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Thoughts inspired by a visit to the beach


We drove down the coast road yesterday to San Gregorio Beach, south of Half Moon Bay, almost to Santa Cruz. It was a beautiful day, even way out there on the coast, where usually, this time of year, it’s foggy and chilly. But the Bay Area—you may have heard, and you know for a fact if you live here—is going into an intense heat wave, one of the biggest in a long time. So even there, by the white-sand beaches, below the Redwood forests of the Santa Cruz Mountains, the temperature was around 80, with preternaturally blue skies and a gentle breeze.

And what did we see? Masses of humanity, clogging Highway 1 for miles, bumper-to-bumper cars parked by the side of the road: mainly surfers and young families with little kids—with no social distancing, and almost no masks.

I mean, come on! Can we get real? Why would anyone in their right mind refuse to wear a mask at this point, even if they’re under thirty? We were told, for a period of time last Spring when coronavirus wasn’t well understood, that young people didn’t have to worry about getting infected. But now, “Young adults are driving outbreaks,” reports the Centers for Disease Control, demolishing the myth that only old people get sick and die. Maybe it’s true that younger people don’t get as sick. But they can spread the disease to their parents and grandparents, and to immuno-compromised neighbors, and even if they’re totally asymptomatic, they’re vectors of the virus.

I suppose it’s in the nature of young people to be suspicious of authority—I came of age in an era when the slogan was “Don’t trust anyone over thirty.” But that tendency is immeasurably strengthened now by the fact that we have an ignorant, manipulative and violently uncaring president who for five months has downplayed the danger of COVID-19 and, as recently as yesterday, called Biden “shameful” for calling for a national policy of masks. Even if they’re not consumers of the news, young people pick up on this bullshit, and it gives them permission to ignore the medical warnings, and to think that coronavirus is a whole lot of nothing.

It’s been pointed out, over and over and over to the point of tedium, that the United States is the worst-performing country in the world by far in controlling—or not controlling—the spread of COVID-19. The coronavirus hit Taiwan at the same time as it hit America, and yet the death rate here is 1,200 times higher than in Taiwan.

That fact alone indicts Trump, and is enough for House Democrats to re-impeach him. It should also be enough to put Trump at the bottom of the “worst presidents ever” list, and should fuel citizen outrage from coast to coast. And yet we still have 35%, or 40%, or whatever the number is, standing by their man no matter how many times he lies, no matter how much he undermines our country, no matter how hard he tries to steal the upcoming election, no matter how many Americans he kills through his disinformation campaign.

Look: I understand these kids with their surfboards going out to the beach. I mean, hell, I was out there, for much the same reason: to get out of the city, to someplace pristine and clean. They’re bored, they’re not even allowed to go to school, and they’ve been cooped up for months with their parents, away from their friends. Suddenly, there’s a gorgeous day, and all they can think of is fun, fun, fun on the sand. If this were happening just a little bit, on nice days, it would be one thing: but it’s happening again, and again, and again, across the country, every day of the week. It’s happening here in Oakland, where young people flock to Lake Merritt (our local version of the ocean, albeit with no surfing), with no social distancing and no masks. It’s clearly happening in Florida and other states where coronovirus is out of control. And it will keep on happening, until this country gets real and takes decisive steps to crush coronavirus, as most other countries in the world have already done.

But most other countries don’t have this bumbling, dangerous poltroon as their head. I’d give my right one to be able to read a history book in, say, thirty years: “America came dangerously close to becoming a dictatorship under the Trump administration, but fortunately the good nature and common sense of the American people came to the rescue. Trump was defeated for re-election by a landslide, and eventually was found guilty of numerous crimes. Sentenced to a long prison sentence, he died behind bars. Nobody missed him.”

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