Occasionally, something you see on Twitter actually makes a lot of sense.
“People screaming to end (the stay-at-home orders) are like somebody who jumps out of a plane and realizes they are floating down peacefully,” wrote John Iwanski, of Chicago. “As they drift in the sky, they are amazed at their ability to survive, and decide it wasn’t so dangerous after all. So they unhook their parachute.”
At this writing, that metaphor seems to describe substantial portions of this country, in which states are starting to relax their stay-home rules, often with no evidence that the local impact of the COVID-19 virus is slowing.
It is especially discomfiting in Texas and Mississippi, where governors are significantly reopening their states at the same time as their death tolls are rising to record heights.
This policy is being applied in two very different economic habitats. Mississippi is the poorest state in the nation, while Texas is around the middle. Governors of both seem to feel the same urgency to get people back to work, however.
As far as literacy goes, they’re about the same. Mississippi is America’s third-dumbest state and Texas is the fourth.
Sixth-stupidest is Georgia, which largely opened up May 1. I watched some Georgia TV news broadcasts on the first weekend of restored freedom, and almost everybody in the pictures was maskless. They didn’t seem to be staying six feet away from each other, either. And there was soon similar video out of Texas, and Florida (8th dumbest), too, which is also largely open.
As a former Floridian, I can tell you that I’m not at all surprised. For one thing, until they start air-conditioning the outdoors, mask-wearing is going to be a big drag in the South. And it’ll be too big of a drag to expect compliance from a lot of Florida Men and Florida Women, because they tend to be dumber than boxes of rocks. Not everybody. But lots.
I saw an interview on the subject with Kathleen Toomey, Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health, who basically said that if her fellow peaches don’t grow up fast, many of them will never get the chance.
The elephant in the room: if I could predict that Southern citizens would tend to be scofflaws when it came to social distancing and mask-wearing, couldn’t the governors of these states have predicted that, too? Aren’t they mostly educated people?
So why did they jump the gun?
My friend Larry Rand, who writes songs and other good stuff, told me his opinion on Facebook.
“These Southern states so eager to re-open have large blocs of African-American Democrats. I think the governors have looked at who is getting the virus and realize they have a great opportunity to decrease the Democratic vote, in addition to the unconstitutional vote blocking they’re engaged in,” he wrote. “They’re willing to lose a few thousand Republicans if they can rid themselves of tens of thousands of minority Democrats.”
Rand has always been more tough-minded than me, and he’s often right. In the South, African-Americans are indeed dying in far greater numbers than whites, largely because of poor access to health care (Whites outnumbered blacks about 50-1 in the news videos of mask-shunners, however). But the idea that any politician would stoop so low as to make elections a life-and-death matter was too much for me to readily accept.
“Are you having a bad Sunday, or do you really think they’re that evil?” I asked Rand.
Before he could get back to me to say he was dead serious, a bunch of other people chimed in.
“I go with evil,” said the development director of a national military association.
“It’s evil and it’s real. Genocide of black and brown people (and cleansing the voter rolls of the poorer populations who might also collect welfare or unemployment benefits) … all in the name of ‘spurring the economy,’” wrote a suburban business executive.
“I live in/from the south. They are that evil,” wrote an Arkansas computer maven.
“At these ‘protests’ how many black and brown faces have you seen?” asked a media producer from Evanston.
“You cannot fix willful ignorance,” a former public relations manager said.
I was surprised that nobody stuck up for the Southern governors, other than to infer that they were not so much devilish as extremely thick.
Iwanski, a fine writer and photographer, said this: “I wish I could assume there’s no way (Rand is) right, but I really think some of these Southern politicians would not be above at least considering that.”
Iwanski may have struck near the heart of the matter. Objectively, this southern subset of the American political menagerie has demonstrated in the past that it can’t be trusted when it comes to race.
It is, after all, the region where it recently took a national outcry to force prosecutors to seek the arrest of white men who shot down a black jogger. So this new kind of atrocious and fatal racist behavior seems within the realm of possibility to a lot of people.
Perhaps when they were intending to fix their state’s economy and put people back to work, the Southern decision-makers pondered, “What are the unintended consequences?”
I hope that their answer wasn’t something like, “Oh, lots of dead Democrats.