John Colson: Out of funky darkness, a glimpse of light

John Colson
Hit & Run

I’ve been mired in a mental funk for the past week, driven toward depression by the amazingly stupid things people have been doing in the face of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

But, even as I contemplate the foolishness of people in these times, I have come upon glimmers of hope offered by other commentators in the same predicament as mine.

As an instance of the aforementioned stupidity, there’s a woman in Louisville, Kentucky, nicknamed Corona Kendra (in reference to the infamous character, Typhoid Mary — look her up for more on her horrific story) who’s been jailed for allegedly, deliberately, perhaps viciously ignoring self-quarantine orders after she tested positive for the virus perhaps as early as late March (there is some confusion about when she tested positive).

The woman, Kendra A. Burnett, 37, reportedly has been wandering around Louisville, acting as though she had never even heard of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, which she may have contracted when working at a senior care facility. That facility, according to news reports, has been identified as a “hot spot” for the virus, a place where 35 residents have tested positive for the virus and 13 have died.

Burnett was arrested April 27 after a woman claiming to be her mother pointed her out to police. According to local reports, she had violated court-ordered self-quarantine several times, the earliest April 3. That means she apparently was endangering everyone around her for more than three weeks, since news reports estimated that she probably was tested in late March.

The official line is that she was busted in a grocery store parking lot, that she came in contact with at least five people while shopping, and that 200 or so others were in the store at the same time.

I found no indication as to whether she actually infected any of those in the store or others in the time she was at large and contagious, but I have to say, this is a sign of pure sociopathology in action, as far as I can tell. The stories I read contained no information as to her political affiliations, but I have my suspicions.

I should note that earlier predictions about the pandemic’s spread in the U.S. have come true — the disease has officially killed more Americans in the past few months than died in the eight-year duration of the war in Vietnam. This equivalency of death and misery can at least partly be laid to rest at the door of the White House in Washington, D.C., where our president dithered and bloviated for weeks before making any move toward putting the federal anti-plague machinery into motion.

And despite continuing calls for the U.S. to be “opened up” from its lock-down status in response to the pandemic, the plain fact is that we still have no idea how many infected, asymptomatic but contagious carriers are still out there. That means we can forget about concerns regarding a “second wave” of this pathogen — the truth is, we have not even passed out of the first wave yet.

But in the midst of my funk, I turned last weekend to The New York Times and was happy to read some more optimistic words about our global fate in a column by Michelle Goldberg.

Sure, she acknowledged the monstrous U.S. death toll from the virus, and unemployment statistics that may be worse than during the Great Depression. But Goldberg noted that the economic and health care system malaise, somewhat perversely, offers us a reason to think positively. And that reason, put simply, is that certain hardcore inadequacies of our national culture are becoming glaringly obvious.

From health care to income inequality to housing inequities and more, we are seeing the underlying inadequacies of the market-oriented philosophies of the past half-century and more.

Even some Republicans are conceding that the misleading and bankrupt Reaganite era of “small government” has played itself out, and many observers see this as an opportunity for progressive, human-oriented ideas to come to the fore. Ideas such as establishing a basic living wage for all Americans; moving to some version of the Green New Deal to replace the shopworn, bankrupt dependency on fossil fuels; coming up with some semblance of Medicare For All to replace our broken, corporate-driven health care inadequacies; and finding ways to ensure that those we now call “essential workers” will reap some social and economically sustainable benefits once we crawl our way out of this mess.

To be sure, the light at the end of this tunnel is rather dim and uncertain. But it is there for all of us to see and follow, if we can.

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