A little over eight years ago, I wrote a piece called “The Fatigue of Empty Gestures“, in which I briefly examined the toxic hubris that undergirds so much of the “good deeds” and participatory displays of sympathy and solidarity with various causes in 21st Century America. While it was easy to see at that time that it was a trend that was going to continue, I really hadn’t anticipated just how extraordinarily it would metasticize under conditions that are depressingly ubiquitous today, and yet far beyond the contemplation of nearly all of us at that time.
It would be easy to think that this was a sudden escalation, but in retrospect, it was a gradual one, that when it had progressed to a certain point, and was mixed with disease, hype, a government shut down of society in a response that quickly strayed from originally stated purposes, fear, the desire to do SOMETHING, and the smug satisfaction that comes from easy virtue. And now, the daily, smarmy declarations of how these perversions, large and small, are “the new normal” seem like the last bricks being set into place as too few people see what is happening and scream “For the love of God, Montressor!”.
As state governments continue to assert “emergency powers”, and threaten any who dare question the transformation of executive fiats into laws, the summer of 2020 continues to resemble “The Summer That Wasn’t”, a companinion piece to “The Year That Wasn’t.”
I am horrified at how easily overreaching government has set people against each other in this country, and given license to those in the grips of fear of CoVID-19 to channel their anxieties which have been turned up to 11 by “lockdowns” and economic uncertainties into a self-righteous combination of scientism and fervor, allowing confrontations and violence over wearing or not wearing a cloth face covering, ostensibly to stop the spread of a virus. Add to it the Maoist eruptions of “demands” for “justice” by people hiding behind a pile of bodies that they don’t really care about other than a means to destroy a society in remake it in the Marxist mold of forced mediocrity and government compulsion, and when you offer even the most timid person the sliver of belief that this is one thing, perhaps the ONLY thing they can do to assert control over what is going on (and what is not) in their lives, and they will seize on it like sharks on chum. It might be a stretch to suggest that wearing a mask is like commenting on the internet; the anonymity gives the wearer the courage to verbally and sometimes physically assault someone who isn’t wearing one, but it is an understandible one.
Emotion, by itself, is rarely the cause of good decisions. However, in July 2020, it can be difficult to make an informed decision, as the fourth estate seems determined to present only hype, rather than perspective, and complete information. Each day meets us with breathless headlines of “spikes” in CoVID cases, or capitalized declarations of “RECORD NUMBERS OF CASES REPORTED IN _________________________!!!111!!!”, without any discussion of the way cases are being reported that manipulate the results, incomplete data, or accurate reporting of hospitalizations for the disease and corresponding deaths (or the lack thereof). Despite too many Americans having more time on their hands than normal, it is easy to let the constant drumbeat build to a feverpitch than it is to dig for accurate information and perspective that would in other circumstances, lead many to question what they are constantly being told by government and the media.
If this was not enough, there are real wedges being brought between people where none previously existed. My social media seems to be split between people who are all for the various mandates issued by state governors, because “Safety!” and those who view these “orders/mandates” as massive overreach and a violation of the First Amendment. I see little middle ground, and it is disconcerting to watch friends snipe at each other over a piece of cloth. At least it is still in varying degrees, but the self-righteousness in some people declaring that those who refuse to hide behind a mask “want to kill grandma” and those who want to reopen the country for business “care more about money than lives” as they pose behind government sanctioned measures that contradict what those self-same government officials declared earlier in the pandemic is a bit much to swallow, especially when you consider the uncuriousness about the numerous and glaring government inconsistencies on the subject. Perhaps saddest of all would be the effect on these freindships, which I myself have also felt as this has progressed, as quiet periods in conversations have grown longer and longer, until some simply wink out.
I do not appreciate the way that politicians have exploited this situtation in order to further divide people, and fracture groups that have survived previous attempts to impose tribalism. I can’t say that I have deep, or meaningful conversations with everyone I know. I’m not wired that way, but the few I have become accustomed to have gotten that much more painful for their abscence, and I fear that the longer this goes on, the worse it will become, especially when fear has been disguised as concern, and thus transformed into a virtue.