Marie Antoinette may not have said this famous line, or it may have been crafted by an anonymous author who put it in the mouth of a clueless aristocrat. Either way, it’s a phrase that has taken on new meaning and relevance as the world reels under the Covid-19 pandemic.
Although I am in the “high risk” category due to age and a few medical conditions that would likely add to the risk should the disease take hold, I am otherwise in a fairly good place. Retired for several years, I do not have to work from home, risk my life going to work or apply for unemployment benefits. Living with two family members who are extremely careful and who allow me to bask in my status as the elder of the family, I do not have to go grocery shopping for myself. We have enough to live on, and land on which to grow food should that become a necessity. For me personally, then, the situation is (so far) manageable and tolerable. Yet, I am deeply afraid.
This pandemic affects so many unequally–people of color, low income workers, children, the uninsured and homeless. As if this were not enough, the unmistakable messages coming out of the White House and from others in positions of power and responsibility are demeaning and insulting and would make Marie Antoinette green with jealousy. The lack of compassion, understanding, leadership, and trustworthy information or advice is astounding. The willingness to destroy the sacred liberties that have sustained this country for almost 300 years in service to personal gain is beyond frightening.
Our nation stands on the brink of a precipice, one that we have been slowly but inevitably moving toward for many years. The pandemic alone is not to blame and the situation is much more complicated than one untruthful, unqualified, impeached president. But Trump has focused our national attention on the dangers of massive inequality, complacency and lack of introspection.
“One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.” — Carl Sagan
I hope and pray it is not too late.
©Martha Hurwitz, 4/9/20, Cake