The Sneeze, Watercolor, 21" x 29", Richard J Van Wagoner, Circa 2005, Courtesy of Van Wagoner Family Trust**
One year ago March 28, 2020, I posted Everything is About Me and My Survival, quoted in full below. I wrote this essay from the point of view of the novel coronavirus although, you will see, it could also be interpreted from the point of view of the most dangerous and selfishly incompetent person in the United States. This essay, sadly, aged disastrously well.
A UCLA economist just released a study that estimates over 400,000 lives could have been saved in the United States had Trump and the Republicans implemented an effective health strategy as was their legal and ethical duty and stewardship. In other words, but for Trump’s murderous incompetence, 73% of the people who died from COVID 19 in the United States would be alive. Imagine the cost in human suffering.
Many of you needn’t imagine.
The United States now has over 30.2+ million cases with 548,000+ deaths. Utah where I live has 384,000+ with 2,091 deaths as of this posting.
As of March 28 last year, the United States recorded a total of 111,980 cased of COVID 19, or 0.37% of today’s total, and 1,858 deaths from COVID 19, or just under 0.34% of today’s total. Three states still had recorded no deaths.
As of March 28, 2020, Utah, recorded 602 cases of COVID 19, or 0.15% of today’s total, and two deaths from COVID 19, or 0.09% of today’s total.
Remember what we learned in September last year? Bob Woodward had interviewed Trump on February 7, 2020. The first recorded death from COVID 19 in the United States occurred one day before the interview, February 6, 2020, but would not be attributed to COVID 19 until a completed autopsy in April 2020.
During the interview Trump admitted the virus was "deadly stuff." He said:
"It goes through the air.
"That's always tougher than the touch. You don't have to touch things. Right? But the air, you just breathe the air and that's how it's passed.
"And so that's a very tricky one. That's a very delicate one. It's also more deadly than even your strenuous flus."
Publicly, however, he spent the rest of his time in office minimizing it, lying about it, and refusing to accept meaningful responsibility for it.
EVERYTHING IS ABOUT ME AND MY SURVIVAL
If People Die in My Calculation for Continued Survival, Too Bad For Them. I Don’t Care.
(Hint: I Am COVID-19, Not Mr. Trump)
I am a member of the community of highly infectious diseases, the most notorious virus of late. I am not conscious. I don’t have a conscience. I’m not a cell. Technically, I’m not even alive. I am genetic material surrounded by a thin protective layer of fat. (I shouldn’t tell you this, but the fat quickly breaks down with heat, soap, alcohol, and other solvents.) I exist, am designed and am purely and singularly motivated for one purpose alone: to survive. That’s it.
The best you can do for my survival, which is the only thing I care about, is to listen closely to Mr. Trump. I love people in positions of authority, people who make decisions, or don’t, that affect a lot of hosts and prospective hosts, people who reject science when it runs counter to their financial or political interests. I’m not referring here to global warming, although that appears to be a pattern of thinking for some people behind large swaths of dark money in today’s politics.
I have been co-evolving with bats for longer than humans have been around. As an RNA virus I am “more promiscuous, more generalist” by inhabiting and propagating in a variety of hosts, increasing my chances of survival which, again, is the only reason I exist. By the way, if you have been around much, you are host to many coronavirus types, most of which are harmless or to which you have developed immunity. For a history of my origins, evolution and leap from bats into new species that lack the ability bats have to repair the damage I cause their cells, this New Yorker article nails it. If you read the article, please ignore any parts about reducing transmission.
I survive through replication and, when necessary, adaptation. I don’t have the machinery to self-propagate, like bacteria do. I wouldn’t want to be a bacterium anyway. There are some pretty awesome bacteria that have adapted their way around even the strongest antibiotics and others that can eat through flesh, but that sounds like a lot of work. I propagate by embedding myself inside the cells of human hosts, sharing my RNA with the cells which stimulates the cells’ machinery and metabolism to do the work for me. If the hosts and their cells are accommodating and not resistant, I sit back, relax, and let them do the work. No need to change or engage in any form of self-improvement.
The replicated viruses become available for transmission from one human host to other human hosts. My survival rate increases as the means for transmission from one host to others improves, which includes unwitting, unsuspecting, careless and stupid hosts and target hosts. When I encounter barriers to replication, say in the form of antibodies including those caused by vaccines or anti-viral medications, I try to evolve or adapt my way around them. My only job is survival.
My favorite target and latest preference is human lungs, an acquired taste, so to speak. [Inside joke for you Darwinians.] Lungs, I have found, provide optimum cells for propagating my kind. They are also a fabulous means of transmission from one host to others for, you guessed it, my survival. I do not care what damage I do to the lung cells so long as they propagate. Hosts “shed” me in abundance through breath, mucus, snot and phlegm which hosts produce in abundance and are all directly connected in one way or another to the lungs. Sneezing is a vehicle that simultaneously delivers all four. Hence, the artwork included with this post.
With my protective layer of fat I remain viable on all sorts of surfaces for anywhere from two hours to nine days.
