Culture

Mistrust, fights and blood sport: How COVID-19 trauma is shaping the 2024 election


Then-President Trump gives a thumbs up upon returning to the White House from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in October 2020. Trump had been hospitalized for COVID. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images/TNS)

Jeffrey Fleishman | (TNS) Los Angeles Times

Much of the country has moved on from the COVID-19 pandemic, but Ruth and Mohammed Nasrullah keep a vigil from their Houston home, posting thousands of pictures and stories of those who have fallen: coaches, tax clerks, teachers, autoworkers and graphic designers.

“We spend our time immersed in death,” Ruth said of the couple’s COVID-19 Wall of Memories, which went on online when graveyards were widening and fear was spreading in January 2021. The wall holds more than 21,000 photographs and histories of those who died. “It gives us perspective. We’ve seen an arc of change in COVID response and grief.”

The pandemic is fading and Americans want to forget, Mohammed said. But people are still dying and the fallout from the virus is playing into attitudes over the divisive state of the country and its politics.

The coronavirus is seldom mentioned by the campaigns of President Biden and Donald Trump, even though its impact on voters and the way the pandemic altered how we live, work, die and mourn has been profound. It accelerated mistrust in government and institutions, emptied downtowns of workers, sparked fights over masks and science, turned school board meetings into political blood sport, hardened the lines between red and blue states and ignited a mental health crisis.

The lingering trauma — 1.2 million people died in the U.S. and an estimated 17 million suffer from long COVID — echoes through issues confronting voters, including inflation, education, crime, immigration and the unease many have for the future. These challenges are shaping a presidential rematch between two candidates most Americans don’t want at a time when the nation appears trapped in a despairing loop of restiveness and uncertainty over the fate of democracy and an economy that has raised rents and kept food prices stubbornly high.

“Society has become more disillusioned over the government’s ability to take on larger issues. The pool of people distrusting the government has gotten larger,” said Kristin Urquiza, who co-founded Marked By COVID, which is calling for an accounting of the government’s pandemic response and establishing a National COVID Memorial. “The pandemic exacerbated everything.”

It wasn’t that long ago that the country and the world slipped through the looking glass. Preachers warned of the end of days. Hospitals filled, ventilators failed and refrigerated trucks were stacked with corpses. The isolated and the lonely sang from windows and balconies. Final goodbyes were spoken over video links and smartphones. No one knew when it would end as collective grief and anger settled in amid news of broken supply chains and the latest from Wuhan, the city in China from where death crossed oceans and borders.

“It completely shifted our lives,” said Natalie Jackson, vice president of the polling firm GQR. “There are ways society has changed that we’re not totally aware of. Historians in a couple of decades will be able to tell us a lot more about how our behavior …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment

      

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