NOTES, 9 FEBRUARY 2021
Welcome, blog reader, on Tuesday, February 9, 2021 and the continuing saga of these challenging days of our lives. For many months now, we have been tracking the crises of the hour. Today, we will check in on three of them, the pandemic, the schism, and the civic state.
PANDEMIC. Finally, we can breathe a slight sign of relief that the fall/winter surge of the COVID-19 pandemic is easing. Most of the metrics we have been following in Worldometers show a slowing in the rates of new cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. The New York Times charts and maps show a promising trend, except for new deaths in SC and AL. Moreover, the vaccines are slowly but surely making their ways through the population. At present, about 10% of Americans have been vaccinated.
In the world, both the rates and the raw numbers of new cases and deaths have declined. Last week (Feb. 1-8), new cases dropped from 4% of the week earlier to 3%. There were 3,146,892 new cases for a total of 106,748,093. As for deaths in the world, the rate declined from 5% of the prior week to 4%. Between Feb. 1 and 8, 89,342 people died of covid, for a total of 2,328,703 in the world.
In America, there has been a dramatic drop in new cases and slight drop in deaths. Last week (Feb. 1-8), the U.S. reported 844,174 new cases, a rising rate of 3%. In the earlier week, the U.S. had reported 1,065,104 new cases, a rate of 4%. As for deaths, the U.S. reported 22,654 last week, a rising rate of 5%. This was down a bit from the earlier week, but still running at about 3k deaths a day. As of now, the U.S. has seen 474,933 deaths from the effects of COVID-19. At the present rate, there will be 600k deaths by the end of March, putting this pandemic on the same level as the great flu pandemic of 1918-19.
In South Carolina, there are also promising signs of the spread of the disease. Last week, the state listed 22,987 new cases, a rising rate of 5%. In the earlier week, the state had reported 25,061 new cases, a rate of 6%. Deaths, however, showed a more worrisome trend. Last week, SC reported 609 deaths (+9%), its highest weekly number ever, for a total of 7,651.
In Alabama, the trends are finally showing some lessening. Last week, the state listed 12,784 new cases (half as many as SC). This contrasted to the 18,469 (4%) of the earlier week. AL is now reporting 472,423 cases of covid, nearly 10% of the state's population. Death numbers continue to be high although declining slightly. Last week, AL reported 827 deaths (+11%) for a total of 8,515, down from the 1,028 (+15%) of the earlier week. As for vaccinations in AL, the administration has been relatively smooth. Essential workers and persons over age 75 have been given access to the vaccines. This week, the age has been lowered to 65.
If you have not had the vaccine yet, you may be wondering about the aftereffects of the shot. People react differently to it. Even so, here is my experience. I had the Moderna version, two shots, one month apart. The first left my arm sore for two days. The day after the shot, I had what felt like a mild case of the flu, perhaps a low fever, joint achiness, and fatigue. I took several naps. The second day, I felt fine except for a bit of weakness which I got over quickly. The second shot left me with the same but slightly stronger effects. I slept most of the next day and felt back to normal the day after that. I have heard other people say they too felt fatigue on the next day. Even so, the aftereffects were nothing in comparison to a bad case of covid. Now that I have finished my vaccinations, I feel a sense of liberation and freedom. For the first time in a year, I feel comfortable going out in public without the fear of death hanging over me. My age and a mild case of breathing difficulties from allergies left me in the "high risk" category. I may still contract the disease, but it should not be a serious or life-threatening case. So, I say thank God for the miracles of modern science and technology, at least those in medicine.
SCHISM. Still waiting on the two events in court. Any day now, the Anglican diocese of SC should be submitting its brief to the South Carolina Supreme Court. The Episcopal diocese turned in its brief to the court nearly three months ago. As soon as I get a copy of the brief, I will post a report on it here on this blog. The other thing we are awaiting is the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court on whether it will grant cert in the Texas case. The Episcopal Church is asking the court to review the TX supreme court decision of last year that rewarded all to the breakaway faction.
Meanwhile, both parts of the schism are proceeding with searches for new bishops. The Episcopal diocese is considering five candidates for the XV diocesan bishop. It has been without a diocesan bishop since Mark Lawrence left in 2012. The Anglican diocese is starting the search process for a bishop coadjutor will will later become the II diocesan bishop (I is Mark Lawrence). The Anglican diocese was created in 2012 and merged with the Anglican Church in North America soon thereafter. I will return soon with more commentary on these search processes. They are quite an interesting contrast and tell us much about the nature of the schism.
