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I shouldn’t be sitting reading stories about victims of the plague but I do and a great one was in the Sunday New York Times, by Pam Belluck, an epic about a healthy young father of three, 49, struck down hard and suddenly by Covid-19 who was kept alive on a ventilator for a month by doctors at Massachusetts General and almost given up for lost, but somehow, by extraordinary means and technology and dedicated doctors and God’s mercy and a visit from his wife who sat and held his hand for three hours when he seemed to be a goner, he came back to life, and in the online edition of the Times, there’s a video of the hospital staff in blue scrubs lining a hallway and applauding as the gentleman is wheeled out of the ICU. I don’t cry easily but it brings tears to my eyes.

heroic work of medical professionals

This is the heart of the coronavirus story, not the briefings, not the demonstrations at state capitols, but the heroic work of medical professionals to spare us the miseries of this defiant disease.

This is the heart of the coronavirus story, not the briefings, not the demonstrations at state capitols, but the heroic work of medical professionals to spare us the miseries of this defiant disease. The Belluck story is a work of narrative art. It should get a Pulitzer Prize.

I’m 77, safely sequestered in a New York apartment under the supervision of my wife who intends to keep me around, so we stay put. The medical troops are doing their duty, and we the people assist them by staying out of harm’s way. Men and women are riding the subway into Manhattan in order to do the essential things to support life, bring in groceries, deliver them, take away garbage, run the hospitals and clinics, provide security. When the pandemic is over, our society will need to stop and think about who is essential and why should the delivery truck driver earn a tiny fraction of what is paid to the Executive Vice President for Interactive Synergy & Proactive Metrics?

It’s been said a thousand times but nonetheless: the nation is in unknown territory. Truly. Nobody knows. The disease is not running a predictable course. Social distancing helps but it is revolutionary and now comes the counterrevolution. Washington is adrift. In a rational world, Mr. Trump would announce that he is canceling his reelection campaign so that he can focus on the job at hand, the two missions are incompatible. Nobody thinks he’d do that. Reimpeachment is not in the cards: is sheer incompetence a “high crime and misdemeanor”? The Founders didn’t anticipate this; they associated narcissism with royalty, not democratically elected leaders.

The White House is not sympathetic to the plight of the Postal Service because Mr. Trump never wrote a letter in his life and put it in an envelope and mailed it. The New York transit system is billions in the red but he’s never ridden the subway so it doesn’t matter. He has run the pandemic response as a reality show off the top of his head, with no acknowledgment of the deaths and suffering it’s caused because it isn’t real to him.

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He is, however, friendly to us Christians though he himself could not recite the Lord’s Prayer if you offered him a million bucks. But a goodly percentage of Protestants are Republicans, so he favors us, and nowhere in America are our people being burned at the stake. The judiciary is being repopulated with men who might well favor mandatory memorization of Bible verses in public schools. This would not do much to stop the virus, but it might be enough to reelect the man.

My parents fell in love in 1931, at the start of the Great Depression, and neither had any money so they waited it out, he working on the farm, she as a caregiver in Minneapolis, and five years later, they married in a fever and started a family. It was not easy, but it was familiar ground: you worked hard, were frugal, and when necessary you leaned on your relatives. Neither of them recalled the Thirties as a time of suffering. It was what it was and you did what needed to be done, and they were young and in love.

This is different.

Comedians have been feasting on this man. The Clorox/UV episode of the Trump show was huge on social media. But we’ve come to a strange new place where the president isn’t funny anymore. Government is failing. People are dying. Comedy is at the heart of being American. Where do we go from here?


Garrison Keillor

Reposted from Prairie Home Productions with permission.