Monday, April 20, 2020

Only in America?

Another fun tweet today, reacting to the spate of anti-shutdown protests around the US: "Are other countries seeing these types of protests or are Americans being exceptional again?"

A self-styled clown replied: "No, because other countries understand fucking nuance. Demanding people stay at home as much as possible & avoid gatherings during a pandemic where the virus can be infectious & asymptomatic for half a month ≠ tyranny."

This, uh, person is confusing "countries" with people.  I agree that shutdowns for public health reasons do not equal tyranny, but that's not the point.  Does he think that people only protest rationally, with nuance?  I began by recalling pro-Trump rallies in South Korea, by religious nuts every bit as loony as our native wackos.  I wrote about a rally I observed in Seoul in 2017, on the eve of Trump's first visit there, but I see I didn't include any of the photos I took there.  Here's one.
Not only did they believe that Trump would remove Moon Jae-in from office with his bare hands and restore impeached and disgraced Park Geun-hye to the Blue House, they begged him to nuke North Korea.  Luckily, their petitions never came to Trump's attention.

By my next visit a year later, there were weekly marches in Seoul on the same theme, which I wrote about here, with plenty of photographs.  Here's one:

The mixture of US and ROK flags (plus at least one marcher, whom you can see in the post, who carried US, ROK, and Israeli flags) exemplifies the shared sensibility of the Korean and US far right.  There are plenty of contacts between the US and the South Korean far right.  The clown disagreed, saying that these protests had nothing to do with COVID-19 shutdowns, but I was more concerned with the fascist mindset that produced the anti-shutdown protests here.  And I'd really just gotten started.

Another person tried to correct me: "Not true. No other country has people protesting against these stay-at-home orders. Some may not like it, but they aren’t protesting. Outside of the US, healthcare is universal so paid for with tax dollars. People aren’t selfish enough to further risk the lives of frontline staff."

However, there have been protests in South Korea against the shutdowns there, by churches that refused to observe them -- not anymore, though, because all protests have been forbidden there. So no, you won't see religious fanatics marching in the streets, but you will find them fighting with police sent to observe and enforce social-distancing in their services:
A video uploaded by a purported member of the church on YouTube showed a woman lying on the ground while another was heard shouting “Why are you doing this? Is this North Korea?”
South Korea is even more connected to the Internet than the US, and broadcasting or netcasting worship services is no less common.  Korea also has universal health care.

So does Israel, where ultraorthodox Israelis ignored shutdown orders, holding public funerals without masks or social distancing,
In Mea Shearim, video from Israel police showed officers showered with cries of "Nazis" and "murderers" as they made their way down the labyrinthine alleys of the insular Jerusalem neighborhood. A medical team from Magen David Adom (MDA), Israel's emergency response service, was pelted with rocks in the same neighborhood while trying to carry out a coronavirus test, a spokesman from MDA said.
(You may remember a previous occasion when the ultraorthodox protested against "Nazi" repression of their right to spit on eight-year-old girls and call them whores.)  Thousands rallied to protest against the shutdown from the left, and Netanyahu's government has relaxed restrictions somewhat.   And as in Korea and the US, the devout have found that their god doesn't protect them from the virus.

Some Islamists have also ignored warnings and congregated in large numbers, in Pakistan for example.  As of March 12 this year:
Pakistan has so far recorded 20 positive cases with zero fatalities while two people have recovered from the disease. But with its poor health infrastructure, the country has tested fewer people despite bordering China and Iran, where more than 90,000 cases were reported.
Meanwhile, the Pakistan Super League, a nationwide cricket contest, is attracting tens of thousands of spectators to stadiums across the country of 210 million people.
Now, none of this has been obscure.  The connection between reactionary Korean Christianity and COVID-19 has been well-reported here, or so I thought.  CNN reported on the ultraorthodox rebellion too.  Why, then, were these fine, smart people so sure that only Americans were stupid enough to flout warnings and attack their government for trying to protect their health?  I suppose that in part they don't see themselves as belonging to the same America as the protesters here, a sentiment that's mutual.  But it takes self-imposed tunnel vision as disabling as the Right's to ignore well-known examples of jingoistic petulance outside the US, simply in order to preserve their own smug certainties and feelings of superiority.