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COVID in the rear view mirror

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The big news out here is that the Bay Area is emerging from the worst depths of the pandemic. The Governor’s color tier now has eight of the nine counties in the red tier, with one—San Mateo—entering the orange tier just yesterday.

This is great news. Restaurants, bars, gyms, malls, movie theaters, bowling alleys are starting to re-open, albeit at reduced capacities.

How will history regard the closure? I’m of two minds. It could be that the shutdown will be retrospectively viewed as having been absolutely necessary in order to save lives and keep our hospitals from being overwhelmed. On the other hand, some states that did not shut down, like Florida, have case rates similar to California’s, but much less economic damage. So the jury is out.

Judging from people I know, the feeling is widespread that the shutdown may have been unnecessary, at least to the extent it was imposed. One hears the phrase “the cure is worse than the disease.” But it’s not my intent, here and now, to debate this. It’s too soon to tell. Let people argue about it, one way or the other. It will take time to understand, and we are an impatient people, we Americans. We want everything now and, like antsy children, are seldom inclined to wait.

The political aspects of the shutdown, though, are gradually becoming clear. Red counties, such as those in the Sierra Foothills, the northern Shasta Cascades and the southern San Joaquin Valley, seem to have become even more conservative. There are widespread stories of bars and restaurants that never closed, of big events where no one is masked, of citizens openly criticizing “big government” is the harshest terms. Anyone who thinks California is just one big Blue mass needs to go to Bakersfield or Redding, where red state sentiment holds sway. These places are the strongholds of the anti-Gavin Newsom movement. They resent everything the Governor stands for, what they perceive as coastal elitism, the arrogance of “experts,” the snobbery of wealthier, college-educated upper classes over rural farmers, ranchers and small businessmen. The politicians elected by these red regions cater to their resentments—Devin Nunes, for example, Trump’s “favorite congressman” who, all during the pandemic, told his constituents to “go out” to taverns and restaurants.

Speaking personally, I’m looking forward to social stuff I haven’t been able to do for a year: going to Waterbar for oysters and Champagne with Maxine, Keith and Marilyn. Having vodka gimlets with Miss Araceli at Room 389, the sports bar where, in 1989 and 1990, I watched the Forty-Niners win the Super Bowl. Devouring agedashi tofu, miso soup and a triple kinja roll at Kinja sushi. Somehow, all three of these places have managed to stay open—keinehora, as my Grandma Rose used to say. Not so fortunate, sadly, was the fate of Old Crow Tattoo Parlor, where I got my tatts. Philip had to shut down due to the pandemic, a great loss to the neighborhood where he’d been such a fixture for ten years.

I don’t know what the longterm effects will be of the pandemic. Will it redound to the benefit of Republicans? Will Biden’s huge relief bill convince Americans that “big government” is a good thing? Will Trump, the spider in his hole, re-emerge in any meaningful fashion? Will Biden’s health hold out, and what if it doesn’t? The questions abound, as they always do, with so few answers.

Stay safe. Be well. Wear a mask. And never, ever forget the horrors that Donald J. Trump inflicted on America. It’s only human nature to let bad memories fade away while remembering the good times, but if we forget how evil Trump was, we do a grave disservice to America. Something like him can not be allowed to happen again!

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