Elliot Benjamin is a philosopher, mathematician, musician,
counselor, writer, with Ph.Ds in mathematics and psychology and the author of over 230 published articles in the fields of humanistic and transpersonal psychology, pure mathematics, mathematics education, spirituality & the awareness of cult dangers, art & mental disturbance, and progressive politics. He has also written a
number of self-published books, such as: The Creative Artist, Mental Disturbance, and Mental Health. See also: www.benjamin-philosopher.com.
Part 3: The Devastation Accelerates,
But Perhaps With A Bit Of A Silver Lining?
I am having trouble finding the words to describe how much disgust I feel. The hatred—the cruelty—the stupidity.
This is the third part of my Integral World Deadly Duo essay series, featuring the deadly duo of the coronavirus and United States President Donald Trump. In Part 1 of this series I said the following:
“For me, by far the worst action that Trump was giving serious consideration to enacting was to 'celebrate' people going back to work and largely ending social distancing prematurely, with his goal of stimulating massive turnouts in churches all over the country for Easter Sunday. The responses from health experts to this plan make it clear that this would have been nothing less than a death sentence for a significant number of people in America, in particular for elderly people and people who are not in good health.” .
In Part 2 of this series I expanded upon what I found to be the most disturbing aspect of this whole horrific situation that we are all now living under:
“What I find to be the most distressing and horrific aspect of the continuing Deadly Duo saga is the fact that there have been anti-lockdown demonstrations in approximately 25 states in the country, which comprise one half of the states in the United States. . . . These demonstrations have come equipped with rifles and the blocking of ambulances transporting emergency care patients to hospitals, and have received the encouragement of none other than our very own President Trump.” 
And I concluded my Part 2 essay on a rather somber note:
“I wonder about how long all these lockdowns, social distancing, and masks in public places are going to last. I am afraid that given all the flagrant violations of safety that I have described above, both in the American public and from President Trump, that in one form or another they are going to last in most places in the country until a coronavirus vaccine is developed, which is likely at least a year away. . . . I must candidly say that the picture looks very bleak to me right now as President Trump is promoting much of the country going 'back to normal' next week, and I have no doubt that this is going to result in a massive increase in coronavirus infections and deaths.” 
Well it is only two weeks since I wrote Part 2 of this series, and I feel compelled to write Part 3. Just what is it that is compelling me to write Part 3 much sooner than I had anticipated that I would? Perhaps it has something to do with a guard who was a father of 7 being shot and killed in Michigan at a Family Dollar store because he enforced the ruling that masks were required in the store . Or perhaps it has something to do with two teenage McDonalds workers in Oklahoma getting shot because they conveyed to some customers that the dining room was closed ; or perhaps it was . . . well I think you get the idea.
The truth is that I am sick to my stomach hearing these stories. I am having trouble finding the words to describe how much disgust I feel. The hatred—the cruelty—the stupidity—I could go on and on here about these “protesters.” And yet I also understand that they are operating out of fear and being persuaded and manipulated by powerful forces that want the country to “go back to work.” But these are “adults” we are talking about—I still have trouble understanding how they can be so ignorant and uncaring in the face of thousands of people dying every day from the coronavirus. Is it because most of the people dying are old people? But if these protesters are not old enough themselves to be concerned about their own mortality, don't they have parents or grandparents they care about who are old and in danger of getting sick and dying from the virus? I suppose it is not a matter of logic or caring, as this is not how they are operating. They just want what they want, whatever the consequences—period.
This is what I want to tell the protesters. No one likes the economic shutdown, but I am sorry that whoever raised you made you believe that the world revolves around you, because (spoiler alert) it does not.
