To outsiders, the way Americans have resisted all measures for controlling the spread of COVID-19 — and successfully pushed for “reopening” in a good many states, despite testing failures and the absence of a vaccine — must seem ludicrous. Has any culture lived in such denial, or appeared so bent on self-destruction?
I can’t say for sure. But I also know that this attitude is far from unprecedented. We are a people who face danger with reckless abandon, just drunk enough to think we’re invincible. When the going gets tough, we say, “Fuck it.”
This is true from the top down. President Trump, a guy nominated for the job by a party that said “fuck it,” now running the nation on a purely “fuck it” platform, has overseen nearly 100,000 U.S. deaths from coronavirus, nearly 30 percent of the world’s total. In response, he’s once more said “fuck it” and signed an executive order that empowers federal agencies to gut any number of regulations they don’t like. An action that won’t save lives but will let businesses start cutting corners, increasing risk for employees and customers, because that’s what thumbdicks like Senator Ted Cruz want. When you abandon crisis management to expand the same old hack Republican policies that have ravaged the country for decades? That’s “fuck it” mode, baby.
This is the enduring spirit of a superpower that can’t get its shit together and convert to the metric system, build high-speed rail or guarantee universal health care. Whenever these challenges arise, we decide that a good-faith effort is out of the question — we’re gonna ride out the existing nightmare instead. Somehow, we’re comfortable in the worst version of everything, or better able to withstand such misery than the growing pains of progress.
Not all who agitated for an end to the lockdowns think the pandemic is a hoax; most simply don’t care who it kills and are sick of staying home. The streets are full of people wearing masks around their necks, house parties are making a comeback, parents are scheduling secret playdates for their kids and crowds are flocking back to bars, as well as raucous events like Texas’ “Go Topless Jeep Weekend,” where almost 200 were arrested for petty crimes that had nothing to do with an overall failure to maintain social distance, which is too hard for cops to enforce anyway. This Jeepfest also included a shooting, because nothing says “fuck it” here like pulling a gun.
As we approach Memorial Day weekend, the symbolic start of summer and a holiday that has us inclined to say “fuck it” anyway — we love an excuse to eat and drink ourselves sick — it’s clear the end of May will mark an inflection (or breaking) point. This is where our quiet stoicism runs out and baseless arrogance takes over. Fuck it, dude, time to set up the beer pong table.
And the more we see others give up on best practices for stemming contagion, the more inclined we are to join in their clownery. Why should they have all the fun? What good is my abundance of caution if no one else will do the bare minimum? Might as well start hugging and high-fiving again. Can’t wait to see the new Christopher Nolan movie in a crowded theater.
So yeah, I guess that’s how it’s gonna be. We’re pivoting to a classic “fuck it,” virus be damned. That’s how America rolls, no matter the specific menace. Stop washing your hands, start going on Tinder dates, take your preferred dose of hydroxychloroquine. You do you. Either the death rate will meet and exceed the bleakest projections, or it’ll be bad, only not quite as bad as it could have been.
In any case, Trump and his bootlickers will tout a success — you’d need millions of fatalities to make a dent in their victory narrative — and his supporters can tell us we freaked out over nothing. We’re already debating how many fans we can cram into football stadiums, and I don’t see any reversing course once sports are on the table again. Fuck it!!
Don’t know about you, but personally? Not a fan of this approach. Bit cavalier for my liking. Still, it’s downright impressive what mountains of grim data and horrifying detail we’re willing to say “fuck it” to. Truly, if there is ever an “it” to be “fucked,” we answer the call.
Have fun out there.