Strange Days 

Welcome to the Memphis Flyer's first digital-only issue. We've spent the past few days reinventing our production cycle in order to post our regular weekly print content for the web every Wednesday. And, to make it more fun, we're doing it remotely, via Slack. None of that wussy face-to-face communication stuff for us.

In fact, I think it's safe to say that none of us on staff have seen a Flyer compatriot for almost four weeks. Although that might have been Toby Sells I saw in the produce aisle at Fresh Market the other day. Not sure. We were both wearing masks and hazmat suits.

These are strange days, indeed. We hope you're all staying safe and staying home — and wearing masks and staying six feet apart if you go out.

One of the hazards of staying home is that you might possibly be tempted to watch President Trump's Traveling Salvation Show on television each afternoon. It's like a train wreck into a dumpster fire, only not as well-organized. It's supposed to be a daily update on the coronavirus, which it decidedly is not. It is, to be blunt, a shit show.

It begins with Trump emerging, blimp-like, from behind the curtain and proceeding to the podium. He looks down at the assembled reporters sitting in front of him. He smirks or sneers, depending on his mood. He then looks at the words that have been written for him to say in the notebook on his podium. He reads a sentence or two. Then, like a Bizarro-World hip-hop artist, he just starts free-styling, just letting his words flow, finding his groove, trying out new material. Almost none of what he says is true, but it fills airtime and keeps the president on television, where he loves to be. Here is some of the material he tried out on Monday:

People are being tested [for COVID] when they get on airplanes. Nope. You just made that up.

We inherited outdated coronavirus tests from the Obama administration. Nope. Coronavirus didn't exist until 2019, so there were no tests for it.

The small business lending program is working really well. Nope. It's been a total nightmare, with businesses and banks alike complaining that it's confusing and difficult to implement. There have been well-reported system-wide failures.

China never spent money in our country. Now they will. Nope. China has spent an average of $100 billion a year in the U.S. since 2011. And that's not counting their real estate and industrial investments.

And on it goes, ad nauseam. Lie after lie after lie after lie. The president of the United States, openly gaslighting the country on national television. It happens seven days a week, now. We've normalized this, let it into the country's zeitgeist — a leader who brazenly lies to us. Every damn day. With no consequences — for him.

There are consequences for us, as Americans. In the absence of truth from our president, there is naturally an information vacuum to be filled. What's “true” becomes yet another form of free-styling — just throw out some theories and see what floats to the surface on social media. In the past week, I've read:

1) Hospitals in blue states are claiming as many deaths as possible are COVID — flu, pneumonia, heart attacks, even cancer — in order to make the president look bad.

2) Hospitals in red states like Florida are hiding COVID deaths, declaring hundreds of fatalities as being from “unknown causes” to protect the president and Republican governors.

3) The COVID-19 virus was created by a Harvard scientist named Ron Leiber and unleashed on the world by China, which is in cahoots with Nancy Pelosi. I could go on.

And that doesn't even touch the madness of the QANON folks, who claim the COVID is a cover-up for Bill Gates, whose 5-G internet microwaves are what's really killing us all. The Q-Nuts also came up with the phrase “China Virus,” which the president and the secretary of state used for a few weeks.

Who the hell can you trust? I have to say at this point, we're down to our local leaders, those we can vote in or out — or complain to in person. The November national elections, if they happen, appear to be the only hope of correcting the country's course.

So it's important to just … disengage at times, as difficult as that may be. Unplug. Listen to music. Get some takeout from one of your favorite local restaurants. Sit on your porch. Take a walk. Wash your masks.

On Sunday, I drove over to the Links of Galloway golf course to get some fresh air. There were no golfers, except for an occasional solo walking around and hitting balls onto greens with no pins. The course had become something of a public park, with lots of walkers, joggers, cyclists, babies in strollers, and even a couple of kids fishing in the ponds. It felt tranquil, almost — dare I say it? — normal. I took some comfort in it.

And these days, you take your comforts where you can.
click to enlarge GREG CRAVENS
  • Greg Cravens

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