I went to Barnes and Noble yesterday. They didn’t have any new Buddhist magazines. I was really disappointed.
I was looking at the books. I was thumbing through a book I had looked at in February. The book seemed odd. I still agreed with many of the things the book said, but it seemed out of date because it was published pre-coronavirus.
That’s when I realized that the pandemic is one of those “before and after” events. Everything gets evaluated based on whether something happened pre- or post-pandemic. Kind of like Barry’s death. When I look at a TV show description, I always check out when it first aired. January 12, 2018 is the divider, as in “Barry might have seen this,” versus, “This wasn’t aired until after he passed.”
We still have all the previous problems…plus everything the pandemic has created/exposed.
Just sitting there, drinking my mocha. Watching people come and go. Not talking to my fellow humans. Basically banned from normal interaction. Everything has that slightly surreal quality, like I am watching a novel unfold in real time. Are you real? Am I?
On Friday, at work, I saw people coughing. It is neither cold nor flu season. One person was a co-worker at lunch, not wearing a mask. It is tough to wear a mask while eating. And I think I heard two customers coughing and I’m pretty sure at least one of them was not wearing a mask.
The store manager seems agitated that sales are uncertain, even though we made sales in June–despite doing things by appointment only at first and having occupancy restrictions.
There is one customer in particular that I haven’t seen since we reopened. He is a very nice guy, elderly, widowed, Greek Orthodox. I’ve Googled him and not found an obit for him, so I think he’s alive.
It’s the people I’m not seeing that make me feel creeped out. The sound of crickets where there should be conversations. The people dying, not directly due to the virus but because they cannot access normal health care because of an overwhelmed health care system. No drama. Just silence.
The coughing worries me because nobody was coughing when we reopened. Nobody. The coworker I referred to has another job as well at a fast food place. She needs every minute of work she can get. She could probably be half-dead and might lie just to earn a paycheck. Does she have the virus? How would anyone know? Widespread testing is still not available. Goodwill does temperature checks when we arrive to work. Here’s the problem: my temperature runs low (97 degrees) and if my temp ever gets up to 98.6, that will mean I have some sort of infection and I will still be allowed to work. People have to work. Even if that means infecting everyone else.
Sometimes it’s not the bad, scandalous, or traumatic things that create the problems. It’s all the good, right, non-negotiable, essential things that do not occur that create the problems. The empty spaces that should be filled with people. The silence where a conversation should be. My normal tendency is to avoid drama, but I am starting to see drama as a sign of life, like a pulse. It feels like the calm before round two of the storm.
As a Buddhist abd a liberal, I see how everything is related to everything else. Now politics and the economy are confirming the truth of what I have always believed.
The economic recovery is non-existent. Not happening. I’ll give you an idea of why. Many jobs were eliminated back in March and April. Lots of people went on furlough. People were stuck at home with their children. Day care centers closed. Now it’s July. Some of the jobs are returning; some are not. Problem: Your job just came back, but you have no child care. You cannot go back to work. End of discussion. Until you can find child care, you have no job. Now multiply that by millions of working parents.
Everyone is dependent upon everyone else. Until the people at the bottom get what they need, nobody is going to be happy. Throw in an increasingly sick population and we are all in big trouble.
Have you noticed the virus numbers lately? For example, you might have a state with 20,000 cases, 8,000 recoveries and 100 deaths ( 0.5% death rate). What’s the problem? The 11,900 cases that didn’t die or recover. These are the people with lingering health problems. They don’t die, but they don’t totally get better, either. Now imagine these people try to go back to work. They need the paycheck. But they are struggling and may not have insurance.
Do you see how their lack of insurance impacts the business, their family, etc.?
Now we are starting to see how everyone depends on everyone else. Things just had to get ugly for people to get it.
Yesterday was the fourth of July. I was dreading going to my family’s get-together. I didn’t want to be the only one wearing a mask. I got to the point where I decided I wouldn’t wear a mask for two reasons–I am tired of feeling like a liberal freak in my super-conservative family and, more importantly, I am done caring more about my family’s well-being than they do. I have spent many years watching my brothers self-destruct. Now their health stinks and I don’t think they have long left. I didn’t get asked and was so relieved to not feel obligated on any level to go. Problem solved.
I also got this feeling: survive this year and prepare for next year because absolutely everything will be different next year. I am sure one of my brothers will not survive another twelve months. And, politically speaking, everything is turning on its head.
When the riots started and I watched the Minneapolis police precinct go up in flames, I was sure the new name of the Twin Cities would be “Detroit, Jr.” It’s fifty-two years after the riots of 1968 and Michigan never recovered. This was the only thing I could think of that would make Trump look good in comparison. Wow, was I wrong. Trump’s numbers never went up. He even tried to play the law-and-order card, but that’s not really feasible by a President who consistently holds himself above the law. He tried to pull a Richard Nixon but ended up looking like Lyndon Johnson, forgetting that Nixon resigned in disgrace.
The whole race baiting thing could have worked fifty years ago when whites were a much stronger majority. Now…not so much. White supremacy is part of the foundation of America. It is part of our heritage, but not a heritage that any human should take pride in. It’s just like anti-gay rhetoric. I remember when I was a conservative Protestant and people were taking a hard-line stance against “the homosexual agenda.” It’s fine to protest gay rights when you are not aware of any gays in your life. Back in the 1990s, Ellen DeGeneres had a sitcom that she lost when she came out as gay. This is not fifty years ago, but maybe 25. Now gays are much more out. Do you really want to protest against your mother, father, sister, brother, friend, co-worker, boss, or classmate ever having basic civil rights? Now Trump is taking a hard-line stance against people that protest and topple the white-supremacy agenda. The problem for him is all the people that are now friends, lovers, co-workers, mothers, fathers, or classmates of blacks, Asians, Hispanics, etc. What worked fifty years ago is now falling on deaf ears. It’s like playing your parents’ favorite music, quaint and uninteresting. Being white is not so privileged anymore and the younger generation has no patience for celebrating Confederate traitors.
And then there’s the economic issues. Capitalism is not surviving. The basis of capitalism is consumer demand. With 30 million Americans with no job and many of them with no wealth to fall back upon, the plug has been pulled on American capitalism. You can force a restaurant to be open, but you can’t force potential customers to have money to eat there. You can force a salon to be open, but you can’t force people to go if they think they are risking coronavirus to do it. Let’s not forget about the millions of Americans with massive, crushing student loan debt, including myself. These people can’t buy houses or cars or much of anything else. Conservative Republicans have been taxing the poor for many years, but that is not possible with people that have no jobs. Conservatives have brought this upon themselves. With no middle-class to rely on, the wealthy will start having to pay their fair share. Welcome to the American Banana Republic.
So even if Trump got re-elected in November, everything will change around him. He represents a world view that is white supremacist at its core. And he is killing off his base. The states with surging coronavirus cases are mostly those led by Trumpian ass-kissing governors with no concern for the welfare of their own citizens. Killing off every single black and brown person in Massachusetts or California will not turn those states red, but eliminating even a handful of elderly white Republican voters in swing states like Florida and/or Michigan will turn these states permanently blue. Trump will be forever known for offing his staunchest voters.
I feel like I am preparing for the next phase not just of my life, but of the whole country. I will not defend things that just don’t work. That includes my dysfunctional family, white supremacy, or Darwinian capitalism. I am not fighting these things. I am simply removing my support from them. I will not give my unconditional support to things that have never served my interests. I am done. Let the chips fall where they may.