The ‘Trump Death Clock’ and some pink chalk

Dear President Trump,

Here is the title (and subtitle) of one of the HP’s top running stories this morning:

‘Trump Death Clock’ In Times Square Is Grim Reminder Of Preventable Virus Deaths
The sign’s creator aims to show “the cost in human lives” (by Josephine Harvey)

The TDC recently clicked past 50,000 excess, preventable covid-19 deaths, which epidemiologists Britta Jewell and Nicholas Jewell estimate are attributable to your decisions to downplay the dangers and to delay mitigation efforts. By their calculations your delays are responsible for approximately 60% of the covid-related deaths.

I wonder how many times this sort of figuring is going to have to be redone as the variety and scope of your administration’s failures regarding PPE, testing, contact tracing, support for hospitals, etc. mount? Plus, since it’s estimated (Forbes, 4/7/20 “The COVID-19 Coronavirus Disease May Be Twice As Contagious As We Thought”) that someone infected with covid-19 is likely to infect as many as 5 or 6 other people who in turn will infect another 5-6 people and so on, it seems like the proportion of excess deaths stemming from the original failures should get larger as time goes on.

The particulars of how to figure the proportion of deaths (and cases, misery, and suffering) aside, the fact that this big-ass stark electronic billboard is up in Times Square is a good thing – it’s definitely a public service on the part of Eugene Jarecki, it’s creator/instigator. I wish there was one in every town square across the land.

So, there’s this fancy electronic billboard hanging in Times Square that literally says “Trump Death Clock” that’s being righteously lauded in the press as a public service. Surely Jarecki is getting all sorts of grief (death threats to him and his family) on social media, but the authorities have clearly allowed the billboard to exist in the public space. In contrast, a woman named Jill Nelson was arrested and held for five hours after writing “Trump = Plague” in pink chalk on a boarded up business in her NYC neighborhood (see Hyperallergic article from 5/8/20 by Hakim Bashira). Nelson is a 67-year old African American journalist who was on her way to the corner store when she wrote her message. Within seconds four NYPD officers descended on her, cuffed her, and detained her.

She wrote her message in chalk – pink chalk – chalk that could be buffed away in seconds flat or that would be rinsed away by the next rain. What if she’d instead written “Hang In – We’ll Get Through This” or “Be Kind” or “Thank You Essential Workers” or some such rah-rah message? What do you think? Would her blackness and her female-ness still have counted against her so much that the NYP officers would have felt it necessary to arrest her? Was it the specific truth-to-power words she wrote or was it that she wrote anything at all on property that wasn’t hers (though chances are if she had written it on her own house, they still would have arrested her)? What if a 67-year old white man dressed in business casual clothes wrote “Trump = Plague” in pink chalk on that boarded up business? What do you think would happen to him? I’m honestly unsure of the answers to some of these questions, but I’m 99% sure the white man wouldn’t have been arrested and I’m 100% certain that race was a huge factor in Nelson’s arrest.

The signs of your all’s desperation are looming larger everyday. You all are freaking out, pulling out all the stops as you try to intimidate African American people into backing off, backing away from the ballot box. But it’s too late — we’ve reached a tipping point and your hateful, greedy ways are going to drag you and yours under. We do, though, need to safeguard those you’ve got locked into your sights because you are clearly not going down without a fight and you are dangerous.

May we all be safe through this dangerous transition time.
May we be willing to keep a hold of some joy – we need it.
May we be healthy and strong together.
May we reject nihilistic attitudes that pit us against one another.

Tracy Simpson

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