By Ronald James Caldwell, Ph.D., Professor of History, Emeritus, Jacksonville State University, Jacksonville, Alabama.
An independent blog unaffiliated with any church or diocese. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Friday, July 31, 2020
A MONTH IN THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC
Welcome, blog reader. Today is Friday, July 31, 2020. This is an appropriate moment to look back over the month of July and try to get some perspective on what is happening in our collective lives. Perhaps this will help us make some sense of the many dramatic changes swirling all about us. We are in a difficult period of history, to say the least. What are we to make of it all?
Let us begin by dividing the crises into categories although the are inter-related and overlapping. It will still help us to separate them. I see four crises for all Americans: pandemic, economic, social, and political. For people in lower South Carolina, there is a fifth crisis to be endured, that of the Episcopal Church schism and its aftermath. Let's look at what has happened in each of these five areas in the month of July taking one at a time.
PANDEMIC. According to this morning's data from Worldometers.com, reported cases of COVID-19 in the world increased from 10,613,037 on July 1 to 17,511,607 on July 31. This is an increase of 6,898,570, or 65%. In other words, the pandemic has spread by two-thirds in the month of July 2020. Reported deaths in the world also increased from 514,615 to 677,540 in the month. This is a rise of 162,925, or 32%. Thus, deaths increased by a third in the month of July.
America continues to be the epicenter of the pandemic in the world. The U.S. has by far the most cases and the most deaths of any country in the world. Reported cases rose from 2,727,996 to 4,635,226, an increase of 69%, or, more than two-thirds in the last 31 days. Numbers of deaths in the U.S. also climbed, from 130,123 to 155,306, an increase of 25,183, or 19%. This means that nearly 1,000 Americans died every day in July from the virus.
The numbers for South Carolina are worse than those of the nation. Reported cases in SC jumped from 36,399 on July 1 to 87,572 on July 31. This is a rise of 51,173, or 140%. This means there were about two and a half times as many cases at the end of the month than at the beginning. Reported deaths in SC jumped from 739 to 1,667 in July, an increase of 928, or 125%. Clearly, the covid plague is running rampant in SC with no sign of relief. Charleston County continues to be the epicenter of the plague in SC. In the last two weeks reported cases there have jumped from 8,966 to 11,245. The state health department estimates the actual cases in the county as 80,321, or 20% of the population. Alabama is nearly as bad. Reported cases there in July jumped from 38,045 to 85,762, and deaths from 950 to 1,565. As in SC, the coronavirus is spreading rapidly in AL with no sign of slowing down. To be sure, the figures for SC and AL are minor compared to the astronomical numbers coming from south Florida which has become the world's hottest spot of the disease.
What is the outlook for the pandemic? It will continue to spread exponentially until a vaccine appears and that, by all accounts, will not be before the start of next year. We have at least five months to go. After school resumes and fall arrives, we can expect the rates of spread and of death to increase. That was the pattern of the last great pandemic, Spanish flu, in 1918. By far the worse of it was in the last few months of the year.
ECONOMY. The American economy is in its most precarious state since the Great Depression of the 1930's. Last quarter's figures, just released yesterday, showed the economy falling off a cliff, dropping by 34% at an annual rate, the worst decline since record keeping began in 1947. Twenty-one million Americans are unemployed now, another record since the Depression. The federal $600 supplement to unemployment benefits expires today. The rental eviction moratorium is also expiring. Thousands of businesses have closed, many permanently. Millions of ordinary Americans are about to be out of work, out of housing, and out of food.
SOCIAL. Since the killing of George Floyd on May 25, America has seen massive public protests and demonstrations everywhere calling for racial justice and equality. Although these street actions have tapered off in recent weeks, there are still places of clashes between demonstrators and law enforcement officers.
POLITICAL. President Trump and his administration have shown themselves to be incompetent at handling the various crises facing America. Indeed, there are ways in which the administration has worsened them. Trump's approach to the virus was, and still is, to treat it as a public relations issue. He first denied its existence, then minimized it for far too long. After recognizing it, he failed to produce a coherent, unified national response. Many of his followers also denied its existence, or seriousness, even to absurd lengths, e.g., the governor of GA filing a personal lawsuit against the mayor of Atlanta and city councilpersons for mandating the wearing of masks in public.
Meanwhile, Trump has done virtually nothing on his own to help the collapsing economy. He did sign the emergency relief packages passed by Congress, with overwhelming votes, in March and April. We are now waiting on the Senate Republicans to support a new emergency measure.
As for the social crisis, Trump is attempting to turn this into a reelection issue. He is using armed but unidentified federal forces against demonstrators in major cities, particularly Portland OR, under the guise of "Law and Order." This smacks of fascist use of secret police against the citizens.
All of this adds up to a coming landslide defeat for Trump in the national election on November 3. It is his mishandling of the multiple crises in 2020 that is leading to his defeat. At the start of the year, the bookies in Las Vegas were giving big odds that Trump would be reelected. No more. Today, the bookies are wagering 60.9 for Biden and 36.9 for Trump. This would be a landslide defeat for Trump of historic proportions. The bookies of Vegas are not always right, but they usually are given that they deal in many millions of dollars.
Seeing his coming overwhelming rejection by the American people, Trump is acting in panic mode. Just yesterday he floated the idea of "postponing" (cancelling) the Nov. 3 election. Even the Republican leaders, who typically fall in line, immediately shot down that notion. Trump is also carrying on a major campaign to de-legitimize the election results under the guise of mail-in ballot fraud. He has even appointed a close crony as head of the U.S. Postal Service who has installed a "slow-down" of mail delivery. This could invalidate countless ballots in November. There is a rising fear among his critics that his use of his secret police in Portland is rehearsal for November when he could use hundreds of thousands of federalized forces, not to mention calling out his civilian followers, who are not shy about brandishing assault weapons in public (as at the Michigan state capitol). If Trump employs any measure to try to cancel or overturn the election of Nov. 3, it will start a civil emergency the likes of which the U.S. has not seen since the Civil War, 155 years ago.
