Perspective and Other Mythical Constructs.

The Fisher King

The land and the king are one.

The Fisher King

The idea that the ruler's body functions as a stand-in for the kingdom is an old one.

The land and the king are one; the corruption of the man reflects the corruption of the very society. And the society's fall from grace, its struggle with itself, shows up in the person we have chosen to lead it. This is metaphor, yeah. But it is also true in the way that all the best stories are true.

This was the first thing that occurred to me when I read the news that our Commander in Chief contracted the novel coronavirus on Friday. He was certainly not the only American carry that infection or become afflicted with its symptoms but as the leader of the free world his reaction to it would take on symbolic significance beyond the very real facts of one old man becoming sick.

The fact that this particular old man has been downplaying the severity, risk, and consequences of this virus since the pandemic started lent the whole affair an air of dramatic irony. Schadenfreude and references to Chekhov's gun littered my twitter feed. But I did not feel that frisson of a dramatic check coming due when I learned the news, as I was too busy mentally running through the potential outcomes.

None of them were good and I spent the weekend alternating between genuine fear of what would happen in this country if the president died and anxious worry about what it would mean for the pro-social distancing/mask/science forces of American life if the president's laissez-faire approach to managing the virus actually won out and he recovered quickly before going on to use that swift recovery to downplay concerns about the pandemic.

Despite a weekend of cycling between these two extremes while watching markets crash and conspiracy theories spin out of control (the president's sickness was a hoax, the president's sickness was biological attack by antifa and/or the far left wing of the democratic party, the president had already died and his staff were engaging in Weekend at Bernies-style shenanigans, etc. etc., ad infinitum) the president's health appeared to stabilize relatively quickly. While there was some obvious stage-managing and downplaying of his apparent discomfort and difficulty breathing, the president by all accounts appears to have made a recovery and was minimally affected by the sickness that has killed over 200,000 Americans.

If our leader did not lend credence to the words of his scientific and medical advisors previously, the chances of him accepting any argument that COVID-19 is any worse than the standard flu have bottomed out to absolute zero.

What effect this will have is hard to predict. The election looms in front of us and the pandemic trails behind, snaking in and out of every conscious thought in the present and casting a shadow over the future. The only thing certain is more uncertainty.

Subscribe to Semantic Drifting

Sign up now to get access to the library of members-only issues.
Jamie Larson