Suddenly, This Summer
Covid deaths in the United States will surpass 150,000 today or tomorrow. At the rate they’re going — and increasing — we will be well past 200,000 by election day.
One hundred days from now.
“How did you go bankrupt?” reads the famous Hemingway quote. “Two ways. Gradually, then suddenly.”
We’re living through — those of us who still remain — a sudden summer. There’s the pandemic, but there’s also the Black Lives Matter protests, by some counts the greatest in American history. There’s the statues falling down. There’s the cynical fascist response to the protests, intended to gin up support among Sixties suburban housewives. There’s the open racism fueling that response.
And because we’re not yet doing everything we can to make things worse, we’re on the verge of massive bankruptcies and evictions. Oh, and school’s about to start!
That all of this was avoidable, well, we knew that from the start. And we knew within weeks from the start that we would avoid little of it.
In an alternate timeline, President Clinton marshaled the entire federal government to deal with the pandemic, and while she was substantially successful, we’re now enduring election-year hearings over the thousand or two deaths, and Fox News can’t stop yammering about “Hillary’s 9/11”.
So here we are, a hundred days from the election — and 178 days until inauguration. We’re still six months out from any kind of substantial relief — at best — and we’re only five months into all this. We could be at 300,000 deaths by then.
World War II? 407,316. Over four years.
People like to invoke History Will Judge at moments like this, as a kind of solace. But we still haven’t settled the history of the Civil War after 150 years, and anything more recent remains contentious. The very thought of history presumes we’ll survive long enough to render judgment, and while we’re dealing with this shit the world itself is still melting.
But the people who lived through this — who survived, anyway — will remember! Well, we’d like to think that, but we lived through the Seventies — gas crises, Watergate, CIA revelations, everything. By 1980, people were happy to forget it all. By 1980, the New Deal, less than fifty years on, was declared dead and buried, the safeties built into it forgotten. A charming liar promised he would make everything better, and everything’s been getting progressively worse.
Gradually, then suddenly.
How did the United States go bankrupt? It took forty years, and then it all happened at once.