December 2020

Operation Warped Speed

By Michael J. Katin, MD

The year 2020 is (not soon enough) coming to a close and is still producing absurdities by the day. The election of 2020 occurred on November 3, give or take a few weeks.

Trixie the whale shark died in the Georgia Aquarium, the same week as the great Diego Maradona (although he was, presumably, not in an aquarium). In terms of SARS-CoV-2, social distancing has seemed to be a total failure with the number of cases still increasing. If social distancing doesn't work, maybe social networking can, with new phone apps allowing contact tracing, although the same people who post their most personal information on Facebook do not seem to be taking to it No worries, since the vaccine is coming along....someday.

One of the major casualties of the pandemic has been the motion picture industry. With most movie theaters shut down due to state and local restrictions, distributors had elected to hold back or have limited release of films that would otherwise have gotten a lot of attention from the public. Among these is One Night in Miami, a very innovative and profound work imagining a night in 1964 in which Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, Malcolm X, and Sam Cooke were all present in the same hotel room following Muhammad Ali (still known as Cassius Clay)'s defeat of Sonny Liston for the world heavyweight boxing championship. This could have happened, since these were all contemporaries, and it allowed Kemp Powers author of the stage play, to create commentary on the nature of society at that point. Despite elimination of division between classes and improvements in race relations since 1964, the 2020 motion picture adaptation will still be of interest for its historical and dramatic aspects and is now rescheduled for general release later this month. Maybe Miami can regain some of the attention and glory it lost when the American Society for Radiation Oncology cancelled its live October meeting.

Considering the futility and absurdity of dealing with 2020, there would be incentive for imagining what Samuel Beckett might have written about his contemporaries Eugene Ionesco and Luigi Pirandello meeting and expressing their feelings about the pandemic, in a play entitled, "Waiting for Leno."

The play opens: Ionesco and Pirandello are waiting by a tree, socially distanced from one another and from the tree. They are wearing masks, including the tree

Ionesco: "We seem to have arrived in time. Of course, everything that has been will be, everything that will be is, and everything that will be has been."

Pirandello: " Actually, it's 3:15 pm."

Ionesco: "Whatever. But I believe we've reached here in advance of the one person who may be able to make sense of what's happening to us and give us the will to continue. The Great Leno."'

Pirandello: "I hope that's possible. I fear that whatever is a reality today is going to be an illusion tomorrow."

Ionesco: "Probably. Remember Respected Fauci. It was from China, then it wasn't from China. First there was no crisis. Then there was a crisis. First masks were unnecessary, then they were mandatory."

Pirandello: "Logic is one thing, the human animal is another. They told us to believe the facts. Well, a fact won't stand up if it's empty. To make it stand up, first you have to put in all the reasons and feelings that caused it in the first place"

Ionesco: "The Respected Fauci was trying to protect us from ourselves. But no political system can deliver us from the pain of living."

Pirandello: "Forget the great Fauci. We need to wait until the arrival of the one who can save us from our frustration . One who knows all the unspeakable things that go on in the heart. Where is Leno?"

Ionesco: "A man with a soul is not like every other man. When will he get here?"

Pirandello: "Probably before the vaccine. In time."

Ionesco: "We have not the time to take our time! And now we don't even know who can get it. Ezekiel Emanuel is on the task force, and he has already said that it's not worth living past 75!* And he has questioned vaccine nationalism. Maybe it's just as well to not be an American."

Pirandello: "Since neither of us is, and both have been deceased for some time, I agree. Fortunately, whoever has the luck to be born a character can laugh even at death. Except for being a character in this epic and waiting interminably for the punch line."

Ionesco: "And is the vaccine even tested adequately? Did they give it to humans and then infect them and find out if it works? Or even monkeys? Or is it all done by conjecture?"

Pirandello: "It is so. When YOU think it is so."

Ionesco: "And with the greatest medical crisis in 100 years, the US government has stalled relief due to political maneuvering and has slashed the conversion factor for Medicare! Cut off from his religious, metaphysical, and transcendental roots, man is lost; all his actions become senseless, absurd, useless!"

Pirandello: "But man never reasons so much and becomes so introspective as when he suffers. That is why Leno will rescue us!"

Ionesco: "You can only predict things after they have happened. It's time for the early bird special. Let's get out of here. We'll catch him on YouTube."*

Pirandello and Ionesco leave. Tragically, they learn that the salad buffet at Applebee's is closed for the pandemic. Curtain down.

*Prompting resumption of the Emanuel Countdown: see below.

Asteroid JF1 Countdown: Asteroid JF1 will be impacting with or passing by Earth May 6, 2022, which, counting May 6, is 522 days from now. Plenty of time left to stock up on batteries, plywood, hand sanitizer, bubble wrap, ammunition, and duct tape.

Emanuel Countdown: Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel's biographies list his birth year as 1957 but, interestingly, had not previously listed a birth date but some now report it as September 6. He has expressed that he does not wish to live past his 75th birthday. If September 6 is correct, he will have his 75th birthday on September 6, 2032. Including December 1, 2020, this leaves 4,298 days to his goal.

Bonus: "No Vaccination" (to the tune of "My Generation ")

The virus won't get hold of me
I won't take no vaccination
Because I distance socially
I won't take no vaccination
Don't believe a thing they say
I won't take no vaccination
It's gonna mess up my DNA
I won't take no vaccination
No vaccination
Don't want complications.

I don't care how safe they say
I don't want no vaccination
I'd rather not get Guillain-Barre.
I won't take no vaccination
I'm not gonna take that test
I won't take no vaccination
Jenny McCarthy knows what's best.
I won't take no vaccination
No vaccination
Or deterioration

If there's a government mandate
I won't take no vaccination
I'll wait as long as I can wait
I won't take no vaccination
That appointment I will skip
I won't take no vaccination
I don't want Bill Gates' microchip
I won't take no vaccination
No vaccination
No fascist nation.

I'll become a Jehovah's Witness
I won't take no vaccination
If It'll keep me off the hit list
I won't take no vaccination
I'll pass on the opportunity
I won't take no vaccination
And coast on herd immunity
I won't take no vaccination
No vaccination
I got preservation with
No inoculation!