High Desert Sketches: Why getting the message straight is important

Art by Valerie “CrowCrumbs” Howard

When the lives of millions of people are at stake in situations like hurricanes, tsunamis or earthquakes, a clear message of warning can make all the difference in lives saved or lost. The legendary Oracle of Delphi was notorious for making prophecies of an ambiguous nature and it can honestly be stated that the signals we have received during the COVID-19 Pandemic have been ambiguous at best and dangerously ludicrous at worst.

The President’s Tweets and his so-called press conferences have ranged from stating that the coronavirus is just like the flu we get every year to recommending certain drugs that can have dangerous side effects. He even suggested using external disinfectants internally. He later claimed he was just being sarcastic because the press had asked him a sarcastic question, even though the press had not been asking questions up to that point. It has been demonstrated that President Tweet wouldn’t understand sarcasm if it bit his son-in-law.

We are all told not to congregate in groups (except in the White House), everyone has been advised not to hug each other (except in the White House) or shake hands (except in the White House), and that we should stay six feet apart (except in the White House), and that we should all wear masks (except in the White House).

Even more confusing is that the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act has two provisions that quietly removed the caps from sections of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 that would allow the country’s wealthiest one percent and large corporations to receive tax benefits totaling more than $100 billion for each group.

Of all the dos and don’ts –– do wash your hands, don’t visit friends –– the most controversial out here in the dusty hills of the Old West has turned out to be wearing masks. In the 1880s, the Big Bend was often called by the rest of Texas the Bloody Bend. In those days, a lot of our residents tended to wear masks on a regular basis and say things like, “Throw down the strong box,” or in the case of small banks, “Give me the cash.” So why did a large number of people out here take wearing a mask to prevent the spread of a deadly virus as an affront to their personal independence and an effrontery to their personal liberty?

One lady was accosted at the Family Dollar, Alpine’s version of Macy’s. She was told that she was stupid and that the COVID-19 was a hoax. One of my assistants faced the same accusations in the parking lot at Porter’s, Alpine’s version of Safeway. The last two city council meetings held on Zoom were “zoomed bombed” with racial and anti-semitic rantings in both text and graphics. I was shocked to learn that these rampaging Neanderthals even knew what a computer was, and I’m certain they don’t have the I.Q. to read the outstanding warrants waiting for them somewhere.

Texas has the distinction of being one of the bottom six states with the lowest COVID-19 test rate. On April 25th, the Texas National Guard ran tests in Alpine, Marfa, Presidio and Terlingua. They caught one person. They were described as a person in their 60s, and nobody mentioned a mask. I wonder in which of our cities they were hiding out.

From the beginning of our recognition that the coronavirus was developing into a pandemic, the country has suffered from no information, little information, mindless rantings or complete inaccuracy. President Tweet’s so called press briefings turned into nothing more than campaign pandering, and a self-indulgent love fest.

There are people who actually count various aspects of President Tweets monologue, and it has been pointed out that he has praised himself almost ten times more often than he has displayed empathy for those affected by the pandemic in his daily briefings. His ego massaging has gone so far as to command one thousand cadets at West Point Academy to return to campus to hear his commencement speech.

With unemployment exceeding 20 million, the economy is a rival to the fear of COVID-19. Pragmatically, the country has to recognize the balance between a paycheck and medical advice. President Tweet has defined what would be “essential workers.” Let’s hope that President Tweet knows the difference between essential and sacrificial.