But the numbers kept growing and watching the national news started to numb our emotions to subject of death. Forty thousand Americans. Fifty thousand, then 75,000. The comparisons with the American losses in Vietnam added ice to the chill. It was as if a dark gray shroud was being wrapped around our shut-in lives. Fear was our companion as we looked for safety inside the walls of our homes in Pleasantville, USA.
And then, news of the staggering unemployment, hungry children and increasing domestic violence. And, more: people were not treating other serious conditions for fear of exposure to coronavirus in hospital waiting rooms and ERs or because they had lost health insurance tied to employment; education was interrupted; graduations were postponed; small businesses were going under.
In the space of a month, we had to try to adjust to the reality that what had seemed only a mild threat to our town and the people in it. Now it loomed over us like a hungry vulture. And we were dealing with all that with essentially no help from the national government except for the one thing they know how to do when all else fails: send everyone a small check whether they need it or not. Maybe it wasn’t the best way to deal with the problem, but it was something. Some folks who really didn’t need the money have been moved to make donations to their food banks, UMCOR, United Way and the Red Cross.
As the president attempted to address problems in daily White House briefings, there was little talk of pain and death and a good bit more about PPE, vaccine trials, hopeful cures, blame shifting (Nancy, China, governors, Obama), and the need to get the economy open. But next to nothing about pain and death although it hovered, gray and cold, over our every day. Our leaders pretended neither to notice nor feel it.
Nicolle Wallace stepped into that grievously uncomfortable space with what I think may be the most important and helpful five minutes of television that I have seen during the pandemic days. She hosts a daily news show on MSNBC called Deadline: White House at 3 p.m. Central. For the last few weeks she has been ending her hour with 3 to 5 minutes called Lives Well Lived, focusing on victims of COVID-19.
They are ordinary Americans who have lived extraordinary lives, whose families are grieving and who will be missed deeply by those close to them. Nicolle talks about the things these people have done with their lives and, in some cases, what they were preparing to do. She talks about how some of them have sacrificed for all of us as front line health care workers. She talks about how they and their families have suffered. She talks about the hole each of them has left in a community, a school, a family, a church. It is not the kind of maudlin thing we often see when the local news station zooms the camera in on grieving parents. She offers thoughtful, respectful reporting that is intended to help us all better understand and deal with our new reality.
This morning the number of Americans dead from COVID-19 is at 75,655. Those are just the ones that were diagnosed. And all we know about them, en masse, is that they mostly died alone, unable to communicate with their families, and now, unable to be celebrated in the rites we offer the dead in normal times.
Nicolle’s five minutes with these victims is the best reporting I have seen that helps us understand the depth of the pain we are experiencing as a nation. She helps us see and feel it at a human level.
Nicolle Wallace has worked as communications director for President George W. Bush and as a senior advisor to the John McCain campaign. She is the kind of Republican we used to find tucked into important places in our government. We need more of them to help us as we set the country back on a path of healing.
She deserves an Emmy and maybe even a Pulitzer for these five minutes every afternoon. Yesterday the president called her a “3rd rate lapdog.”
Three p.m. Central on MSNBC. Stay with her all the way through until the last five minutes. It will affect you. I promise you.