To me, it is not the number — 100,000 Americans dead — nor the speed, since Feb. 6 in Santa Clara County, Calif.
The CDC reported a record high 80,000 deaths from the plain old flu in 2017.
Were you aware of that number? I wasn’t, perhaps because it was recorded over many months and did not swamp medical facilities nor send out panicked cries for PPE — which we now know stands for personal protection equipment.
Over the past couple of days, I heard the term “grim milestone” from more journalists than I care to think about as they prepared to report on the (ahem) mounting deaths.
The Left tied it to a story on President Donald J. Trump playing golf, days before we reached the “grim milestone,” as if him staying home would stop the deaths. The Right played the same stupid game when President Barack Obama played golf after announcing the murder of American hostage James Foley in 2014, as if not playing golf would return Foley to life like Lazarus.
Maybe it’s got something to do with golf, regarded (by some) as a game played by the elites, by men and women who have other people carry their bags, which should not be allowed. Ditto golf carts. You’re out there (supposedly) to exercise? Then exercise your fat ass.
So what does 100,000 look like? Brian Williams’ MSNBC show mis-named “The 11th Hour” (it is on at 11 p.m., which is the 23rd hour), came up with a graphic showing the number of 737s it would take to carry 100,000 people and the screen gets filled with 600 tiny aircraft silhouettes.
I know the producers want to make it seem like a lot, but couldn’t they have shown, say, two Yankee Stadiums or 17 Radio City Music Halls?
The Philadelphia Inquirer runs an occasional page with featurized obits of about a half-dozen deceased. Most are elderly, who don’t seem to have been cut off in their prime. The New York Times pulled a tabloid trick a couple of days back and ran 1,000 names of deceased Americans on its front page.
Why them? Why 1,000? Why not all 100,000?
That would be a gimmick. So was 1,000.
There is a parallel problem when discussing the Holocaust. How do you picture 6 million Jews? 6 million people are no longer people, they are something else. Then there were another 6 million or so murdered — Catholics, gypsies, Poles, the physically and mentally disabled, gays, Russians.
It’s not the raw numbers. I know of a couple of people who had the virus, but they did not die. If a friend or relative of yours dies, that one will hit you harder than 100,000 strangers.
And while they may have died of the virus, why does that matter? My mother and father are both gone. Did it matter what killed them or why?
To me, no.
In the mortuary sweepstakes, several yardsticks were used by the media, like when the deaths exceeded 9/11 levels, then those dead in Afghanistan and Iraq. And then Vietnam. Next stop would be World War II, with 416,000, then the Civil War — 620,000.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves and count our chickens before they are dispatched.
It’s not the quantity of the COVID-19 deaths.
It’s the quality.
Family aren’t allowed to visit dying patients. They can’t say goodbye, not in person. They can’t hold a hand as life slips away.
There can be no proper funeral, no symbolic sendoff for the voyage to the next world.
It is empty and bitter.
And that is the worst thing to be said about the pandemic.