voice for democracy

Brugger: The Pandemic That is Destroying Democracy | Columnists | magicvalley.com – Times-News

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Once upon a time, there was a little virus that got big ideas. It traveled across continents, finding weak bodies and then even sturdy bodies. It figured out a way to jump into humans more effectively than any other virus had ever done before. In fact, humans are still trying to figure out all the things it attacks when it gets a foothold in a human’s body. When humans tried to avoid it, the virus changed itself and became harder to evade. Although it can only reproduce inside a living cell, it has metastasized inside our democracy and could kill it.
An example of its pervasiveness is the legislature called back into session in Boise on Monday. Twenty-nine bills are waiting for consideration. They include a $2M fund to defend against vaccine mandates. Florida’s governor has called its legislature into session for the same purpose. Think of the money spent helping COVID 19 find humans to infect!
In the US, the threat of the virus initiated its attack on our democracy. President Donald Trump was told that the virus would be his greatest challenge and that it would threaten the economic prosperity he depended on for reelection. His response was to downplay the deadly disease. Thankfully, his advisors put a robust scientific response into play, but the messages about the situation undercut his scientists. He and the propagandists who support him relentlessly sent the message that masks were harmful, the virus was a hoax, and statistics used misleading data.
Trump and his supporters believe he should still be the President. If Biden stays in office, they assume the martyred President, or his anointed evangelist will win in 2024.
For over a decade, our public debate has featured attacks on the speaker rather than the topic. Individuals on every side have allowed themselves to accept the shameful characterizations. As a defense against shame, they have identified other types of people as worthy of contempt. Many of the “contemptible” are more likely to be harmed by the virus. Across the world, the virus has killed thousands of the inconvenient populations that threaten established authoritarian governments. It has been a strategic tactic to continue the spread of misinformation through free social media.
As part of Russia’s continued influence on our public life (I stress, it is not collusion. There is no quid pro quo), it has been helpful to their aspirations to implicate China with purposely spreading the virus. China has used our internal civil war over the virus to strengthen its control in the South China Sea and threaten democratic, independent Taiwan.
When the word virus does not refer to a disease, it means a harmful or corrupting influence. We’ve been using it concerning computer software since we developed viral code. In the seventies, there was a book titled The Virus of the Mind. It talked about how harmful attitudes and associations can invade our thinking and destroy our personal and social lives. COVID 19 has managed to combine both meanings.
I am not the first to consider the battle against COVID 19 as a war. It should be familiar to us because our modern version of warfare includes the battle with an enemy that is hard to identify physically. A disease-causing virus is invisible to the eye. It requires exceptional knowledge and skill to understand it.
COVID 19 is unique. When it appeared, we could only treat the symptoms. Nothing seemed successful, and some treatments were harmful until they were adjusted as needed. The scientific investigators spread out in all directions. We were anxious to consume all the information we could about this enemy keeping us locked in our home and away from our jobs. The Trump administration, by design, did not even attempt to coordinate the information or screen it for accuracy. The virus added to the public’s distrust of the government, and it did it in all the world’s democracies because of our doctrines of free speech.
Where there is chaos, people want stability. They yearn for one public-spirited voice that will calm the seas. Unfortunately, any such agent is not permanent, and democracy is the only form of government that allows for that fact. We cannot let COVID 19 destroy democracy.
Linda Brugger, retired from the Air Force Reserve, leaning Democrat and community activist can be reached at [email protected]. She welcomes feedback.

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