Louder Than The Clap

I don’t know how the younger version of me avoided the clap—which is not to be confused with applause. It wasn’t that I was uninformed about the dangers of unprotected sex. That information was readily available. I ignored the well-intentioned advice meant to keep me safe for several reasons: I thought that I was bulletproof; foreplay shut off the blood supply to my brain, and, most importantly, I was certain I could get a shot or take some pills if the worst occurred.

Youthful me was, therefore, a bit of a moron. I could give myself partial credit if I had been born in the 40’s, not the 60’s, and AIDS (which still has no cure-all pill) wasn’t around. As it stands, let the record reflect that I was lucky. Really lucky. And stupid. And irresponsible.

I’m reminded of my own ignorance, past and present, on multiple occasions every day. Gonorrhea (the formal name for the clap and, yes, I had to look up the proper spelling) arrived organically—in my thoughts–via a recent trend in Coronavirus discussion. The discussion, which has been championed by various politicians and pundits, goes something like, “The cure can’t be worse than the disease.” This line of thought says that at some point, very soon, like the already confusing holiday that is Easter, the USA at least will go back to business as usual.

I should also admit upfront that I am not a scientist or even a Scientologist. My formal degree, which I obtained despite my best efforts to the contrary, was in radio, television and film. How I managed to parlay that into a successful, lengthy career in finance is a story almost interesting enough to inspire a podcast. Almost. One of my favorite comedians, Bill Burr, has the best reaction whenever a crowd applauds an outlandish point he’s made. He raises his hand, shakes his head, and says, “No, don’t believe me. I don’t read.”

So, with all caveats regarding my complete lack of qualifications in mind, I can’t help but wonder what the outcome of this new strategy will be. This thoughtful piece on Fox News lays out the issue better than I can.

I can almost see the argument in favor of taking down the current protective restrictions sooner versus later and letting the virus reap its harvest. It will, based on what’s happened thus far, claim a small percentage of the elderly and those that already have medical challenges (I belong to one, arguably both, groups). My non-scientific, previously promiscuous brain tells me that this undersells the havoc and collateral fatalities caused when medical facilities are overwhelmed and death totals spiral (not just those afflicted by coronavirus but also those suffering from other life-threatening conditions who do no get the treatment they need because the system can’t provide it). It seems like an answer that may not fully understand the question. And, at its heart, it feels really close to, “Let them eat cake!”

“Reopening for business” is a bit more frightening when you consider that the leader of the free world became an advocate of this idea after watching a Fox News contributor who previously contributed to the ruckus across the pond known as Brexit. The origin story of Mr. Hilton is here and, before anyone blows a gasket at the sources for these links please note that I commended Fox News just a couple of sentences ago

So, kudos to Mr. Hilton for, pardon the expression, pulling out of the UK and the Brexit battle about which he claimed to care about so deeply, and taking his act on the road (to join his successful and smart wife who already worked in the US). From all accounts, he is both shrewd and smart. He is not, however, a doctor.

I could, therefore, make the case that the whole idea should be ignored as it is championed by a blowhard. I can continue to embrace the shelter-in-place orders and listen to my neighbor’s dogs bark while the world is effectively closed. But…all of the economic and moral arguments aside, our afternoon ended in flames yesterday when Thing #2 tackled my bride in a heated round of badminton. There is such a thing as too much family time. We’re not there yet, but I think it’s close.

I also worry about the millions of people who work very hard for their paycheck and have been told to stay home, without pay, until further notice. Unemployment support (for those that can get it) and a one-time check for $1,200 is not going to be enough for many, if not most of these workers. That reality pushes me a bit back towards Mr. Hilton (in this one case, in no way endorsing his other shock-and awe comments, such as when he urged Mr. Trump to “blow up bureaucracy” – bureaucracy being anyone in the media or government who doesn’t agree with Mr. Trump’s positions).

Further reading on this front on the online version of the still-not-failed New York Times brought me to a column by Thomas Friedman. I don’t always agree with Mr. Friedman, not that he is seeking my approval, but I find his work interesting and thought-provoking (peanut butter ideas that refuse to leave the roof of my brain).

Mr. Friedman’s piece covered a lot of the same ground I had been pacing. He also put out the idea—not a declaration or demand—that is somewhat aligned with that expressed by Mr. Hilton. In Mr. Friedman’s case the idea was based on an opinion piece by Dr. David L. Katz, President of True Health Initiative and the founding director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center. Dr. Katz also put out a follow-up piece yesterday which further elaborates and reflects on some of the points Mr. Friedman quoted.

I will choose this point to stop paraphrasing and hyper-linking. Anyone still reading this can choose whether or not to explore the source material. I believe my piece has come full circle. Yes, we’re back to gonorrhea.

Why? You may reasonably ask. Well, for gonorrhea (which I never had!) there were some thus afflicted who exhibited strong, unpleasant symptoms while others, primarily females for whatever reason, often went about without a clue. In any event, if suspicions led you to have an uncomfortable conversation with your family physician a treatment was available and you could return to the activities that got you to this spot after seven days (hopefully with the proper protection). Besides some potentially awkward conversations with whatever number of people might have seen more than your publics this unhappy story had an ending. Nagging doubts could be put to rest. The world could move on.

Right now we’ve all potentially been exposed to a virus much more sinister than the clap. We have more doubts than we can count, and many believe that the US was so late trying to get to the mother of all family physicians to see about our situation that worrying about who is infected is no longer worth the trouble. There are millions of people who desperately need—and deserve– answers, treatment, and resolution. Our society does not appear able to help.

I’m glad I’m not the one who has to make these decisions. I hope those in charge listen to differing points of view and have the courage to evaluate and reexamine their positions as new information emerges. If we do end up with the more surgical approach posited by Dr. Katz I am one of the ones who will be stuck at home as a plump canary in the virus coalmine. I’m ok with that. I’m also ok with making the ultimate sacrifice–but please don’t let Dan Patrick take credit for it.

And, lest I forget, perhaps we can finally stop pretending that Saudi Arabia’s and Russia’s leaders are our buddies. They couldn’t have picked a worse time to crash the oil market and they don’t seem to be in any hurry to help.

Let’s be careful out there and, of course, use protection.

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