Greg Dennis: Coronavirus, Boomers and Millennials
“Trump said Monday that the novel coronavirus outbreak in the United States could last until July or August … one day after he said the virus was under control.”
— Washington Post, March 16, 2020
Some impressions from the Early Coronavirus Era:
COVID-19 has created a serious crisis around the globe — and it’s also exposed a serious lack of leadership in the White House. The messages coming from President Trump and his team have until this week downplayed the risk to public health and have instead focused on the pandemic’s financial impact.
Every president worries about the health of the economy.
But the physical and mental health of Americans needs to come first in a crisis. As of this writing Tuesday, it seems the president has realized this at last.
So we can only wish Trump and his team well as they try to steer a national course through the crisis.
In the meantime, local leaders and valiant healthcare professionals have stepped into the void created by uncertainty in the White House. Witness the “how to help” documents that sprang up almost immediately on this newspaper’s website, Front Porch Forum, and among the college community when students had to suddenly depart.
It reminds us yet again that the strength of America doesn’t come from the top down.
This year proves the peril of making political predictions. But I’ll make another one anyway: It’s the grim reality for the GOP that this disease will in all likelihood cost it the presidency.
Incumbency and the roaring economy were Trump’s two major strengths. Now the economy is tanking and seems unlikely to recover this year.
In this crisis and impending recession, it’s going to be very hard for him to take Pennsylvania and key Midwestern states, and thereby win again in the Electoral College while massively losing the popular vote.
Trump bungled the response to the virus’s spread. And voters stuck in a deep recession will be looking for a steadier hand this November.
In my extended family, it’s the young adults who have been best about limiting their social contacts in the past week.
Those of us over age 60 are much more vulnerable to the virus. But it’s the “kids” who have been most vocal about lying low — and wishing we would, too.
No doubt some of that comes from the difference in our ages. Many young adults were too young to fully remember 9/11 and the foolish wars that followed. This is the first mortally serious crisis of their adult lives.
We Baby Boomers have reached the point where we usually feel resilient enough to weather the hard knocks of life. But estimates are that at least 50% of Americans may contract the virus.
Have we Boomers grown too blasé, too confident that we’ve made it this far — too sure we’ll ride out the coronavirus with nothing more serious than getting a lousy cold and watching bad movies at home?
Eli Pariser, the writer and activist, caught this thread nicely in a piece for CNN titled, “Hello, Boomers? It’s Millennials. We need to talk about coronavirus.”
It’s a missive from one generation, unlikely to die from the virus, to one that’s greatly threatened by it.
“Dear Boomers,” Pariser wrote in part, “We’ve had our differences. You don’t like that we’re still living in your basement, not paying rent and taking selfies with our avocado toast. We don’t like that you sat back and let so many terrible things happen, like Steely Dan and climate change.
“But today, we’re going to move past ‘OK, Boomer.’ We’re going to stop posting EmojiGrams, put down our phones, and have one of those Serious Talks you like so much. Are you ready?
“See, Boomers, we’re worried about you. We’re worried you aren’t taking this virus seriously enough … We’re worried you might die from COVID-19.”
In the face of the inevitable skepticism, he joked, “I know what you’re thinking: ‘My children and grandchildren are saying they can’t visit because of science and public health now? How convenient.’ But it’s not an excuse, we swear, and we’re happy to triple down on FaceTime to prove it.”
Moreover, Pariser wrote, “You’re probably sick of us learning something and then acting like we were the first people in human history to ever discover it … But it’s better to be sick of us than to get sick yourself. We’re writing today because we care about you. And we want you to stay safe.”
For those of us who like basketball or baseball, it adds insult to injury that we’re now deprived of March Madness, the NBA and Opening Day of the baseball season. Indeed, it’s often hard to find even a taped game on TV.
How painful is it? So I could watch a little hoops, I tuned in last night to ESPN’s “30 for 30” for a segment about the University of Houston’s “Phi Slama Jama” basketball team.
It’s essentially a highlight reel of dunks. But desperate times call for desperate measures.
Social critics have for years bemoaned the fracturing of Americans society into silos: Republican vs. Democrat; hip-hop fans vs. folkies; video gamers vs. the rest of us.
It’s commonly said that the Super Bowl is the only shared experience bringing Americans together for a day.
Well, this time we’ve got the Super Bowl of Health vs. Disease. We’re all in this together. I believe we’ll come out stronger and, for a time at least, more united.
Greg Dennis’s column appears here every other Thursday and is partially archived on his blog, gregdennis.wordpress.com. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @greengregdennis.
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