“We don’t want to admit that we are fundamentally dishonest about reality,” psychologist Ernest Becker wrote in 1973, “that we do not really control our own lives.” Becker’s book, The Denial of Death, made a simple point: Rather than face the fact that we have so little control over our own mortality, we repress the very fact of death to the detriment of the world and ourselves.
It is now November 2020, and for the third time this year, the coronavirus pandemic is out of control. Except instead of a state-by-state outbreak, the virus is now everywhere. Exponential growth points nearly vertically on the graph of new cases, screaming toward a mind-boggling future of 200,000 new cases a day. While there are simple, tried-and-true methods that could have been used to bring the pandemic to heel — universal mask-wearing, contact tracing, and limitations on indoor gatherings — we have, as a country, given up. The Trump administration has abdicated its most basic responsibilities. The federal government could have covered rents and living expenses for affected businesses and families so that we wouldn’t have to choose between our money or our lives. But no one seriously thinks that is going to happen with less than two months left until Inauguration Day; the Trump administration is still whining about losing the election and actively sabotaging the incoming Biden administration’s future attempts at ameliorating the crisis. For the next nine weeks, we’re on our own.
The Government Has Dismantled Our Ability to Grieve as a Nation
Grief is an unwieldy weapon, and the GOP has shown it would rather mock death than mourn it.
The Trump administration’s criminal bungling of the pandemic has made the feeling that we have lost control of life and death critically acute. South Dakota nurse Jodi Doering’s harrowing account of a patient dying of Covid-19 who steadfastly refused to believe the disease existed may not be entirely representative of most victims of the disease, but it nonetheless captures an existential…