Covid-19, Georgia and a State of Fear

When we think of “human sacrifice”, perhaps the ancient civilizations of the Mayas and Aztecs come to mind, and maybe to a lesser extent the Incas. The ancient Mayas practiced human sacrifice as part of their internecine warfare between city-state kingdoms whereby captive Mayan kings and nobility were sacrificed to Mayan gods and as a deadly game of retribution of winner over loser city-states, and perhaps from such rampant warfare a cause of the demise of numerous Mayan city-kingdoms scattered throughout present-day Yucatán, Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras.

Likewise, the Aztecs sacrificed war captives to their sun and war god Huitzilopochtli at his temple, now underneath the present-day Cathedral of Mexico in Mexico City. It was a gruesome process whereby human hearts were ripped out of the chests of live victims’ bodies with obsidian-knives, and then beheaded, the corpses thrown down the stone-temple steps. While the sacrificed bodies were then divided and cannibalized by nobles and temple priests alike, Aztec rituals sanctified by the state. Whereas the ancient Incas were known to sacrifice children, infanticide called “chapaq hucha”, a seemingly more humane ritual practice because the child-victims were given some intoxicating drink to minimize their anxieties and resistances to their ultimate demise at the top of Andean mountain-tops.

Truly, human sacrifice in the ancient world and as practiced by Aztecs, Incas, and Mayas, were “not” one of our more exalted human behaviors. They were bloody, horrible, macabre, frightening, and repulsive. Yet, they happened.

So, what is my point? I want the reader to consider the images carefully, not so much to understand their anthropological, archaeological, or historical significances or the why-s about human violence. Rather, such historical examples are provided as a broader analogy about “human sacrifice” and current happenings with COVID-19 quarantining here in the United States. More specifically, what state governors are doing, either unwittingly or willfully ignorant in relation to opening businesses in their states as early as tomorrow Friday, April 24th, 2020, notably Georgia governor Brian Kemp. And worse, unfortunately, it may be likely that other Southern States may follow the example of Governor Kemp. For example, Texan Governor Greg Abbott is currently considering loosening its social restrictions on businesses by Monday, April 27th as well and other states like Florida, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and South Carolina may follow, or have already relaxed some social limitations.

More remarkably, the Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick told Tucker Carlson of FOX News: “No one reached out to me and said, ‘As a senior citizen, are you willing to take a change on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that all America loves for your children and grandchildren?’ But if they had? ‘if that is the exchange, I’m all in.” Thus, I am “not” exaggerating about this sense of “human sacrifice” by governors and their officials in power, especially Republican governors.

Hence, by Georgia opening non-essential businesses too soon where social distancing may be difficult to practice or may be impractical to practice, or even may not be practiced at all in such places as bowling alleys, child day-care facilities, dentist practices, gyms, barbers and hair salons, massage parlors, movie theaters, nail salons, tattoo parlors, and even in-site dining at restaurants—would suggest a dangerous epidemiological experiment, and dare I say a modern type of “human sacrifice”?

What is the difference between ancient human sacrifice among Aztecs, Mayas, and Incas, and knowingly endangering the public despite and in spite of epidemiological science? It is a modern form of state-sanctified human sacrifice in my view whilst certainly not as bloody or as hideous as those practiced in past human history, yet, it may turn out to be as deadly. The possible resurgence of the Coronavirus in such states which loosen their restrictions on public gatherings is a disaster waiting to happen.

If relaxing social restraints turn out to be even more harmful, it may cause another spike of COVID-19 cases in those states which open up their businesses too soon. Such loosening of restrictions of social distancing may cause many more deaths as well.

As of today, April 23rd, the state of Georgia ranks 12th among 50 states with the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths. Georgia has 21,512 COVID-19 cases and altogether 872 known Coronavirus attributed deaths. As of today, in the United States there are 864,249 cases and 47,889 deaths because of this pandemic disease. Even President Trump, probably based upon poll numbers, has reversed himself in praising Governor Kemp by stating that it is probably too soon to open up to small non-essential businesses.

No doubt the economic consequences from the Coronavirus (COVID-19) are grave. At the moment the unemployment rate among the labor force in the United States is almost 20% and America is reaching economic devastation not seen since the “Great Depression” (1929-1939).

However, the whole point of maintaining social distance is not to infect others or become infected and thereby worsening the COVID-19 pandemic. Regardless, there are now many protesters across the United States who want to open-up the country again for economic reasons. While some brave healthcare workers—like ICU (Intensive Care Unit) nurses as Lauren Leander of Arizona and ICU doctors and nurses in Denver, Colorado—have stood in silence against such unreasonable demands and protests in order to silently demonstrate the need to remain quarantined. These heroic and valiant healthcare workers are also protesting because healthcare workers are literally sacrificing themselves and their own families for the public to be safe. This is not about American patriotism. It is an urgent public health issue and about protecting the public from a very contagious and deadly disease.

And finally, if you do not believe me, believe what happened in Hong Kong this year, 2020, as a result of opening-up to businesses there too soon. People in Hong Kong assumed too early that the disease in Wuhan, China had been contained and they could resume their normal lives in mid-March 2020. The medical doctors and epidemiologists who studied the disease in Hong Kong were not surprised by the spike again in COVID-19 cases there. As Keiji Fukuda, former Assistant-Director-General at the World Health Organization (WHO), and medical professor at the University of Hong Kong, stated: “The pandemic will work in waves…this is going to be a difficult situation for the next several months. I don’t think any of us believes this will resolve in the next six weeks or two months…Hong Kong is going to be affected by what’s going on in other regions and other countries.”

So too, there is the historical lessons from San Francisco during the “Influenza Pandemic of 1918”, sometimes given the misnomer the “Spanish Flu”. In the midst of the influenza pandemic, San Franciscans believed that restrictions could be lifted and removed their mandatory face-masks and stopped practicing social distancing. Even the public health official of San Francisco at the time, Dr. William Hassler, had believed the worst of the disease had been prevented. However, when health controls were eased, it so happened that by 1919 the resurgence of the flu worsened. San Francisco in fact had suffered the worst of the epidemic with 45,000 cases and over 3,000 deaths. In other words, the city’s death rates were 30 deaths per 1,000 people, the most of all major American cities in that year.

Therefore, the question remains why should Americans go along with being sacrificed for the economy and why do some governors and their administrations believe sacrificing the elderly is acceptable death for capitalism? If deaths ramp up again in states like Georgia, then the opposite good will happen by causing enormous panic and public fear. And it ain’t going to be peachy!

As Albert Camus stated in his renowned novel, The Plague (1947): “No longer were there individual destinies; only a collective destiny, made of plague and emotions shared by all.”

J. P. Linstroth is a former Fulbright Scholar to Brazil. His recent book, Epochal Reckonings (2020), is the 2019 Winner of the Proverse Prize. He has a PhD (D.Phil.) from the University of Oxford. He is the author of Marching Against Gender Practice: Political Imaginings in the Basqueland (2015) and, most recently, author of Politics and Racism Beyond Nations: A Multidisciplinary Approach to Crises (2022).