Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick received a lot of attention Monday night when, according to many progressives, he seemed to tell Tucker Carlson that he was willing to die in order to preserve the American economy.
But this economy is damned. Merriam-Webster defines "damned" as "to bring ruin on," or "to condemn to a punishment or fate."
"I will give up a ventilator for a younger person, more than willingly, if it comes to that. But if it does come to that—if I'm forced to die for this economy—I'll curse the people who made it happen with my dying breath."
This damned economy. And we, the damned who live within it.
Here's what Patrick said:
" … (No) one reached out to me and said, "As a senior citizen, 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?"
He went on:
" .. And if that’s the exchange, I’m all in. And that doesn’t make me noble or brave or anything like that. I just think there are lots of grandparents out there in this country like me, I have six grandchildren, that what we all care about and what we love more than anything are those children. And I want to live smart and see through this, but I don’t want the whole country to be sacrificed. And that’s what I see."
Patrick said he turns 70 next week, that he's a "small businessman," and that pandemic precautions are causing an "economic collapse."
I’m a few years younger than Patrick, but I’m also likely to be at much higher risk because I have a chronic lung condition. I spoke to a pulmonologist this weekend, and when I said, "Needless to say, if I catch this thing …"
He said, "Don’t finish that sentence."
Was Patrick really saying that seniors should willingly die to preserve this economy? It looks like it, but there’s some ambiguity in his wording. The truth seems to be that Patrick shares the longstanding American belief that commerce and freedom are inseparable. But, in the modern economy, commerce is dominated by corporate monopolies, which even traditional conservatism would not consider "free." That nuance gets lost, often deliberately, in today’s corporate-funded politics.
Patrick went on to say:
"… my heart is lifted tonight by what I heard the president say, because we can do more than one thing at a time. We can do two things. So my message is that let's get back to work. Let’s get back to living. Let's be smart about it. And those of us who are 70 plus, we'll take care of ourselves, but don't sacrifice the country. Don't do that. Don't ruin this great America."
The president's plan is considered reckless by health professionals. So, yes, at least in one sense, Patrick is saying that seniors and other vulnerable people should risk death in order to get the economy back on its feet. But whose economy? Are we being asked to sacrifice our lives for our families, our communities, and the future? Or are we being put at risk for the sake of corporations who might, just might, hire a few workers back?
Give working people money. And workplace democracy.
If I do die, it's likely to happen because we didn't plan for the longstanding possibility of a pandemic like this one. Why not? Because in this economy, the one that now asks the ultimate sacrifice of us, human life was less important than quarterly profits. That sounds like hollow rhetoric, but it is also objective reality.
Not only will I not die to save this economy, I will live to change it. At least, that's the plan.
I will give up a ventilator for a younger person, more than willingly, if it comes to that. But if it does come to that—if I'm forced to die for this economy—I'll curse the people who made it happen with my dying breath.
Carlson answers Patrick: "You're basically saying that this disease could take your life, but that's not the scariest thing to you? There's something that would be worse than dying?" And Patrick says, "Yeah."
Here's something worse than dying: knowing you've lived a life without purpose. I think most people want that. In his own way, maybe Dan Patrick wants it, too. But I'm not willing to lay down my life for the S&P500.
Changing this economy—this damned economy—now, that's what I call a purpose.
This article is part of a series called, Covid Days, a journal of the plague months from the perspective of a high-risk individual. If you have a story, please let me know. Stay safe, well, and connected.