Singing the COVID-19, pandemic blues

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to infect and kill people across Virginia and the nation, the millions out of work wonder if things will ever get better.

Until March of this year, I photographed high school athletics, an occasional college event, music festivals and concerts, shot video for area television stations and covered court for The Floyd Press.

When high school basketball ended with a quarterfinal loss by the Lady Buffaloes, I shot one game of the softball season, one of varsity baseball before schools closed and all other athletic events were cancelled amid the increasing global coronavirus pandemic.

Then came cancellation of FloydFest, where I had just negotiated to shoot video for television stations, then shutdown of a planned Crooked Road video project, the Galax Fiddlers’ Convention and other events.

When your livelihood depends on coverage of events that appear to have steady schedule, a pandemic sure is hell when it brings just about everything to a halt.

That’s OK, I thought. School will be opening in the fall, along with athletics but schools will, instead, be more online than in actual person and the Virginia High School league is expected to pull the plug on all fall sports at a meeting later this month.

I can’t fault the school systems or the High School League for their decision. It is not safe for our students to be on athletic fields and crowded together in classrooms. While Floyd County’s total of 28 cases and 1 death (so far) is minuscule by comparisons to hotspots elsewhere in Virginia, it is still climbing, sometimes by 1 or 2 or even 4 new cases a day.

Virginia Tech keeps saying it will have some of a football season but others doubt it. The Ivy League shut down its conference. Same for the one that James Madison University plays in but the coach there says he will put together a season against other teams but that might be just a feeble dream.

Carroll County still has its annual Gun Show and Flea Market on its schedule for the upcoming Labor Day Weekend but I’ve talked with some area vendors who usually go and nearly all say they are staying home.

“Too damn dangerous,” says one in disgust.

Our photography business is shut down. I still shoot photos, when assigned, for the Floyd Press and cover Circuit Court but that is about it. My web hosting business is hanging by a thread while websites like this one struggle to survive.

But our predicament, while bad, is better than many others in the county. More and more depend on food banks to help feed their families and try to cope with illnesses without proper health insurance.

I stood behind a man who tried four different credit and debit cards before he got one approved for a sale that was under $5 at the grocery the other day.

Many things have challenged our will to survive as Americans. We have become an angry nation where genuine discussions are replaced by anger, distrust and hate. Those who choose to try and survive by playing by the rules are called weak by those who flout the rules and what used to be the real American way of life.

Our elected leaders utter childish insults at those who question their actions. Our president puts the safety of children ahead of his desire to be re-elected by threatening to cut off federal funding of any school system that does not open when it is not safe.

Wrote Rick Gladstone in the New York Times last month:

A 92-year-old Italian, fondly recalling the G.I.s who parachuted in to liberate his country from fascism, says he now sees the ghost of Mussolini in TV clips from the United States. In Iraq, people are sharing photos that compare President Trump holding up a Bible with Saddam Hussein clutching a Quran. In Mexico, no stranger to mayhem, a 36-year-old author worries about her relatives in New York.

With emotions that range from horror to hope, from schadenfreude to self-reflection, the world has been transfixed by the cascading crises in the United States — the coronavirus scourge, 40 million suddenly unemployed, the police killings of George Floyd and other African Americans, and President Trump’s threats of a military crackdown on protests that have convulsed dozens of cities.

–Rick Gladstone, The New York Times

We have friends here who ask the same things along with others we know who live in other nations.

Adds Paul Waldman:

Trump likes to say that after he was elected, respect for the United States was restored, but the truth is precisely the opposite. Even before the pandemic, Trump couldn’t have done more to degrade America’s standing than if that was his explicit goal. Not even George W. Bush, whose disastrous invasion of Iraq drew condemnation across the globe, did as much to undermine our image abroad.

Just the fact that the United States would elect such a vulgar, ignorant, corrupt buffoon was bad enough. But now our government’s incompetence is helping cause the bodies to pile up — and, it would be reasonable for other countries to worry, potentially affecting their own efforts to contain the virus.

And now what does the world see? A country that has produced more Nobel prize winners than any other, with the world’s best universities and most innovative companies, failing disastrously to control a pandemic because of rampant incompetence and cronyism in its government — and that then rushes to resume normal social activities because its dumbest politicians and most idiotically selfish citizens think they should have the “freedom” to infect everyone around them.

-Paul Waldman, The Washington Post

Sad times. Bad times. But the worst may still be ahead, unless we wake up.

Perhaps the answer lies in Shakespeare’s play, Julius Caesar:

“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars / But in ourselves, that we are underlings.” (Julius Caesar, Act I, Scene III, L. 140-141).

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