Not to brag, but I’ve had a pretty good run the past few months. I survive and thrive largely through trickery. I also rely on people’s unpreparedness, carelessness, and stupidity. I, with Mr. Trump’s able assistance, have lulled people into a false sense of well-being. One trait for survival of which I am proudest is patience, taking my time: I innocuously invade cells and kidnap their machinery to begin the replication process so hosts begin shedding me, but do so without letting the hosts experience symptoms or become aware they are sick. I don’t want them taking themselves or being taken out of circulation before they share me in abundance through their infected breath, mucus, snot, and phlegm.
To survive, I need circulation, physical interaction between and among infected and prospective hosts. The more infected hosts and target hosts in close proximity to each other (crowds are best), the better my chances of survival which, again, is the only reason I exist. Church services, rallies, CPAC, classrooms, Mardi Gras, concerts, theatre, parades, spring-breakers, White House briefings, roll-call votes in the House and Senate, signing ceremonies in the Oval Office, homeless shelters, even health-care facilities — especially health-care facilities. Ill-equipped emergency rooms and hospitals, clinics, rest homes and assisted living facilities are best because they provide a convergence of everything I need to survive, including bodily fluids and heavily infected hosts and target hosts together in very close proximity, an abundance of me being shed on everything and everyone.
I am led to believe the mortality rate among people I infect is ten times that of the flu, that a high percentage of infected hosts die, particularly those above a certain age or who have health conditions that compromise their ability to resist me. Do I care? No. Except, I lose the benefit of their cell machinery, but good hosts have already shed and transmitted me to other hosts.
I’m a virus. It’s about me and my survival. If people die in my calculation for continued survival, too bad for them. I do not care.
Speaking of people dying in the calculation for continued survival, I want to extend a special thanks to my greatest ally for assuring and extending my survival. The United States did not follow the example of South Korea and, thankfully, ignored Bill Gates’ 2017 Ted Talk. Fortunately, Mr. Trump fired the U.S. pandemic response team in 2018 to cut costs. He knew about me months ago, knew — or at least was made aware of — the science, and did nothing to inhibit my survival. He continuously downplayed my virulence and its severity to vulnerable hosts and prospective hosts while lying about U.S. capacity, capability and response. He refused to follow the National Security Council’s 69-page playbook for fighting pandemics, thankfully leaving the United States vulnerable and without sufficient stockpile of emergency resources, completely exposed, wholly unprepared and lacking in testing and diagnostic capacity which is vital to understanding and curtailing my spread. He kindly delayed invoking the Defense Production Act to address shortages in personal protection equipment for healthcare providers and lifesaving ventilators for the most distressed hosts. And after invoking the Defense Production Act, he resisted mobilizing private industry. When he finally got around to moving to compel a company to manufacture ventilators, GM had already committed to do so and begun production.
Equally important, at least for my survival which is the only thing that matters to me, are Mr. Trump’s refusal to establish a national, centralized and organized response, his science denial, his repeated false reassurances and gas-lighting about my virulence, its spread and effects, his creating a competitive market between and among states and the federal government for limited supplies of lifesaving and personal protective equipment, his mob-style tactics with governors of blue states, his tying life-saving resources to personal grievances and insufficient “appreciation,” his insistence that on Easter Sunday churches will be filled beyond capacity, his prioritizing economics over the health and safety of citizens in anticipation of the 2020 election, his having divided the country so people’s views about whether I am a danger became a political calculation and, most importantly, his inability to make this pandemic about anything other than himself and his survival.
The following video is among my favorite compilations of Mr. Trump deceiving the public for his and my mutual benefit, or so the thought.
The following article, Analyzing the Patterns in Trump’s Falsehoods About Coronavirus, reveals Mr. Trump’s dangerous recklessness. A country’s clear and present danger can be something else’s personal savior. I could not be more appreciative.
*My brother the very talented fiction writer and novelist, Robert Hodgson Van Wagoner, deserves considerable credit for offering both substantive and technical suggestions to https://medium.com/@richardvanwagoner and https://lastamendment.com. Rob’s second novel, a beautifully written suspense drama that takes place in Utah, Wyoming, and Norway, dropped on November17, 2020. Available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple Bookstore and your favorite local bookshop, this novel, The Contortionists, which Rob himself narrates for the audio version, is a psychological page-turner about a missing child in a predominantly Mormon community. I have read the novel and listened to the audio version twice. It is a literary masterpiece. The Contortionists, however, is not for the faint of heart.
**Richard J Van Wagoner is my father. His list of honors, awards and professional associations is extensive. He was Professor Emeritus (Painting and Drawing), Weber State University, having served three Appointments as Chair of the Department of Visual Arts there. He guest-lectured and instructed at many universities and juried numerous shows and exhibitions. He was invited to submit his work as part of many shows and exhibitions, and his work was exhibited in a number of traveling shows domestically and internationally. My daughter Angela Moore, a professional photographer, photographed more than 500 pieces of my father's work. On behalf of the Van Wagoner Family Trust, she is in the process of compiling a collection of his art work. The photographs of my father's art reproduced in https://medium.com/@richardvanwagoner and https://lastamendment.com are hers