My (Imaginary) Conversation with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick

“The mortality rate is so low, do we have to shut down the whole country for this? I think we can get back to work.”

                                                       ~ Lt. Governor Dan Patrick

I live in Texas. I’m not sure if what Lt. Governor Dan Patrick said on the Tucker Carlson Show on Fox Monday night causes me more shame or fear. Perhaps he was just thinking out loud. Perhaps he was trying to find a notable sound bite that could bring him kudos from the President. Or, perhaps this is what he truly believes.

I understand that we must find the balance between protecting the American people and protecting our economy. I understand that our opinions may be swayed by our personal circumstances —whether or not we are still employed, whether or not we have been touched by the cornonavirus.

I am grateful that at this point, I have not been touched by either tragedy, so I’ll admit, this probably sways my opinion far, far away from Lt. Governor Patrick’s opinion. Still, I find it impossible to believe that even if I found myself unemployed, even if I lost someone I loved to the virus, I’d come to believe the same things he talked about last night.

Following the Tucker Carlson interview, I had an imaginary conversation with Lt. Governor Patrick. Here’s how it went: (His quotes are from the Tucker Carlson interview on Monday night.)

Patrick:  Are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that all America loves for your children and grandchildren? If that’s the exchange, I’m all in.

Me:  If I believed my children’s or grandchildren’s survival depended on whether or I lived or died, you better believe I’d make the ultimate sacrifice. But your premise makes me wonder if you haven’t been paying attention to the facts. If people go back to work, or play, even if “old people” take care of themselves, as you suggest, the virus will continue to spread. Old AND young people will continue to get sick and die, until hospitals, even morgues will overflow. (Have you heard what’s happening in Spain? Do you think America is so “great” the same thing won’t happen here?) What do you think THAT will do to the economy? To our society? I wonder if you understand the concept of “flatten the curve?”

Patrick:  Let’s get back to work. Let’s get back to living. Let’s be smart about it. Those of us 70-plus, we’ll take care of ourselves.

Me:  I do think about the tragedy of so many losing their jobs. I can imagine the helplessness leaders must feel. But I doubt many Americans (hopefully that would be zero Americans) are willing to risk the health and well-being of their parents and grandparents to save the economy. And, of course, many of those over 70 are already suffering from medical issues and are not able to take care of themselves. Most important, if the shelter-in-place is ended too soon, the elderly will NOT be the only casualties.

We all dread a possible recession or depression. But we’ve survived both before, without sacrificing lives to do so.

You say, “Let’s be smart about it?” Now, there’s something I can agree with. If we’re smart about it, we continue to shelter in place at least until the curve flattens. Otherwise, more lives will be lost, causing us to have to start over again with another shelter-in-place, causing perhaps an even worse economic catastrophe.

Patrick: We’re going to be in a total collapse, recession, depression, collapse in our society, if this goes on another several months.

Me: As I said before, we’ve lived through and survived recessions and depressions before. And if you want to talk about a collapse in society—sacrificing the elderly to save the economy? In my opinion, THAT is a collapse of our society.

Patrick:  Our biggest gift we give to our country and our children and our grandchildren is the legacy of our country.

Me: I’m curious. What do you think is the legacy of our country? Is it a good economy? No, a good economy is what Trump thinks is his HIS legacy. And he’s scared to death that the one thing that has kept his supporters supporting him, even through “Yeah, I know he lies,” or, “Yeah, I know he’s got a foul mouth,” or “Yeah, he’s done some things I don’t agree with,” is that they could always fall back on, “Yeah, but look at the economy.”

 Lately, I’ve wondered what Trump must feel more desperation over: 

  • He can no longer entertain his adoring crowds
  • His beloved legacy of a “good economy” has tanked

 It’s no wonder he wants this “shelter in place” to end. Both will affect his re-election chances, and his supporters understand this. So, they, like you, Lt. Governor Patrick, will go along with whatever he says, even at the expense of thousands of lives.

 Here’s what I think is the legacy of our country. It’s our ability to pull together when facing a common enemy. It’s our resilience and ability to pick ourselves up when we fall.

We don’t sacrifice those we love to put money in our pockets. That would not only be un-American. It would be inhuman.

Talk to your kids and grandkids about this sacrifice you’re willing to make. And hey, if your parents are still alive, talk to them, too. Then, let’s talk again.

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