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Letters from the Pandemic—The Monster

Mark Heckey is a retired city planner with a passion for writing.

We should have seen it coming. There were all types of warning signs—stronger diseases, uncontrolled flu outbreaks, warnings about lack of readiness. The situation developed over decades. Few listened, especially those with the power to prepare. The world even had a Netflix documentary, Pandemic/How to Prevent an Outbreak, on the world's unpreparedness, released just prior to the virus outbreak in China. It was dismissed as a series about the flu. We were all guilty of not paying attention. Humankind fell victim to a universal benign neglect.

The creature packs a lethal energy force in a tiny invisible package. An infinitesimally small sphere of contagion, capable of smothering its host, using its crown of spiky prongs to drill into hidden small folds of flesh, and draining the life force of human beings. It is a monster. A creature from the landscape of our darkest nightmare.

The horn shape projections that are arranged in such balanced spacing across it surface can affix themselves to human cells and highjack its inner components. They are like a hideous straw that sucks out the vital resources of the normal cell. The virus is not life, its essence is anti-life. A virus is a renegade from our planet's primordial past, an incomplete organism, incapable of replicating without invading a healthy life form. Its major host, the bat, can live with multiple virus types. A vampire can host a vampire. We now face an invisible Dracula that can travel undetected inside us. An innocent human touch can transfer the deadly package which sickens most but kills many.

The Monster can take many forms. It has strains that only hitchhike from one host to another, undetected by our defenses. It also can unleash a furious attack and turn the immune system on itself. Like an ancient Hydra, the creature can attack with many terrible heads. The pandemic is now invading not only our bodies, but our psyches, even our souls.

In the United States, the virus has exposed a long-hidden illness in our social structure. As a nation we suffer from a long festering conceit, a smugness about our invulnerability, greatness, and stature as the leader of the world order.



Our pandemic response reveals our inefficiencies, arcane science, and gaping holes in our public health system. We seem not to be so extraordinary or exceptional. We find ourselves behind other nations in health policies, testing, medical equipment, and slowing the growth of infections. Unfortunately, we are leading the world in pandemic cases and deaths.

As we begin to wage war on the Monster, another disease is spreading through our country. Prior to COVID-19, for decades, our country has been increasingly divided. This division has multiplied as the virus grows exponentially.

The "Divided States of America" adds thousands to its rolls as we debate and argue on the best course to defeat COVID-19. We bicker about everything: social distancing, shelter in place, wearing masks and gloves, the definition of a necessary business. The response to the pandemic devolves into a political debate: red states need a different plan than blue states; the blue states should solve their own problems; red states should make their own rules. We even debate the recovery of the economy versus the recovery of our national health and saving lives.

How do we weigh the prioritization of human suffering? COVID-19 has dealt blows to both physical and economic health. Both are vital and important. How can we ever decide to allow people to die in order to restore our GDP? Life must always be valued above money.

The only way we can defeat the Monster is with all our combined resources and abilities. The cure for our spiritual diseases will lead to the cure for our physical needs. The victory will lie in our unified and collective powers. If we vanquish the cultural and political monster, we will better defeat the viral Monster.

~ Mark Heckey










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