As the pandemic unfolds, I keep finding myself thinking about the round-the-clock coverage I saw a while ago on Fox about the death of one person caused by an undocumented immigrant. I can’t even remember the details at this point, but they’d clearly cherry-picked a story to rehash over and over, sowing fear and panic about immigrants. (They probably do this all the time; I just don’t watch Fox very often.) In doing so, they presented a wildly disproportionate sense of risk, given that immigrant crime tends to be lower than that from US-born citizens.
I’ve also been struck by the use of car deaths as a justification for not worrying about coronavirus deaths. 36,000 traffic fatalities a year is an unacceptably high number to write off as “inevitable accidents,” and the very Republicans who oppose traffic safety measures are the same ones using that high casualty rate as an excuse for allowing more death! (Interestingly, the libertarian Cato Institute, of all places, has a study disputing the claim that immigrants cause more drunk-driving deaths.)
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Criticizing “excessive fear” over the coronavirus pandemic has become de rigueur on the right. “Freedom not fear” is a common refrain. Comical examples abound of conservatives downplaying the significance of death itself, such as this quote from The Federalist:
“So the barbaric, panicky elevation of mere life as the only good worth conserving is becoming increasingly shameful.”
As Steve Martin used to say, “Well, excuuuuuse me!”
Referring to rational, ethical behavior based on science as “fear” is a linguistic sleight of hand meant to invoke notions of feminine hysteria. Masks especially seem to be heavily gendered, as I can attest from observing people in grocery stores and the post office.
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The US Postal Service has been a bane of Republicans for many years now, and there are many details to that story that don’t fit into a single cartoon. Most notably, there was the 2006 Postal Accountability Act which placed an exceptional burden on the USPS to prefund retiree health benefits several decades into the future, without which the agency would have turned a profit many of the years it reported losses. The coronavirus pandemic poses new problems as mail volume plummets, and bailouts are given to other industries but not the highly essential post office. Then there’s Trump’s personal vendetta against Jeff Bezos and Amazon, as well as the need for mail-in ballots this November, which threatens the GOP’s stranglehold on power with, you know, democracy. Enter the appointment of $2 million GOP donor Louis DeJoy (oh the irony of that surname) as Postmaster General, replacing the first-ever woman to hold that position, who is retiring. The American Postal Workers Union has some concerns about this. Like I said, too much material for a single cartoon!
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These times are difficult for everyone, but I’ve been thinking lately about how what has happened to America is especially mind-blowing for my generation. The fall of the Berlin Wall was one of the defining events of my youth. As a teenager, I had no illusions about the world being perfect, but it seemed unquestionable that democracy had a firm foothold in the West and was more or less on the rise globally. It’s even worse, I think, if you’re a woman who came of age in the ‘90s. How did we enter this weird alternate timeline?
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