Monday, March 2, 2020

Corona Status: Southeast Florida and AWP

My church in far southeast FL doesn't seem to be worried about the corona virus threat--we still hugged when we passed the peace  We're countercultural that way.  We've often gone against the grain of larger society.  People lined up to be anointed with oil after they took communion--bread handed to them from the pastor's hands, wine/grape juice in individual cups. 

And it's not that we don't know about the disease.  We're a congregation of middle-aged to elderly folks--we understand the dangers of germs.  Even before this latest virus, we have bottles of hand sanitizer at key locations.

Still, I'm not as unconcerned as I might appear to be.  I understand that this new virus doesn't seem to be as virulent as the SARS virus, but it's still got a higher death rate (2-3%) than the regular flu (0.1% or is it 0.01%?).

The other night I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about how this kind of health crisis presents the perfect opportunity to introduce martial law and curfews and quarantines--why send people away to camps when you can force them to stay home instead?

I told myself that maybe it's good that I'm more versed in sci-fi plots than the current administration.  I'm not sure that Trump's current advisers have thought about the best way to seize more power. And who are those people, these advisers, again?  I've lost track.  

I told myself that maybe it was good that the current administration was more concerned about the health of various markets than in keeping humans healthy.  Maybe the concern with the economics will keep the higher ups from realizing that they have a perfect opportunity to shred the Constitution even further.

I thought of my own novel languishing away, the main character's spouse taken away during a virulent flu outbreak, the flu outbreak sued to suspend civil liberties.  When I developed that part of the plot in July, I knew that I needed a series of events to lead to the dystopian near-future of my novel.  I chose a series of things:  a bombing at the White House that harmed no one and a serious pandemic.

I started writing in a white heat of creativity and progress.  As my pace began to falter, I wondered if it was because the material scared me.  It wasn't the kind of fear that writers usually discuss:  fear of disclosure, fear of not being able to do the work.  It was fear of the future, because what I was writing seemed all too possible.

If I had been writing this novel in 2015, my fear might have been that people would dismiss the premises of the novel.

And now there's talk of whether or not people should go to the AWP.  The conference itself has offered people credit for next year, if they want to cancel this year on an individual basis.  I hope they don't cancel the conference.  I travel tomorrow.  I'm going regardless.

Most of us going to the conference work in schools, and many of those schools have a huge population of international travelers.  We're surrounded by disease vectors.  A conference like AWP doesn't seem like that much bigger a risk for those of us who are healthy.

It will be interesting to see what happens in the next few weeks.  I hope it won't be interesting in the Chinese proverb/curse kind of way ("May you live in interesting times").

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