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Michael D. Yates in Santa Fe, NM on March 10, 2020.

A note from Michael D. Yates

I am worried, shocked, sad, angry. At 74 and with a pre-existing condition, Covid-19 certainly could mean death. I am more afraid than I have ever been in my life. And while I have been chronicling society’s ill for years, the current moment astounds me; it is well beyond my prior imagining. Every day brings news more awful than the day before. I find it hard to cope, to do anything but hypnotically read one sad story after another. A sometimes-incoherent rage follows. Not only at the obvious targets but at so many whom I thought would have more sense, less ego, more insight. It is hard to be hopeful now. I am not.


Death stalks the towns and cities. We can take our pick of tragic stories. A couple in Florida, together for decades, without health problems, die within minutes of one another. The U.S. healthcare system failed them. The right-wing governor, who refused to close the beaches, has blood on his hands. A bus driver in Detroit dies a few days after a passenger coughs repeatedly close to him. The healthcare system failed him too, as did those who manage the transit company. The latter took action to protect the drivers only after the workers staged a walk-out. And even now, they don’t have protective clothing. There are a million stories in the Naked City, so New Yorkers, take your pick, as the sirens wail and hospitals work out triage rules. You, sir, will die. You, ma’am, will die. But we shall do our best to save the rest. The nurse, the teacher, the jazz musician. All gone. Death stalks the towns and cities.

There’s a man goin’ round takin’ names.

Killers rule us. Trump, Pence, Kushner, and all the others. What can we call them but murderers? If actions speak louder than words, then they are screaming at us, “Die, we don’t care.” Echoed by those who aid and abet. The bankers, the hedge fund managers, the tech titans, Jeff Bezos. Rupert Murdoch’s hired hands at Fox News. The spewers of hate on Talk Radio. This is a country that gave Rush Limbaugh its highest civilian honor. Let that sink in. Former alcoholics and drug addicts like Glen Beck urge us to die. For the good of the country, by which they mean the marketplace. “This country was made to work.” So, maybe to get the economy back to normal, the old folks, the infirm, the severely disabled should just commit suicide. So our sons and daughters, our grandchildren can put their lives on the line, for hours every day, working to enrich the killers, who will not be working and who will be staying safe in guarded compounds. And this at a time when those who are working, those deemed essential,—healthcare workers from EMTs to doctors, to grocery store laborers, to those who toil at construction sites, to, at the bottom of the barrel in terms of how they are treated, farm workers—have been like lambs to the slaughter. Maybe Margaret Thatcher was right. There is no society. As Hurricane Katrina should have taught us, when crisis strikes, we’re on our own. Killers rule us.

There’s a man goin’ round takin’ names.

Look at me. Death stalks and killers rule. I’ve seen the stories and I’m upset. I’m all for the little people. Nothing’s too good for the working class. I believe that with my whole heart and soul. But, what about me? I can’t get a cup of coffee. I can’t wait to go to my favorite restaurant. Jeez, what’ll I do for a haircut? About the grey hair now showing through the coloring? Can you help me unpack? We just moved, and our house is a mess. And were getting married soon. Y’all come. It’ll be a great time. Hey, I know. I’ll get all dressed up and take a selfie. Post it on social media, so everyone can see how cool I am, how fashion forward even in these dark times. Or, I’ll post about the big increase in demand for fantasy nurse costumes. While thousands are dying? Really? Look at me.

There’s a man goin’ round takin’ names.

The Scriptures say, “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay.” Don’t believe it. We will wait forever for God to right the wrongs being done to us. Vengeance must be our own, and it must be taken without remorse. And it must be directed not only at the killers, but also at those whose behavior gives them tacit cover.

There’s a man goin’ round takin’ names.

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