POLITICAL. There has been a dramatic shift in the atmosphere of the American political scene in the past few weeks, at least since Biden's inauguration. A feeling of getting back to normality is replacing the destructive chaos of the Trump years. Unity and consensus are replacing division and tribal hostility in the country, at least among a majority of the citizenry.
However, we are still dealing with the effects of the last administration. Today begins the trial of the former president. He has been impeached by the House of Representatives on the charge of incitement of insurrection against the United States. It is hard to imagine a more serious charge against a sitting president than trying to overthrow the constitutional government. The attack on the Capitol, of 6 January 2021, is one of the best documented events in all of history with countless videos, pictures, and first hand witnesses. It is an open and shut case and in any regular court would be over in a instant. Not now.
Under the constitution, 2/3 of the Senators have to vote to convict in order to remove the president. The voting is in person, not secret. This means 17 Republican Senators would have to join the 50 Democrats to vote against Trump. Everyone knows the chances of this happening is between nil and none. Finding 17 Senators willing to condemn Trump publicly just is a very long stretch. It is possible but extremely unlikely given the circumstances of the hour. Lack of courage, fear of the bully Trump and his devoted voting base will prevent reasonable men and women from doing what they know is right. After all, 45 of the 50 Republican Senators voted to declare the trial unconstitutional even though it is clearly constitutional. This speaks volumes about where the Republican part is nowadays.
This is an open and shut case and I am fascinated to hear the arguments of Trump's lawyers. How can they defend the indefensible? We shall see. So far, all of the arguments are between thin and ridiculous. First, the argument of free speech. Trump could say whatever he wanted under the First Amendment. Oh no, free speech is not unlimited. You cry fire in crowded theater or make slanderous or libelous comments about other people and you will learn the limits of free speech. Trump clearly incited the mob to attack the Capitol in order to disrupt the constitutional government.
The assertion that Trump did not incite the mob is, well, silly. Everyone with common sense who has seen the videos of that day know full well that Trump absolutely incited the mob. They would not have done what they did except for what he said immediately beforehand.
Another argument is that the trial is unconstitutional because Trump is no longer president. Not so fast. The House of Representatives impeached Trump while he was in power and sent the charge over to the Senate while Trump was still president. It was the Republican majority leader of the Senate who refused to allow the trial to be held during the term of Trump. This is why the trial is now after Trump is now longer in office. Anyway, the idea that a president cannot be impeached in his last weeks or days in office could not be true because this would mean the president could do whatever he wished near the end of this term without fear of indictment and removal. No, a president must be held accountable for his action until the very last minute of his term in office.
Yet another argument is the most serious of all. We should just forget it and move on for the sake of "unity.". Forget that the president of the United States tried to overthrow the constitution? Really? If trying to overthrow the government is not grounds for impeachment and removal nothing is. This is the most serious charge possible against any president and if we "just forget it" we are signing the death warrant for our constitutional democracy. If Trump's incitement to insurrection is left to stand unpunished, it will be a green light to any would be dictator in the future to try it again. With a bit more focus, organization, and drive, the next Trump may actually succeed. Our constitutional, democratic republic derives its existence from the people. If the people do not defend it, it will not last. Trump must be held accountable for what he did to overturn the constitution. Loyalty to the constitution is what unity is all about.
Apparently, the trial will be short, about a week. The Senate will vote to acquit and Trump and his followers will cry vindication as they did after the first trial. Then, another sort of trial will come as the Republican Party processes what all this means for its future. Trump was the Frankenstein monster they have been creating since they chose racism as a political tool in the Southern Strategy of 1968. Trump was just the natural culmination of a long, conscious policy based on appealing at least to covert white racism. Right now, the Party is in a civil war and it remains to be seen whether the Frankenstein monster will in the end destroy the Party or the Party can suppress the threat. At the moment, it looks as if Trump still has the upper hand and we will see the evidence of this when the 50 Republican Senators vote in the coming days. After that, who knows what will happen to the GOP?
So, as many Americans, I will fixed on my television for the next week. Watching the trial will be difficult because we will relive in excruciating detail the events of that shocking day just a month ago when a violent mob tried to overthrow our government in favor of a minority, white supremacist regime. It will be troubling. It will be sad. It will be necessary. It will be historic.
As always, we are all here together for the living of this hour as much as we may wish none of this had ever happened to us. That was not our choice to make. We are called to do our best in the hour we are given. Peace.