“This is the letter all of us wanted to write” —LA Times
Here is a letter to the editor that appeared recently in the LA Times that very much spoke to me, and it is entitled “This is the letter all of us wanted to write”:
“This is what I want to tell the protesters. No one likes the economic shutdown, but I am sorry that whoever raised you made you believe that the world revolves around you, because (spoiler alert) it does not. Your 'right' to go to the movies, the beach or the nail salon takes a backseat to everyone else's right to be protected against a new, highly contagious and deadly virus. No one is trying to take your rights away; rather, state and local officials are just trying to do their best to keep most of us alive. This is not about you. We must all look outside the narrow prism of our own little lives to see how our individual actions might affect everyone else. Insisting on your rights without acknowledging your responsibilities is not freedom, it is adolescence. So please, try to be a grown-up for now. This is not going to last forever.” 
Yes this letter was cathartic for me. It said what I am feeling, and what I believe many people are feeling. And it said it much more gently and constructively, with an appropriate but limited amount of sarcasm, than I could have ever done. The actions of all these protesters are sickening to me: the ones who simply congregate in close proximity without masks, jeopardizing the lives of themselves and everyone they become in contact with; the ones who block ambulances and threaten people with their guns; and most horrifically the ones who kill or try to kill people because they are told to wear masks or that they cannot eat inside a restaurant. But let me shift gears here and talk a little about one of the cheerleaders of these protesters, Donald Trump, who encouraged civilian insurrections by Americans against their governors' stay-at-home orders .
It is a little over a week since Trump directed the beginning of the “back to business” opening up of the United States, and some signs of a potential accelerated devastation are already striking . The Trump administration is now projecting about 3,000 deaths every day from the coronavirus by June 1; this means that each day approximately the same number of people will die as the number who died from the 9/11/2001 World Trade Center attacks . An influential coronavirus model often cited by the White House is now forecasting that 134,000 people will die of the coronavirus in the United States, which is about twice its previous prediction . It is likely that there will be a second big wave of coronavirus infections this coming fall or winter, and that the virus will keep spreading at least for another 18 months to 2 years, until herd immunity develops to a sufficient extent by infecting 60 to 70 percent of the world's population , . And Dr. Deborah Birx, a White House coronavirus task force leading medical expert official, recently said the following: “Our projections have always been between 100-240,000 American lives lost and that's with full mitigation and us learning from each other of how to social distance.” .
Now put this together with a number of the states in the United States currently starting their process of “opening up for business” while their number of coronavirus cases and deaths have not been decreasing , which is certainly not following Dr. Birx's conditional statement about “full mitigation and us learning from each other of how to social distance.” Even in my own state of Maine, which has a progressively minded Democratic governor who has instituted strict coronavirus safety precautions inclusive of temporarily imposing a 14-day quarantine on travelers from out-of-state and closing all businesses deemed to be “non-essential,” barbershops and hair salons are now “open for business” and legal pressure is being put on the governor to loosen up her inter-state travel restrictions before she thinks it is safe to do so . And while there is now a four-phase plan to ease restrictions in Maine with at least the instructions to maintain safe social distance while engaging in public activities, a number of new coronavirus cases including deaths are still occurring in Maine every day, and Maine has one of the better coronavirus records compared to other states in the country , . Put this together with states that have Republican governors who either never shut down their state or only did so minimally and prematurely opened things up in the midst of a rising curve of coronavirus infections and deaths, and the picture looks bleak , . Put this together further with the extremist right's longtime shared violent fantasy of a violent “second civil war,” which they refer to as “Boogaloo,” and the picture may be out of control:
“The boogaloo, a joke for some, acts as a violent meme that circulates instructions for a distributed, viral insurgency for others. The topic network for boogaloo describes a coherent, multi-component and detailed conspiracy to launch an inevitable, violent, sudden, and apocalyptic war across the homeland. The conspiracy, replete with suggestions to stockpile ammunition, may itself set the stage for massive real-world violence and sensitize enthusiasts to mobilize in mass for confrontations or charged political events.” 
