The Coronavirus Calamity—Shutdown. Reboot!

By Daniel Mallock (April 2020)


Early Sunday Morning, Edward Hopper, 1930



What does it mean when an era, an age, an epoch—ends?


It is clear in this time of catastrophe that the world is changing, has changed. Never before in world history has an event paralyzed the entire planet, covering humanity with fear and trepidation. In times of war there is always fear and frenetic action and honored sacrifices now there is a stunned silence in the streets and a palpable panic and fear—and the exceptional response from the medical and support community and government officials involved in mitigation efforts.


Trump is a war president, in a sense, because this is a kind of war against, as he correctly says, an “unseen enemy.” The mandated isolation and social distancing now underway raise the tensions and stress because people have no way to react but to shelter in place, day after day. That every casualty is covered in the press, and every celebrity or political leader who tests positive is also covered creates growing panic and fear in the population. Even a trip to the food market is now a stress-filled, almost bizarre, surreal activity passing down aisle after aisle of empty shelves. The shortages and panic buying happening across the country suggest to some that the country itself (and the world, too) is in collapse—which it absolutely is not as of this writing.


The dark core of history—every generation will be challenged.


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The pre-virus context in which petty arguments, excessive and heated partisan political rhetoric, and failed philosophies were the order of the day is obliterated—yet many in the political elite seem unaware of this obliteration. The rhythm of daily life is now indefinitely paused as nations teeter on the brink, long-held beliefs and habits are challenged and fall, and we look to the national government to do extraordinary things which, when looking back from some future vantage, may be seen to have not been possible though entirely necessary. Those ideological politicians who oppose a rapid fiscal rescue to the people will inevitably be viewed with suspicion and disdain—it is a war effort now, and all must get on board to defeat the enemy and bring the country to a swift recovery.


Majority Whip James Clyburn (D., S.C.) told caucus members last week that the bill was ‘a tremendous opportunity to restructure things to fit our vision.'” While most Americans consider the crisis something to survive as best they can, and look for ways in which they can help—others believe that their revolutionary moment has arrived. Such a viewpoint is cynical and self-serving at best, repellent at worst. 


President Trump rightly characterized the extraordinary response of the federal government as necessary to save lives saying that things can be replaced but lives cannot. The crisis leadership shown by the President, Vice President, and their team of top medical experts has been impressive and inspirational. Trump recently correctly described himself as a “wartime president.” That this is a true statement is self-evident.


deeply confused, ideologically-driven Democrat politicians who have no problem at all with nationalizing private businesses. April is surely set for much more and weightier drama to come.


As of this writing, the count of Covid-19 victims rises daily locally and nationally, and across the planet, though in Italy the number of new cases has declined for the last four days thus suggesting an end to the nightmare, at least in that country. Those countries late in mitigating the spread of the contagion will likely pay a higher cost in both economic damage and lives lost. We go deeper into lockdown and know that the president is correct to take these extreme measures at the behest of his medical advisors. However, daily shifts in the situation suggest that things may not be as dire as first thought.


some countries, at least as national political entities, will not survive this crisis with Iran, in particular, impacted.


What is becoming troublingly clear is that the virus epidemic that began in China was kept hidden by the Chinese Communist party which delayed the rest of the world in responding to the threat. By using the term “Chinese Virus,” Trump is signaling to the government of China that they will be held accountable for their negligence and secretiveness that increased the impact of this global catastrophe and is not in any way meant as an insult to Chinese people or Asian Americans. Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House, is currently stranded in Rome with his wife, the American Ambassador to the Vatican. Gingrich is not shy about blaming the Chinese government directly for the global catastrophe.


Little is known of this new virus (thus the term “novel”) and therefore projections of timelines for national and global recovery can only be speculative. The expectations for the near future of the country are grim with large halls, hotels, and convention centers converted to hospitals out of some dystopian nightmare. At least one cruise line has offered the president their ships to serve as floating hospitals.


This is the new national life within which old matters and issues of contention are now out of context with many extremists and fools exposed as the frauds and hucksters they always were. Where are the identity politics champions touting the victimhood of this group or that and demanding attention, respect, recompense, and government largesse? Where are the utopianists, the jacobins, the globalists? Everywhere there is a growing silence from leftist political cranks and extremists as the government moves rapidly forward to save lives and save the country itself.


Expectations have rarely been higher and the response from political leadership seldom more all-encompassing. In times of extraordinary emergency, and certainly in this current crisis that is global in scope, it is clear that every response is a local and national one. There is a circling-of-the-wagons happening in every country though compassion continues to grow unabated. This local reaction centered around guidance from the federal authority is as far removed from globalism as one might expect. Utopianism and globalism are founded on the idea that humans and systems are perfectible—both untruths. Few now discuss the EU or the UN or other globalist, utopianist bodies—even EU member states all have national-level (and not supra-national) responses to the crisis. All attention is focused on leaders at the city/town, state, and national levels for direction and emergency aid. Because they cannot respond to an existential crisis such as Coronavirus, and because humans have an inherent desire/need in an emergency to take care of their own people first, the supra-national globalist constructs are suddenly becoming irrelevant. The sudden irrevelance of organizations once thought critical and desirable will be followed by the same fate for some/many well-known individuals whose true unpleasant and false natures will become apparent for all to see. These self-exposures, and subsequent realizations will be painful for some. The callousness and shallowness of many individuals will soon be bared for all to see as the intense pressure of the crisis brings people and structures to their breaking points.  


