CSotD: Journal of the Plague Weeks

Matt Wuerker suggests what we have to fear, though not only do we have to fear fear itself, but we also have to fear not fearing enough.

It’s a particular challenge for cartoonists because commenting on the fear shouldn’t negate the need to be reasonably and sensibly cautious.


It doesn’t help that Dear Leader has chosen not to lead, though it gave Ruben Bolling an opening to satirize three years of crisis avoidance, applied to something that really can’t be avoided.

There is rich gallows humor to be mined in jokes about things that ought to scare the hell out of us, and having had a madman at the wheel certainly qualifies.

Shades of that old joke in which a fearful passenger says, “Riding through these twisty mountain roads scares me,” to which the driver responds, “Do what I do: Keep your eyes closed!”


Which is pretty much what Lee Judge suggests, as you know if you have ever put red cellophane in front of your eyes and looked at something red. It doesn’t quite disappear, but it makes it much easier to pretend it’s not there.


Or, as Nate Beeler suggests, you can employ the la-la-la-la method, which is particularly effective if you have small hands that can more efficiently block your ears.


Trump isn’t alone. In what may be intended as an inspiring show of bravado, Gary Varvel seems to pooh-pooh the crisis, suggesting the number of smaller crises and false alarms, while ignoring the fact that few of them were comparable: Many were warnings that didn’t come about, while ecoli outbreaks and mad cow simply aren’t comparable.

He did well not to back his history up as far as the Hong Kong flu, which killed several million, though, admittedly, not all on our shores.

Still, just as even the president of the United States sometimes must have to stand naked, Uncle Sam doesn’t look half so tall and muscular and majestic when he’s hunched over a toilet puking.

Or when he’s majestically passing on the virus to his aged parents and his spouse whose immune system is compromised.


Which brings us to Jack Ohman‘s piece. Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden both cancelled their post-primary gatherings last night, while Dear Leader has boldly refused to stop holding mass pep rallies.

That may change as more Republicans put themselves into voluntary self-quarantine, but the critical factor here is that any sense of anticipatory schadenfreude over the notion of Deplorables spreading the virus among themselves should be countered by the consideration that they would then go shopping, visiting loved ones in hospitals and sending their infected children to school.

Y’know, aside from the immorality of gloating over anyone’s death.


And to the topic not just of school closings, as mentioned here by Matt Davies, but of disruptions in general I would add a by-the-way that, when I was looking at old newspapers for cartoons about the Vietnam Peace Accords, I came across stories of school closings because of the death of LBJ.

Granted, it was about half a century ago, but we really did have a greater sense of community in The Olden Days.

Which might just be nostalgia, but we really should start thinking about hanging together as an alternative to hanging separately.


But there is this: I like Ann Telnaes’s selection of nostrums here, but, while we’ve seen plenty of loyal GOP wipes supporting Dear Leader’s refusal to acknowledge the crisis, I think we may be seeing a few gaps in that … you’ll pardon the expression … wall.

And if you want to chortle over the Republicans who have self-quarantined, it’s understandable, particularly in the case of Matt Gaetz who not only denied, but ridiculed, the disease.

The fact that they might have caught the virus at the CPAC Conference might even cause you to draw parallels with other times that judgmental conservatives have suddenly shifted their positions when they found that something — being gay, needing fetal tissue research, whatever — affected them personally.


But I particularly like Kal Kallaugher‘s piece, because last evening’s briefing with Vice President Pence and several people who actually know how this stuff works did leave the impression that Trump is about the only person still peering through the wrong end of the telescope.

It didn’t make me much like Mike Pence, mind you, but it did at least make me wonder if, when he leads his team in prayer, he may in part be praying to be able to counter his boss’s nonsensical approach.


The question being whether he is content to pursue a more sensible approach in the background, or will find it necessary to step up more forcefully, once the issue becomes guiding the ship through a storm rather than quarreling over strawberries.


4 thoughts on “CSotD: Journal of the Plague Weeks

  1. The CDC says swine flu killed more than 12,000 in the U.S. and more than half a million worldwide. That’s not trivial. I hope Varvel hears from some of those victims’ survivors reminding him of that.

    Why not try to avoid a repeat if we can?

    I will be frustrated and enraged if it comes to pass that, through heroic public health and scientific efforts, COVID-19 is indeed contained and deaths tolls kept low, and the no-nothings will crow, “See, we said it was nothing!” In a dark recess of my soul, it almost…almost…almost makes me wish for worse just to shut them up.

  2. I’ve worked in hospitals for over a decade now, and I have a pretty clear memory of the preparations for ebola, H1N1, and zika, not to mention West Nile before that.

    The thing that stands out for me was the fact that we had a different president in place from 2008-2016, and as a result it was the Fox News scoundrels spreading misinformation about flu shots, or “things that the president isn’t telling you.”. While the usual CDC folks were telling everyone not to panic, it was the right-wingers in my FB feed telling everyone that Obama was going to use H1N1 as an excuse to institute martial law or put RFID chips in ebola vaccines. And it was cartoonists like Varvel that went right along with it.

    This time around, the players are the same but they just seem to have switched jerseys. Is it a requirement for political cartoonists to only have a functional memory of about two years or so?

  3. Varvel’s got a point, when you consider that all the old people dying now and in days to come of Coronavirus must inevitably have survived ALL those other things. He must be telling us not to be delusively complacent just because we didn’t die earlier.

    He MUST be, or he’d just be an idiot passing on toilet-paper-thin propaganda that’s sure to fall apart within weeks.

  4. Kip, this quote from Richard Henry Dana, in “Two Years Before the Mast” (which I strongly recommend) —

    (S)ailors are almost all believers; but their notions and opinions are unfixed and at loose ends. They say,—”God won’t be hard upon the poor fellow,” and seldom get beyond the common phrase which seems to imply that their sufferings and hard treatment here will excuse them hereafter,—”To work hard, live hard, die hard, and go to hell after all, would be hard indeed!”

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