This “second civil war” violent fantasy of the extreme right goes hand in hand with the white supremacy actions of some of the anti-lockdown protesters:
“What we've seen on display is definitively white supremacy. Standing in the gallery with their long rifles, these 'protesters' brandish guns designed not for hunting but for mass casualty while politicians don bulletproof vests. . . . Make no mistake about it, this wasn't a Second amendment protest in Michigan—it was a means of intimidation by threat of deadly violence. The message was clear from these pro-gun, pro-death protesters; Open the state or we will escalate with force.” 
And once again our commander in chief Donald Trump supported the actions of the anti-lockdown protesters:
“The Governor of Michigan should give a little, and put out the fire. These are very good people, but they are angry. They want their lives back again, safely! See them, talk to them, make a deal.” 
I shudder to think of what these “boogaloo” anti-lockdown Trump base protesters may do if and when Trump gets defeated by Joe Biden in November , although this also opens up a somewhat more optimistic perspective for me.
A Bit of Silver Lining?
From a somewhat more optimistic perspective, I think there is the possibility of some silver lining in regard to both aspects of the deadly duo: the coronavirus and President Trump. As far as the coronavirus is concerned, there appear to be some hopeful signs on the horizon in terms of possible treatments involving blood thinning drugs and monoclonal antibodies, and a number of possible vaccines that are in various stages of development . In terms of the possibility of finally getting rid of President Trump in November, currently his Democratic challenger Joe Biden is surging ahead of Trump in virtually all polls, inclusive of several of the battleground states . I was very appreciative and respectful that the grassroots progressive Resisting Trump organization Indivisible, which I have been involved with since its formulation soon after Trump won the 2016 presidential election , recently endorsed Biden with over 95% of its membership voting for the endorsement . And former progressive Democratic candidate and present candidate for Democratic vice president, Elizabeth Warren, recently teamed up with Joe Biden to wrote a joint op-ed calling for increased oversight of coronavirus funds . If Biden ends up choosing Warren for his running mate, perhaps this could help unite the Democratic party against Trump by bringing some of the Democratic disillusioned progressives on board for Biden .
But how concrete is this possible bit of silver lining? Things can easily backfire—the coronavirus treatments may very well end up being far less effective than hoped for, and the possible future vaccines may be much further off than anticipated. If miraculously an effective treatment or vaccine is developed and marketed very rapidly, Trump will no doubt do all in his power to promote this in October, just in the nick of time before the November presidential election, in the hopes of gaining enough traction in the election to win a second term . And from what happened in the 2016 United States presidential election, with all polls showing Hillary Clinton easily beating Donald Trump, I don't think it is at all paranoid to consider that Trump could actually effectively manipulate the American public in this way to win a second term. Furthermore, this scenario is in alignment with research from terror-management theory, which shows that as fear of mortality rises, so does tribalism and support for authoritarian leaders . The devastation that I am afraid is going to accelerate from Trump's actions and non-actions is very palpable, as the Trump administration recently rejected the Center for Disease Control guidance on reopening the United States amidst the coronavirus crisis . And after Trump's infamous “disinfectant” ingestion suggestion to treat the coronavirus, a number of states reported an increase in calls to poison control centers .
For all of the above reasons I decided to put a question mark after “A Bit of Silver Lining” in the title of this essay. The truth is I don't know if there is any silver lining—I can only hope.
23) See Josh Horgan (2020), “Does Surging Existential Dread Help Trump?” Retrieved from https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/cross-check/does-surging-existential-dread-help-trump/; and Devan Cole (2020), “Fed Study: 1918 Flue Deaths Linked to Relative Strength of Nazism.” Retrieved from https://edition.cnn.com/2020/05/05/politics/1918-influenza-pandemic-nazism-federal-reserve-bank-study/index.html; and Sheldon Solomon (2020), "Mourning in Trump's America: An Excistential Account of Political Grief." In D. L. Harris (ed), Non-death Loss and Grief: Context and Clinical Implications, (pp. 61-72). New York: Routledge.