“We have it totally under control,” Donald Trump said.
It was 22 January, and he was asked in public for the first time about his worries about the coronavirus.
“It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control,” he said. “It’s going to be just fine.”
As with anything said by Trump, it remains unclear if he was lying, under-informed, or uninterested in becoming so. (Or all three.) And as in so many other instances, Trump’s lies and/or carelessness have had disastrous effects.
The first time Trump tweeted about the virus came on 24 January. “It will all work out well,” he reassured us. He followed up again a few days later.
On January 28, he shared an article from the unreliable One America News Network that suggested Johnson & Johnson was working on a vaccine. The article no longer exists, presumably because it was false.
The next day, he announced the creation of a taskforce led by Alex Azar, the health secretary.
“The risk of infection for Americans remains low, and all agencies are working aggressively to monitor this continuously evolving situation and to keep the public informed,” it explained in a release.
The day after that Trump touted that there were only five cases in the US.
Meanwhile, he continued to explain how closely he was working with China on the coronavirus “a new thing that a lot of people are talking about.”
“Hopefully it won’t be as bad as some people think it could be,” he said.
On 31 January, he banned non-citizens who had recently visited China from entering the US. “We pretty much shut it down coming in from China,” he told Sean Hannity a couple days later.
As February began, the administration reportedly declined to begin using tests for the virus produced by the World Health Organization.
A month later, asked about what to do about a cruise ship docked off of California with confirmed patients, Trump said “I like the numbers being where they are. I don’t need to have the numbers double because of one ship that wasn’t our fault.”
That’s the beginning of a piece I wrote for the Guardian just now trying to walk through all of Trump’s lies about the virus stretching back to January. It was impossible to include them all. Read the rest here if you like.
I can’t decide if blogging right now is more useless than it typically is or if it’s finally important because everyone is at home with nothing to do? Obviously shit is fucked right now for a lot of us but any of you who are in a position to do so and could subscribe to help keep me and Michelle afloat for a while would be greatly appreciated.
Here’s a Dylan Thomas poem I just yanked out of a dumb green book I had in a box in my too quiet apartment.
The Hand That Signed The Paper
The hand that signed the paper felled a city;
Five sovereign fingers taxed the breath,
Doubled the globe of dead and halved a country;
These five kings did a king to death.
The mighty hand leads to a sloping shoulder,
The finger joints are cramped with chalk;
A goose's quill has put an end to murder
That put an end to talk.
The hand that signed the treaty bred a fever,
And famine grew, and locusts came;
Great is the hand that holds dominion over
Man by a scribbled name.
The five kings count the dead but do not soften
The crusted wound nor pat the brow;
A hand rules pity as a hand rules heaven;
Hands have no tears to flow.
I don’t mean this in the twee haha isn’t this cute way that you see a lot online now from people who have long worked from home but it finally struck me yesterday which I guess would be about our day five of quarantine that my life hasn’t changed much. The ambient dread has increased a certain degree but that was always there. The disgust at the holes in our social safety net being exposed has increased a certain degree but that too was always there. Sitting inside letting the news wash over me in waves alternately dull and pummeling or sharp and piercing like Alex from the droogs is something I’m accustomed to. A sort of heightened hopelessness jockeying with brief flashes of optimism is familiar to me. I can’t go to the pool anymore to swim but I can plan my day around an afternoon run which is now my one reason to leave the house. Yesterday for about ten minutes in the middle of running I forgot about the world and it was the most peaceful ten minutes I’ve had in a week or more. Then some booger teens playing grabass on the running path bombed up behind me with reckless abandon and I wanted to beat their dicks off but then I remembered about not getting too close.
Not beat their dicks off like that.
An unacknowledged shitty part of all this is it happening just as daylight savings turned. Make it dark earlier so we can go to bed! How long does it take you to ~remember~ when you wake up by the way? Do any of you make it an entire minute? Michelle said she’s good for about five to ten seconds of blissful ignorance per morning. This morning I was awoken by landscapers blasting leaf blowers in the yard for what seemed like an hour and aside from being annoyed by it I thought maybe blowing shit around all over the place right now isn’t a good idea? They did pick up the piece of the gutter that fell off the side of the house and placed it up against the garage so that was good of them. I’d been meaning to do something about the broken off gutter for a couple weeks now and I just never did and every time I went out on the porch I looked at it laying there crumped in the grass by the bush where the bunnies live.
