PandemicPete

PandemicPete2
This illustration appeared in 1909 in The New York American
"Go ahead, just shoot the messenger and try hard to avoid hitting your own left foot in the process …"

Nobody felt more wrongly accused than Mary Mallon, Immigrant Irish Cook for a wealthy New York banker's family vacationing in Oyster Bay. She felt fine and refused to cooperate with the investigator trying to track down the source of an unusual typhoid outbreak among the elite. Typhoid most often appeared in slums. Typhoid Mary was eventually quarantined for the rest of her life and felt wrongly persecuted for every minute of that time. Now infamous, we might imagine that Mary deserved her infamy, that she was particularly cavalier or callously cynical, but she was neither, just unaware, in the modern vernacular: merely clueless. SARS-CoV-2, The virus that causes COVID-19 infections, cannot be properly characterized as cavalier or cynical, either, neither can those who spread it unaware, a designation which might reasonably include anyone and everyone, since SARS-CoV-2 seems to primarily spread using Typhoid Mary's insidious method, via the asymptomatically infected. The Pandemic Petes exclusively responsible for spreading This Damned Pandemic might have each done what Mary did, unsuccessfully sue the health department for quarantining them, but might reasonably feel wrongly accused of what they do, what they each did in turn. They didn't know. I write this piece so that we might come to know together.

We have a long and overly proud tradition of shooting messengers, blaming informants for delivering unsettling content.
Today, I may manage to offend you, and I quite honestly hope that I manage to do just that. Shoot me if you will, but I'll still insist that it's not the virus infecting us, but us infecting each other. We're each not simply potentially the new Typhoid Mary or PandemicPete, but most probably already one of them. Of course none of us can definitively know whether we are or not, test turn-around times being what they are. Mine took more than a week to report that I had not been infected at the time I was tested, but reported nothing about the ten days after. Of course I'd taken precautions during the intervening period, but I had not lived in solitary confinement. I'd worn my mask and limited my excursions, but not completely eliminated them. I might have been exposed as I exited the clinic where I took the test or at any point after, and had I been subsequently infected, I would have most probably become asymptomatically clueless, spreading. Call me PandemicPete, for I cannot convincingly deny the designation. I could have been him. I might well still be. You, too.

I cannot know, so what's my defense? I could presume my innocence until absolutely proven guilty, a right guaranteed under our constitution, but I understand that SARS-CoV-2 acknowledges no sovereign dominion and seems to favor Napoleonic doctrine, which presumes guilt until innocence gets proven. I might more reasonably unconditionally presume my own culpability. When our governor mandated that everyone wear a mask in public, his order could not have trampled upon any of my inalienable rights because I'd out-smarted him and the whole damned system. I had already been wearing my mask in public, and mostly staying home, and carrying around a personal vial of hand sanitizer and frequently using it for some time before he ordered the soft lockdown. My personal mandate predated his and will post-date its suspension until and if the R0 trends toward negative transmission. I suppose it might be possible to unsuccessfully argue in any court that the defendant deliberately alienated his own inalienable rights, but probably without much success. Those refusing, on Constitutional grounds, to wear their mask in public (a crowd including at least one hopelessly clueless Supreme Court Justice), must assume that none of them could possibly be PandemicPete, a proposition utterly impossible to conclusively prove. Perhaps they're just Second Order Clueless, clueless about their own cluelessness, just the state our so-called insidious SARS-CoV-2 virus relies upon to spread. It sends its thanks every time we infect each other.

We're seemingly less defenseless than defensive. Like Typhoid Mary, I exhibit none of the symptoms killing those with whom I've come into contact. I'm gratefully unaware of all I do connect with, since I need not necessarily be present when the bugs I left infect someone behind me in line or later fondling lettuce I earlier inspected. Because I cannot muster adequate defensive awareness, I might merely presume my own guilt and become as a result, less defensive. Because I cannot absolutely admit my innocence, I might most humbly presume my guilt and behave as if I am culpable. The alternatives make no sense if our goal really is to rid ourselves of this scourge. Sure, I'm at some level hurting myself. Why should I sacrifice first when I see so many, even our soon-to-be former President, presuming to preserve their old status quo, quite literally
regardless? This why question beggars every response. It's one of those 'If You Have To Ask' sort of questions which suggests someone's unwilling to accept any response. If you can't noodle that question into some personal acceptance, who could possibly provide you with actionable advice? Go ahead, just shoot the messenger and try hard to avoid hitting your own left foot in the process, PandemicPete.

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved








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