and failing hospitals become a gruesome reality (i.e. the planes hit the building), it’s already too late.
This couldn’t be more evident in the literal case studies going on in real-time around us. Countries that saw the alien enemy for what it was and got out in front of it (Germany, South Korea, Singapore) vs. those that didn’t (U.S., Italy, Spain). Here we have quantitative proof of just how unforgiving that shot-clock is when it comes to prepping for and battling this disease.
And yet still even today, we have governors and mayors in this country who are letting precious seconds dwindle away. Who are gambling with their own citizens’ lives while ensuring that their healthcare workers will be put under greater duress and strain. While higher up, we have a federal response that seems to more concerned with sniffing out political points by dangling treats in front of disease-ravaged states. Demanding fealty pledges from supply-strapped & desperate governors; ventilators, if and only if, you bend the knee.
And so if you are looking for something to make this pandemic feel real, looking for a beachhead to anchor your anxiety, you will find it in the following sentiment. That our entire way of life very well may hinge on the extra hours that our country’s biology wonks spent in the lab and the library while the rest of us were busy doing keg-stands at the Pi-Phi formal.
It’s the acknowledgment that all of our quarterly-earnings-reports and airline-mileage-admiral clubs and “December-to-Remember” sales events have been made impotent and meaningless in the face of this alien invasion. And it has the potential to remain meaningless for the foreseeable future unless a small group of dedicated scientists and doctors and nurses and mechanical engineers can beat this already depleted shot clock that was placed in front of them. A shot clock for which precious seconds were needlessly and selfishly drained because our own government failed to recognize the seriousness of the clock in the months prior.
So this is what is at risk. These are the decades happening in the next weeks. If the soldiers on the front line can’t hold the enemy back, if the alien forces siege the castle walls, if our calvary can’t get there in time, and if our healthcare system gets overrun, the consequences could be catastrophic. A chain reaction of lethality that is hard to comprehend. Numbers of dead piling up on hospital cots and ice skating rinks turned into makeshift morgues and bulldozed-out mass graves where your grandmother’s body gets discarded because the grave-diggers are all sick and the crematoriums have been overrun.
— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —
What does this mean for us average Joes and Janes sitting at home? What is our country asking of us in this moment? To do everything in our power to add as many seconds as you can to the shot-clock. To give our soldiers and cavalry more time. Time for large-scale testing and mass production of ventilators and personal protective equipment and antibody testing and all the rest to get online so we can start making decisions based on real and credible data and so our doctors and nurses don’t have to die in the meantime. It’s getting the desperate extra days they need to keep the enemy at bay.
To do otherwise, to open up the economic floodgates too soon, will be to ensure that the disease inevitably spikes again. To send people back to work before our hospitals are caught up and our testing is online and comprehensive, would mean nullifying all the sacrifices so many have already made, economic or otherwise. It would mean putting us back in this same position three months from now and invariably worse off. It would be to spit in the faces of every doctor and nurse risking their lives while simultaneously abandoning the most vulnerable and weakest among us to the wolves. As if to say to the alien invaders, “Go ahead. Have at ‘em. They aren’t worth it to us anymore.”
You might say I am being hyperbolic or dramatic. You might proffer up the odd epidemiological model or news report that shows this virus might not be as big of a deal as everyone is making it out to be and that the real estimates are significantly lower than the 2 million first ventured. Or you might think that the rural states should have to suffer the sins of the denser cities or that economic damage will be worse than the human cost.
And to that, I would say simply, perhaps. Perhaps the consensus amongst experts is wrong. Perhaps the projections are off. Perhaps a country globally notorious for its crumbling healthcare infrastructure and a population beset by obesity, heart disease, and diabetes will somehow fare better than Italy and Spain. Perhaps with a few extra masks and ventilators, this will all get handled, our graph lines will start plateauing, and we’ll all get back to work soon. Perhaps there is far more time on the shot-clock than we realize.
But thank god our healthcare professionals and researchers aren’t relying on that “perhaps”. “Perhaps” is a luxury. It’s a privilege of those who aren’t worried about the lives of their parents or grandparents or little brother with asthma, all of who are so casually being thrown about on the Coronvirus roulette board by select politicians and media pundits. “Let’s just throw it all on Red and see what happens. I’ve got a good feeling about this.”
Yes, we know the stakes are high. Yes, we know people are losing their jobs and their livelihoods. But the punditry and politicians insistence on dollars over lives, on the cure not being worse than the disease, rests on top of the most incredulous and misguided of all the “perhaps”. It’s a “perhaps” that forgets you can’t dictate a timeline to a disease. Forgets that the enemy still gets a vote.
The president is absolutely correct that we are at war, yet somehow we have all forgotten the most sacred American military creed we have; nemo resideo…Leave no one behind.
And so these are the stakes precisely. This is what we are up against.
There will be no do-overs. There will be no resets.
To fail to bend the curve now means letting an untold number of citizens unnecessarily and intentionally die on our watch.
In three months it will be too late to change course. In three months, the enemy will have already voted for us. In three months, the next decade will be decided.
In the next weeks, decades will happen.
How many seconds will you add back to the clock?