In any case what I was trying to say up above is the general trajectory of each day for me now is a ramping up to the hour that I have deemed socially acceptable to pour myself a drink and that’s pretty much what life has been for the past year or two anyway. Nothing else really matters after that. All this shit isn’t my problem I think.
So no I don’t think it’s freelancers or whoever that are prepared for all this it’s the addicts and the cripplingly depressed. I’m reminded of the film Melancholia in which depression is a sort of super power at the end of the world. I wrote about it in this one a while ago in you missed it.
On the final day when the planet Melancholia is about to collide with Earth Dunst’s character Justine and her sister Claire have switched roles. Previously catatonic with depression Justine is now calmer and Claire the capable no-nonsense woman is being driven insane by the now inevitable end of life as we know it. I guess one idea at play perhaps is that for people with some kinds of depression the arrival of doom isn’t always as shattering as it is for everyone else because they’ve been expecting it anyway? Maybe that’s not a thing in real life.
I’ve been reading reviews of the film all morning and comments on the reviews and I just came across this one.
“I liked it in general — it still haunts me — but there is not one likable character in the entire film. Every single person is an unforgivable douchebag. At the end I was rather glad to see the earth destroyed.”
I don’t really think that at the moment right now by the way if it makes any difference to you what I think. I’d like to see the world and all of us avoid destruction very much.
I don’t know man maybe no one wants to read this type of shit right now. It’s unclear which voice I’m supposed to be using if any voice at all. The depressed one or the furious one? I have both well stocked at all times for anyone who stops by looking for one or the other I just have to go out back and grab them and I’ll be right back.
Here’s another poem I turned to at random paging through the big fucking poem book. It’s called The Rattle Bag and it was edited by Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes. This one is by Ogden Nash.
A mighty creature is the germ,
Though smaller than the pachyderm.
His customary dwelling place
Is deep within the human race.
His childish pride he often pleases
By giving people strange diseases.
Do you, my popet, feel infirm?
You probably contain a germ.
I promise I turned to that one at random. I’ve never read it before in my life.
Here’s one more by a Swedish fella named Harry Edmund Martinson
Dusk in the Country
The riddle silently sees its image. It spins evening
among the motionless reeds.
There is a frailty no one notices
there, in the web of grass.
Silent cattle stare with green eyes.
They mosey in evening calm down to the water.
And the lake holds its immense spoon
up to all the mouths.
Poetry is stupid it isn’t going to prevent anyone from dying.
It’s interesting to me that everyone who has the fake jobs that contribute very little to the operation of our society like me all get to stay home and pontificate but the people with the real jobs like grocery clerks or garbagemen are still out there doing them. Well not all of them Michelle has a real job as a teacher and she’s sitting here freaking out like everyone else. Restaurant work is a real job too and a lot of them are fucked right now. I started a thing the other day on Twitter where when I poured myself a drink at home I would tip an out of work bartender $10 and I was able to go up to ten before I had to tap out but if you can do something like that on your own social media channels that would be cool.
A reporter I know from Vice was asking people how they’re dealing with despair right now and I said some shit like this below. Not sure if he’s going to use it so sorry for stealing my own quote bud.
“There's this real weird back and forth going on in my mind right now like, this is what I've been trying to say all along people! This is how broken our country is! And then to be proven right in such a huge instant swoop about how cruel our system is, there's no solace in that. It's not like one can gloat or anything if that makes sense. And on top of that there is still so much idiotic partisan bickering going on as we speak. It's just real grim. For even the most cynical among us, like me and I assume you and most reporters, who know how stupid and unqualified our leaders are, you sort of still always have a reserve chamber of optimism right? We all must or else how would we get out of bed in the morning? The feeling that, when the shit hits the fan, the proper failsafes will hold and so on. But here we are. I can't even take joy in the lol look at how bad Trump is fucking up thing because the bill for all that is finally coming due,” I said.
“I’m also finding it hard to find any distraction in the usual dicking around on Twitter telling jokes and shit that compromises the majority of a lot of our attempts to let off steam. I just tweeted this from something I wrote recently, but something I think about a lot, even before all this, is the idea of The Final Joke. We'll all joke online through almost everything no matter how bad, but someday there might be a thing where we don't want to joke anymore. Whatever the last joke is going to be it won’t be funny,” I said.
“So now I'm reading all these jokes on Twitter still going on like usual wondering when they'll stop.”
“Other than that I've got real bad diarrhea.”
How was I managing these feelings he asked. Who am I talking to?
