I get out for a while and learn how the other half of the USA is dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic.
SOMEWHERE, Florida- The difference couldn’t have been more stark. It was three weeks ago and New York City had barely budged at re-opening. The city had been locked down since mid-March, when private businesses were forced to close and eight million+ people put on house arrest in an abuse of power that has perhaps never been matched in US history. People in the streets were tense, angry, masked up, and unemployed. Seemingly having nothing better to do they rioted. There were ongoing demonstrations to eradicate the police which local politicians actively supported, the mayor had previously released 2,500 criminals from Rikers as part of his Covid prevention plan, and, unsurprisingly, crime spread across the city at a rate unlike anything that has been seen in decades. The Bronx was looted. Hundreds of people were shot, dozens murdered. My building was robbed on multiple occasions.
Many other Democrat-run cities across the country employed similar draconian Covid measures as NYC, threw their police under the bus, and sat back and applauded as armed gangs took control of entire neighborhoods.
I had to get out for a while.
When I arrived in Florida it became clear that I was in a place that was administered very differently — so much so that it was like I’d stepped into another country. The restaurants and bars were open, the beaches were full, shops functioned as though the Fifth Amendment was still valid, people moved about freely, and nobody wore masks. It felt like I’d stepped back in time to an era (circa 2019) when the USA was the standard of what I knew as normal.
I spent the next week with my best friend from home and forgot about the turmoil that was transpiring in New York. We hung out by his pool, drank beer, and found ourselves exasperated when reading the mainstream media reporting about how Florida had become the Covid epicenter of the world.
We were in a county of a half million people that had 1,600 confirmed Covid cases and something like 16 deaths in total. Almost all of the counties all the way down to Miami-Dade were reporting similar numbers. It was almost surreal — kind of like how the people in China must have felt when I told them the US media was proclaiming their town a ghost city that nobody lived in.
The reports seldom mentioned — or tried to play down — the fact that Florida was testing vastly more people than pretty much anywhere else in the country, so more positive cases were logically going to be recorded, or the fact that only 4,277 have so far died of Covid, or — the stat that really matters — Florida’s Covid deaths per million people is a mere 199. For comparison, New York had 32,445 Covid fatalities with a deaths per million rate of 1,668, or nearly eight and a half times higher than Florida.
When I was in Florida NY Governor Cuomo also announced another nonsensical draconian measure: anyone coming into New York State from Florida and a handful of other (Republican) states would need to quarantine for 14 days. It seemed to have been a move to accomplish nothing more than getting back at Florida in the early days of the pandemic when they required New Yorkers coming in to quarantine. Outside of this it was a moot measure: Covid has already spread through the New York population, and the virus is no longer localized to anywhere in the USA. Meanwhile, myriad vacation plans were wasted, family visits cancelled, and businesses destroyed due to the loss of tourism. The people of the US have become the play things of governors and mayors who seem to enjoy the feel of their soft white palms inside the iron mitts of absolute power.
But the reason why I’m writing this was because this trip made me question something I’ve never really considered seriously before:
Does that voting shit really do something?
Throughout my adult life I’ve watched people squabbling about partisan politics and getting uppity about voting with mockery. I’d never voted before, finding both parties basically owned by the same corporations and virtually identical in their core positions. I would always say that I vote with my feet: if one place starts to suck politically to the point that my life is adversely impacted I will just pack my bag and move on to a better place.
A thing that I never fully appreciated about travel before is the degree to which it puts you outside the world of politics. You are removed from your culture, far away from your people, in a land where what you have to say doesn’t matter — in a place where you are politically irrelevant. I’ve spent 20 years enjoying this position, not having to engage in squabbles and debates, being friends with the left and the right and everyone in between, being my own man rather than someone who grasps for identity via politics. But this game changed suddenly when the world shut down and I realized that I am stuck. Much to my detriment, perhaps, I began looking out my window.
The first thing I did upon returning to New York was register to vote.