That the rules are now dissolving amid ideological double talk from health authorities says something important about the American capacity for political delusion. But it doesn’t prove that we were wrong to implement them — not when there are thousands of people who are still alive, and whose lives emphatically matter, because we sustained restrictions for a time.
The progression I’ve described, though, in which all sides have embraced delusions or found something to value more than public health, does signal that there will be no further comprehensive attempt to fight the virus. Trump and conservatism won’t support it, the public health bureaucracy won’t be able to defend it, and we didn’t use the time the lockdowns bought to build the infrastructure to sustain a campaign of actual suppression.
So in this sense we are back with Elkus’s original point. All the virus wants is targets, and if it doesn’t ultimately find another hundred thousand victims, or more than that in some autumn second wave, it will not be political decisions or public health exhortations that save us. On the left and right we’ve exhausted those possibilities, and like the earthlings unexpectedly preserved from alien domination at the end of “The War of the Worlds,” now only some inherent weakness in our enemy can save us from many, many deaths to come.