Wasteland Bait & Tackle: On Testing, by James McMurtry

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Before traveling to Arizona this past Tuesday, the President said he wasn’t concerned about the health risks of traveling because everyone in his entourage had been tested for Covid-19 within the past hour. “We have great testing,” he said. He and his, no doubt do have great testing. They can, and do, get tested whether or not they are symptomatic. “We, the People,” by contrast, do not have great testing. We cannot get tested unless we are sick. Even if we are sick and test positive, we are not likely to undergo any contact tracing that might slow the spread of the virus among us. Without the ability to find the asymptomatic carriers among us, we have no way of knowing how many cases we actually have. I live in Caldwell County, Texas. Caldwell County has, as of this writing, twenty six confirmed cases of Covid-19, yesterday we had twenty five. The last time I managed to find my way to the site that would tell me how many tests had been conducted in this county, which was several days ago, when we only had twenty confirmed cases, we had tested less than three hundred and fifty people out of a population of forty three thousand. I won’t be going out to get my nails done any time soon, that’s for certain.

Why can’t “We, the People” have the great testing that the President and his elite cadre enjoy? If we are to open up the economy, then shouldn’t we be as important as those who direct us to do so? Are we merely expendable soldiers in the President’s war on the invisible enemy? Soldiers nowadays generally sign up for duty and know what they’re getting into, if they read the fine print. Did we sign up for this duty to risk our lives for the economy, or are we draftees?
Why does the President not seem to want us to be tested? Some say he’s afraid the real numbers will make him look bad and hurt his chances of reelection. Some even say he’s committing genocide by default, letting the virus run wild, knowing that, as with any sickness, the poorest among us will be the hardest hit, and hoping it will kill as many of the urban, non-white poor as possible, before November. I can’t say for sure. But a virus is not like a bullet. You can’t aim it.
As protected as our germaphobe President is, the virus stalks him just as it stalks each of us. I only leave my house to walk the dogs, fish alone in a canoe, and buy supplies. Yet I might not escape. People drive by, while we walk the dogs, with their windows down and no masks on their faces. What if one of them coughs at just the right time with just the right wind? White House aids and secret service agents close to the President have tested positive despite their “great testing.” Every inch of the White House is deep cleaned constantly, yet the virus gets in, from where, do you suppose? It gets in from us, of course, from the common, lowly, untested masses among whom the virus thrives.

“We the People” are the collective host of this scourge, and as long as it circulates through us, the President is vulnerable. Perhaps the President, in the interest of his own preservation, should do more to protect us, for to leave us to the whims of the virus is to leave himself to said whims. In leaving us relatively untested, he might be assassinating himself. Whether the virus infects the President or not, I doubt that the White House has seen its last confirmed case. The virus will keep sneaking in, through the iron gates, having hitched a ride on the door handle of a limo, scratching at the door of the Oval Office, stalking along the halls, resting on the bannisters and railings after a careless, normal staffer drags his fingers on the smooth wood, minutes before the President’s arrival.

I hear of some on the right who think we need the virus to rid us of the unfit, by which they mean, physically vulnerable, aging, sickly, weak.(Hmm, from whom have we heard such sentiments before?) They think they are being Darwinian, but they fail to have noted that when Darwin touted “Survival of the fittest,” he wasn’t referring to individual, physical fitness, but rather genetic fitness, meaning the ability to produce the most offspring or otherwise replicate one’s self and one’s genetics more efficiently than as can other organisms. I would say, in Darwinian terms, this virus is currently far more fit than Donald Trump. http://jamesmcmurtry.spinshop.com/

2 thoughts on “Wasteland Bait & Tackle: On Testing, by James McMurtry

  1. I wish I could write like this. This is the sound of an educated man with a sense of place. Every word counts, and the similes and metaphors land like punches.

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