The Denial of Death” and won a Pulitzer prize for it. It is a difficult book though exceptional, and now has a new mirror in that while we mainly have difficulty accepting the fact that we all must die eventually, we also cannot accept that we are ultimately all biological creatures. The devastation, death, and economic destruction now underway due to Coronavirus savagely rams the point home of both the limits and fragility of our lives.


biological machines! But the assertion misses the point because our biology is not what we are, it is merely the vessel within which we navigate and experience our sometimes painfully limited existence on this planet.


The Coronavirus is a great humbling event for all of humanity as our biological fragility is both reiterated and cruelly attacked. Governments, systems, and organizations are stretched to their limits and sometimes break, our leaders pressed to the very walls of the great city on the hill, and our people stressed to exhaustion—the hubris of the world ought to melt away. But the political games, bitter, contentious opposition, and the failure to rally behind the president (and the country itself) by some opposition leaders and their blinkered followers show that, at least in this great country, such has not happened. 


more such mea culpas will follow.


It is difficult to exaggerate the extreme sufferings occurring now in the world and the damage being done to businesses, industries, economies, nations, families, and individual lives. Prior to the Coronavirus and its attendant lockdowns loneliness and depression were seen as growing problems particularly among younger people. That the effective response to this outbreak depends upon compliance with mandated isolation and “social distancing” is a painful irony. It is clear that the psychological fallout from the quarantines and the sudden unexpected losses, sacrifices, and the sufferings will be enormous—it seems almost a redundancy to write the sentence.


The forward momentum of the culture had been to bring more people together, to build closer bridges between individuals and groups to find the commonalities that ought to unite us all. We are all now united in sadness, solitude, horror, grief, and suffering—the bitter ironies of life.


One can speculate about what a post-Coronavirus world and political order will look like but such speculation is of little value while the crisis is underway. The world will be a different place when we come out of this on the other side. Everything will be different, and everyone affected in their own way. In the midst of world-changing tragedies such as this, it is difficult to fully comprehend the enormity of the thing.


There are many on the front lines of this fight from delivery drivers, supermarket stockers and cashiers, to EMTs, nurses, and doctors, police, fire, and community and political leaders, and many others. All of these people go about their daily efforts as heroes and we look to them for their fortitude and self-sacrifice as a model for ourselves. Covered by compassion for those afflicted with this disease and full of grief for those who have died and will die we will find our way as a nation to the end of this horrible time.


On March 23rd President Trump at his daily Coronavirus briefing confidently stated that the lockdown of the nation would not last much longer and that the three-month horizon mentioned by some was not going to happen. The president said, “we can’t let the cure be worse than the problem itself.”


There is a painful calculus that is required in such a pandemic outbreak and national/international catastrophe—how much economic damage can the country tolerate before it collapses into depression and perhaps worse, as opposed to how many lives will be lost from the virus if the strict quarantines and closures are lifted? It would appear that this is the very issue that President Trump is facing. Perhaps it was the second failure of Congress to pass the emergency support bill for American families and companies on the 23rd of March that pushed Trump into a re-think of the national response to the virus?


In order to support the ongoing closures and quarantines the government must swiftly send money to families and businesses to tide them over until the recovery begins. Without this monetary support from the government it is likely that the economic costs of the closures will be catastrophic if not existentially threatening to the country. President Trump’s target date of Easter to re-open some areas of the country other than hot spots is certainly founded on these troubling economic truths.


may be scientific support for Trump’s desire to reboot non-hot-zone segments of the country by Easter—or not. As of this writing (March 25, 2020) there is no definitive information available as to the consequences as to the spread or containment of the virus that might result from the president’s desire for a mid-April partial national reboot. There is little doubt, however, that, if the country remains closed through the month of April and beyond, the national and personal costs will be beyond consequential—they will likely be catastrophic.


The Coronavirus is not only a health emergency it is also an economic crisis. All the stock market gains of the last three years have been reversed in the last three weeks.


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The medical experts that the president has assembled around himself to respond to Covid-19 can advise him only within their areas of expertise—medicine, epidemiology, and virology. The president wisely has listened to these experts—but there are others whose expertise is economics, business, national security, and national continuity who also must have their say, and the president’s ear.

The virus must be defeated and the country must be saved both at the same time. Difficult questions as to the true catastrophic nature of the pandemic must be asked, and swiftly answered.


economic death</a>; both of these can be successfully done.


What does it mean when an epoch ends?


It means that we must meet the challenges head on and never succumb to despair. While we might be the first generation ever to face an event so great in scope previous generations faced their own enormous challenges that, to them, were just as critical and devastating at the time. They recovered and rebuilt their lives—as we will also do.


The days to come will be difficult ones.


And then there will be light breaking over the dark horizon.


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Agony and Eloquence: John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and a World of Revolution. For a humorous diversion, please see Mr. Mallock’s “The Biodeconfukulator” (New English Review, August, 2019.).

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