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Day 167

Notes from the bunker

I’m at a low boil pretty much all the time now. I think the past three weeks or so have been a little better, but I’ll still sometimes catch myself snapping at Leah over something impossibly trivial, or throwing my hands up in disgust and falling into a prolonged funk at the slightest annoyance. This week’s Republican National Convention, a substance-averse cult gathering which kept Hatch Act experts busier than ever, didn’t help. With the White House as his backdrop, the President of the United States held a televised political rally with a dense crowd of 1,000 mostly unmasked sycophants, about the same number of Americans who died as a result of COVID-19 that day and every other day of the past six weeks. We’re on track to reach 200,000 deaths less than a month from now.

Schools, gyms, indoor dining, and other businesses and institutions are trying to come back. Outbreaks have already resulted and there is no reason not to expect them to continue. In the glaring absence of a coordinated national public health strategy, a vaccine is our only hope. When a vaccine comes, who knows if it will be effective medicine or a hurried placebo. Who knows how long it will take to manufacture and distribute a meaningful amount of doses. Who knows how many conspiratorial wingnuts will refuse to be vaccinated because they think it’s a Bill Gates plot for social control. Who knows when we’ll be on the other side of this.

All we can do to curb the spread in the meantime is to stay home, except the economy can’t abide that, at least as long as Senate Republicans and their constituents prefer digging mass graves to ever giving anyone anything “for free.”

Meanwhile, a few days ago in Wisconsin, cops shot Jacob Blake in the back seven times in front of his children, and yet a lot of people still can’t get on board with defunding the police. For being the supposed Land of Dreams, we don’t have much of an imagination. We don’t anticipate, we react. We don’t prevent mistakes, we punish them. Turning some of that punishment money into prevention money? Heresy.

I suppose it might be less troubling if we were consistent about what qualifies as a mistake. Black people make up 13.4% of the population, but make up 22% of fatal police shootings. They’re incarcerated at five times the rate of white people. Is there something about their pigmentation that makes Black people get into so much trouble? Or is there something else going on? If you think it’s the first option, you’re a racist, plain and simple. If it’s the second, our society and criminal justice system are racist. It’s one or the other, folks. The next time you see a militiaman guarding a gas station from Black Lives Matter protestors, ask him that question. Ask him why shutting down the economy in the interest of public health constitutes government overreach but cops shooting a dude in the back in front of his kids doesn’t. Ask him why, instead of speaking out, he’s pointing a gun at the people who are.

Leah and I are, as ever, very lucky. We’re together, we’re healthy, we’re unlikely to be murdered by police, and we’ve been living and working in our new home for 11 weeks now. In the year 2020, describing our problems as “first-world” is an understatement, but here are some:

  • We’re frustrated that our two biggest home improvement projects are moving slowly and this place won’t really feel like home until they’re done.
  • We were hoping to celebrate our upcoming 15th anniversary with friends and family, but at this point we’re not even sure that will be possible for our 17th.
  • I’ve been watching videos from concerts I attended in years past in the same manner that people watch home movies of dead relatives. Many of the shows I planned to attend this year, booked in venues ranging from bars to baseball stadiums, have been rescheduled for next year. I appreciate the optimism but doubt anyone involved is naive enough to think it will happen.

Summer is coming to an end. Socially distant outdoor hangouts will come to an end not long after. It’s going to be a long winter.