Listen as you read and you can hear the raspy voice of balladeer and song writer Bob Dylan: “Let us pause in life’s pleasures/ and count its many fears/while we all sup sorrow with the poor/ There’s a song that will linger/Forever in my ears/ Oh, hard times come again no more.”
And here we are, in hard times, which I hope are awakening our consciousness and our consciences. Times of a killer global pandemic virus and the disease it spawns, COVID-19. Four million cases worldwide and 2 million in the USA. Projections say 200,000 Americans will have died from this virus by late September.
Hard times sprung from the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis poiice officer, Derek Chauvin, now charged with second degree murder. Hard times that have spurred hundreds of thousands — black, white, Latino, Asian — into the streets in 60 cities to protest against unwarranted police force, especially against minorities.
All this in the wake of 40 million Americans and residents losing their jobs because of the way the pandemic has impacted businesses.
Some of us resist these realities, want to deny them. Nationwide, dozens of states have been “reopening” their economies, and, say experts such as Dr. Anthony Fauci, “too soon.” Mask wearing? Keeping social distance? “Yesterday’s story,” in the minds of droves of shoppers, restaurant-goers, partiers on the beach.
Police brutality? A need for massive protests? “Overblown,” some mutter. “Case of a few bad apples, nothing more.” In saying so these folks do no more than echo the plaints of President Donald J. Trump, who similarly wants to wish the pandemic away.
Refusing himself to wear a mask in public because “I just don’t see it for me,” he also would like to hold rallies with no social distancing.
Thus the Republicans are planning to hold their nominating convention in Jacksonville, Florida, Aug. 23-27, with Trump, proclaiming “We don’t do social distancing.”
Nonetheless, attorneys have evidently apprised Trump and the GOP of potential legal claims if Trump fans who flocked to the Tulsa rally on June 20 — or convention goers in August — happen to contract COVID-19 at such an event. Attendees in Tulsa were advised that a ticket to the rally came with a waiver exonerating Trump or the Republican party from any liability for a COVID-19 outbreak.
Close to 70% of Americans surveyed have stationed themselves in an opinion zone at odds with where Trump has staked himself: That strong majority agree with the likelihood of further spikes in coronavirus cases and also the need for significant reforms of how policing is handled in this country.
As these percentages no doubt can translate into voting patterns in presidential, congressional and gubernatorial elections in just four and a half months, Republican strategists are scrambling to adjust their campaign pitches. “Keep America Great” just won’t work anymore.
On the Democratic side, the Joe Biden campaign for president is vowing to “get the public health response to the pandemic right” and “stop the economic freefall.” And Biden will lay plenty of blame for the virus spread and attendant economic damage on Trump’s doorstep.
The Dems could do worse than borrow a line from Dylan: “Many times you have lingered around my cabin door/ oh, hard times, come again no more.”