So, here is my take on all of this. it is helpful to go back to the big picture. What we are seeing now is a natural disaster (pandemic) added on top of a clash between forces of democratic revolution and anti-democratic counter-revolution in America. This clash began in earnest in the 1960's when the nation started institutionalizing dramatic and sweeping reforms for the liberty, equality, and justice of social elements historically marginalized, especially African Americans, women, and homosexuals. Tremendous political, social, and cultural changes began to occur and are still occurring (as marriage equality in 2015). However, the old power structure, namely white men, was thrown off by these changes. Elements that felt most threatened coalesced to oppose the democratic revolution, particularly southern whites, white working men, and evangelical Christians. These moved into the Republican party which became the political base of the counter-revolution. This movement reached its height in the election of Donald Trump in 2016. His campaign was blatantly racist and reactionary. The threatened elements flocked to Trump as their saviour in the culture war that they knew they were losing.
The problem is that Trump was a self-serving demagogue who only played on public fears to attain the highest office in the land. He had no political program behind the power other than allowing conservatives to roll back certain democratic reforms. From the start, he saw the presidency as a way of promoting his personal interests. This became glaring clear right away. The Mueller investigation indicated his dark ties with the Russians. Trump's supporters managed to elude that and cast aside the investigation (the Russian Hoax). Then came the impeachment on charges of attempted extortion of political rewards from Ukraine. Trump's Republican enablers in the Senate got him off on that one too. But then, on the heels of Trump's escape in the Senate, a virus of incredibly small dimensions appeared. Trump and his train tried to handle it the same way, as something to be controlled by public relations. This failed spectacularly and exposed Trump for what he was all along, an incompetent president. Not only did the Trump administration not provide a national policy, in ways it actually made matters worse. Sometimes this went off into truly bizarre and self-destructive ways, as injecting oneself with disinfectants and touting doctors who claimed that discredited drugs would cure COVID-19. As Trump's anti-science campaign spread, so did the virus. For months now, the U.S. has been the world's epicenter of the pandemic. This is a national tragedy. It appears to me that most Americans are now standing in judgment on Trump for his mis-handling of the coronavirus. They see him as not just incompetent, but an actual danger to the country. This is why he is about to see a huge rejection in November and is in a panic about it. He could not be brought down by Mueller, or impeachment. He is about to be brought down by a miniscule germ. Who would have imagined such a strange scenario?
In South Carolina, there remains the aftermath of the Episcopal Church schism of 2012. In federal court, the schismatics are appealing to the court of appeals. I feel confident the court will uphold Judge Gergel. In state court, both sides have asked the SC supreme court to take the appeal of Judge Dickson's outrageous order of June 19 in which Dickson overturned the SCSC decision of Aug. 2, 2017 and substituted his own ruling in reverse. I cannot imagine the state supreme court not defending its own integrity. Common sense says the justices will reject Dickson's decision and will enforce the original SCSC order which recognized 29 parishes and the Camp as Episcopal property. Unfortunately, we all have to wait on tenterhooks, probably for months to come. Since everyone has already waited seven and a half years, what is a few more months? In my view, odds are strong that the Episcopal Church will wind up finally with both the old diocese and the bulk of the local properties. Why has all of this happened? It is part of the big picture---the reaction of anti-democratic forces against the great democratic revolution of the late Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries. The schismatics in South Carolina refused to allow homosexuals and women to have equality and inclusion in the life of the church. They have already lost the war. What we are seeing now is rear-guard skirmishes. Human rights will win in South Carolina, just as in the rest of America.
The great democratic revolution will prevail in South Carolina and the rest of America in the end. In fact, I think we are seeing the collapse of the anti-democratic reaction. America is rejecting Donald Trump and his kind of destructive politics. All signs indicate now that Trump will be crushed in a massive landslide in November. The Democrats stand to sweep the presidency, the House of Representatives, and the Senate. If this turns out to be true, it will be the "Gettysburg" of the clash between the democratic and the anti-democratic forces in America. I do not think it hyperbolic to emphasize the significance of this. We are approaching the great, perhaps final, showdown between the tectonic plates of American society that have been clashing for a half century. To say the least, it is interesting to see that Donald Trump will make this come about. However, no one expects him to go quietly. God only knows what else he will do as the election approaches and after it occurs. The big question is whether the people who have abetted and enabled his actions will continue to do so when the great moment of crisis appears, as it is almost certain to happen.
Early in his presidency, historians and political scientists debated who was the worst American president. They worked it down to three, Andrew Johnson (for opposition to Reconstruction), James Buchanan (for failing to prevent the Civil War), and Donald Trump. The experts are no longer in disagreement.
In conclusion, we are in a dark hour. We are enduring crisis on crisis. We are being put to the test. Our patriotism to America, our faith in Christianity are on the line.
Through all this awful night, remember we are here for the living of this hour. This is our moment. As the late John Lewis would tell us, we must keep up the good fight, we must love one another. With this, we will reach a better world.
Peony Althea (Hibiscus syriacus 'Paeony Flora'). I planted this shrub eight years ago. It refused to bloom. Year after year, no flowers. All of a sudden, this summer it is loaded with dozens of the most beautiful blossoms. I have no idea why. The moral of the story is---do not give up. Nature, and God, move on their own time, for their own reasons, but ultimately to our benefit. Peace.