The Shit Has Hit the Fan: Shut the Country Down to Save Lives

All my life fear is all I’ve heard.

Fear the immigrant, Muslims, foreignness, black people protesting, black athletes kneeling during the Anthem, germs, foreign travel to non-Western countries, terrorism, etc., etc. Before 9/11, as a teen in the late 1990s, it was fear of marijuana, public welfare abuse and, as always, inclement weather.

There is a clear economic driver to sensationalizing fear in the mass media: viewership and advertisement revenue will increase as more of the public watch to ‘learn’ what to fear and how to keep ‘safe’. In this sense, the American public are like people anywhere, albeit, with a different system conditioning them.

From an evolutionary perspective, reflexive fear may help an animal survive. But acting like a prey animal, with eyes on either side of head to detect approaching predators, is no way to live. For a cornered, frightened rat will do anything their master says to not be crushed underfoot.

Today, after decades of crying wolf in fear, the **it has hit the fan. Over the past three days, the US has seen 5,000+ new daily coronavirus cases. This is an exponential increase of about 5,000 cases higher than Italy at Day 21. Because of the virus’s newness, the human immune system, unlike flu, has little resistance to its spread. There is no clear drug treatment for the virus, and we are about a year away from a vaccine. This virus kills at rate several times higher than flu, and new data shows that young health people are not invincible to severe cases.

Therefore, it is time to channel decades of irrational fear and repurpose it into extremely cautious behavior. The federal government must close all schools and nonessential institutions and businesses in the United States, including bars, restaurants and public areas like beaches, until the threat of coronavirus transmission has diminished. All other nations stricken by even half the US case numbers have done so, as rational responses to their public health emergencies.

Yet, anti-American coward-in-chief, Donald Trump, is different. (Trump is anti-American in many broader ways, but, more strictly, in his combatting the First Amendment in crushing protester rights at campaign events and on the NFL field. And in his shifty response to coronavirus, in which he hastened the virus’s spread through encouraging people to go to work with the disease, displaying that handshakes are ok and acting like all is fine – as Americans suffer one of the worst public health crises ever. In short, anti-Americanness reeks in his utter disregard for Americans’ basic well-being. This was true before the pandemic, but more obvious today. Cowardice evinces in Trump’s xenophobic fear of immigrants, Muslims, foreignness and his inability to stand any criticism.)

Nationally, restaurants, bars and places of public gathering remain open as cases surge past 27,000 – over 23,000 new cases in the past week alone. The federal government must shut down all schools and nonessential businesses and institutions to prevent further transmission.

Why this hasn’t happened yet is due to a mix of the anti-American coward-in-chief’s utter stupidity and because the economy will suffer. But Mr. Coward-in-Chief, I’ve got news for you – the economy has already tanked and this will only exacerbate the more that the virus spreads. Also, semi-rational advisers and/or political allies will eventually push you to shut the country down anyways.

Immediately shutting down the country will help the economy in the long run. Far more importantly, it will help mitigate Americans’ suffering and death under your irresponsible watch.

For decades Americans have been conditioned to be perpetually afraid, fearing everything from immigrants, Islam, marijuana and non-European foreign travel. Now there is actually something to be rationally fearful over.

In response, we should act responsibly and in solidarity with our neighbors by staying inside. But many people, including Trump supporters dubious of a ‘hoax’, are unlikely to do so.

Therefore, we need the federal government to mandate a shutdown today to save lives.

As a prolific author from the Boston area, Peter F. Crowley writes in various forms, including short fiction, op-eds, poetry and academic essays. In 2020, his poetry book Those Who Hold Up the Earth was published by Kelsay Books and received impressive reviews by Kirkus Review, the Bangladeshi New Age and two local Boston-area newspapers. His writing can be found in Middle East Monitor, Znet, 34th Parallel, Pif Magazine, Galway Review, Digging the Fat, Adelaide’s Short Story and Poetry Award anthologies (finalist in both) and The Opiate.

His forthcoming books, due out later in 2023, are That Night and Other Stories (CAAB Publishing) and Empire’s End (Alien Buddha Press)