“For me like a lot of people I imagine the group chats are very active, so it's nice to be able to joke around a little with old friends and stuff. No one I know is sick yet but it's probably a matter of time before that changes right? My wife and I keep tagging in and out, like only one of us can be freaking out at a time, so it's currently my turn as we're talking here. Soon she'll start getting really anxious then I'll have to put my fear aside and become the calm one again and I guess it will just go back and forth like that until there's something that arrives in the form of good news.”
I’m happy to see some of these halts on evictions and shit happening because if we evict people right now they will obviously suffer and maybe die. When evictions happen every day all the time under normal circumstances it’s fine though for some reason I guess.
Not everything happening is bad right now which is weird. There’s this real dissonance going on with a pandemic actually making society better in some ways.
All the ways we destroy people’s lives apparently aren’t necessary. Who could’ve guessed?! Crime and the carceral state has been mostly fake and pointless this whole time.
Maybe not all crimes are fake I guess. Some crimes like being in the country without the proper papers continue to be punished harshly.
I just went out back and found some more anger over the primaries yesterday.
All of the stories from abandoned and understaffed or disappeared polling stations yesterday particularly in college towns while the Biden campaign was carrying on as if nothing peculiar was afoot and sending out chipper memos about the very normal turnout is helping me crawl out of despair and back into rage.
It doesn't even feel good to say alright go ahead and enjoy Joe Biden you fucking losers because 1) they won't even get to enjoy Joe Biden when he gets wiped out by Trump and 2) I want these fucking losers' lives to improve even though they don't want ours to! I gotta shed my fucking empathy man seems like the only way to get by around here.
Here’s a song to get angry to.
I really don’t think Democrats are prepared for how many people just aren’t going to come out to vote for Biden. They should be based on very recent history but still.
Who gives a fuck but I needed something to do to pass the time so I wrote about the one piece of non coronavirus news this week which is Tom Brady leaving for the Washington Post. Here is some of it:
The end of the world hit right in the middle of the other end of the world. In a social media post confusingly titled “forever a Patriot,” Tom Brady, the absurdly decorated New England quarterback, announced Tuesday that he would, in fact, not be a Patriot forever and was off to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Naturally the news was met with all manner of schadenfreude by fans of other teams, for whom each blow to the evil empire is a delight. The fact that it transpired on St. Patrick’s Day of all days, when the city of Boston was largely on lockdown and none of us would even be afforded the small mercy of gathering in bars to commiserate together, only added to the gleeful sniping.
But reactions to the news among my typically Brady-idolizing group of friends in Massachusetts were mixed, and largely subdued, because of, well, picture me gesturing broadly at everything. Brady playing football in another team’s uniform doesn’t seem real, sure, but nothing seems real right now.
Even under normal circumstances, the employment prospects of an exceptionally wealthy celebrity is a ridiculous thing to concern ourselves with. When so many people around the country are finding themselves out of work and worried about getting sick, it’s even harder to bring myself to care. (That’s before we get to the fact that a suspicious number of professional athletes seem to be availing themselves of coronavirus tests while the rest of us are left in the dark, confirming our collective suspicion that the rich will always be better taken care of in any disaster.)
It’s been 24 hours since the Brady news came out, and I’m only just now giving it much thought for the first time, to be honest, and that’s mostly because this newspaper is paying me to do so. Hold on — my wife just coughed weirdly, let me just inch a little further across the room. She’s an elementary school teacher. I’m sure a lot of her students are very upset about the Brady news — I saw some videos online of children crying over it — but there’s really no way we’ll know, because it looks like the entire school year may be canceled. Who cares what happens to Brady at a time like that? Who knows if the NFL season will even be played in the fall?
For a few months, my friends and I have played a game where we try to predict the funniest possible landing spot for Brady. Playing for the Giants and leading them to a Super Bowl win over the Patriots was up there for me. Another popular option was for him to lead the Giants to a perfect season, only to lose in the final game. The reality seems to be funnier than any of us could’ve guessed. Brady leaving the Patriots in the middle of a pandemic to play for Tampa Bay (lol sorry) in a season that might not even happen, then retiring as a Buccaneer for nothing is a pretty good denouement for this Pynchonian nightmare that is our lives now.
Read the rest here if you want. Who cares I guess.
Here’s one more poem by Ezra Pound.
And the days are not full enough
And the nights are not full enough
And life slips by like a field mouse
Not shaking the grass.