Jason Arment

Die for Retail, Sucker

(Photo by Daniel Mingook Kim on Unsplash)

Jason Arment examines the push to “return to normalcy” during these times, reopening schools and resuming operations as if COVID is no longer a concern. 


A lot has happened since my last column, but one thing remained the same dark monolith: you’re going to die for retail, sucker. There are many examples of this (every car recall ever) but one of the most clear and looming is the reopening of schools in Fall of 2020—which is happening right about now.

The GOP hasn’t been shy about explaining how schools need to reopen so people can go back to work and the country’s economy can return to normal. Returning to normalcy would be a no-brainer if the consequences for such a bold strategy didn’t involve people becoming sick and dying. Death is the scariest part of all the COVID-19 statistics, right? That, and of course the United States medical system and its apparent inability to recognize how public health is not a private matter, but a very real public concern.

While some Ivy League schools are only allowing students to attend campus in person for a single semester of the school year, Harvard faced a backlash for charging full price for tuition instead of adjusting the price to reflect how the students will spend an enormous amount of time at home, on their own internet, and using their own computers. To most, it seems only fair to reflect this in the bill itself, but others would say that a competent teacher is able to teach in the digital world just as well as in the real world. Who would say its optimal to deny students libraries? No matter what academia’s plans are for “in real life” classrooms, there is one thing Sturgis just showed America: large gatherings of people will indeed spread COVID like the clap.


No matter what academia’s plans are for “in real life” classrooms, there is one thing Sturgis just showed America: large gatherings of people will indeed spread COVID like the clap.


I remember when I returned from Iraq and first listened to the caustic whine of Jello Biafra’s voice reciting “Die for Oil, Sucker.” To say I had mixed feelings would be a deadpan understatement. After I was finished being angry, I realized Jello was right and bought the spoken word album where the track resides.

The difference from me signing up to die for oil and you going to die for retail is painfully obvious: I signed up to die for oil, you didn’t sign up to die for retail. And what families should be asked to give of their loved ones? Mine already gave up someone, has yours? Or is this like the rest of America, where the poor, working class, and marginalized bear the brunt of the punishment? If reopening is dangerous, wouldn’t the government step in?

Funny thing Dr. Fauci did, he was part of a disinformation campaign early in the pandemic’s blooming on the continental United States—remember when, for a few days, masks were bad and actually increased your risk of infection? Fauci says he helped spread this lie so first responders could have more PPE. (Whether or not such actions were sane or ethical is beyond the scope of how you’ll die for retail, sucker.) People died from the disinformation because they believed the masks trapped the virus next to their faces; so, they didn’t wear PPE and there were obvious and swift consequences.

If you’re wondering what the consequences for not wearing a mask include, ask Herman Cain, who died from COVID-19 after not wearing a mask at a Trump rally.

Just like the disinformation campaign about masks may well have been hugely unethical, the consumers of the world will be sent to form crowds because the cure is worse than the cancer, and institutions that need multitudes won’t go hungry for long. No matter what industry, there seem to be people who can’t wait to be in the audience. Americans will go as Isaac with Abraham to the mountaintop, and they will lie down on the altar, eyes closed, lips silently mouthing prayers to the “free market.”


Jason Arment is the author of Musalaheen, a war memoir published by University of Hell Press.


Jason Arment

Jason Arment served in Operation Iraqi Freedom as a Machine Gunner in the USMC. He's earned an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. His work has appeared in Narrative Magazine, Lunch Ticket, Chautauqua, Hippocampus, The Burrow Press Review, Dirty Chai, and War, Literature & the Arts: An International Journal of the Humanities; anthologized in Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors Volume 2 & 4; and is forthcoming in Gulf Coast, The Florida Review, and Phoebe. Jason lives in Denver.

Related posts