Maybe it’s a lack of sleep due to our one cat who had successful surgery yesterday keeping me awake all night with his meowing and rubbing his cone against my head, as if to torture me for making him wear it. Maybe it’s overwhelming workload at my day job. Maybe it’s the general level of anxiety that anyone who is paying attention at the moment feels. But my general skepticism that humanity, as it is today, can overcome our problems might be at its highest.
For starters, we’re merrily skipping onward toward the 800,000 American deaths mark, and this happened last night.
Also, there seem to be more people lately who are like Tristan here:
Vaccines aren't scary – people like you are. People who support the permanent radical empowerment of the state and transformation of our societies on the basis of a virus which would have barely caused the world to shrug in the more enlightened 20th century.
— tristan eldritch (@tristaneldritch) December 8, 2021
COVID is shrug-worthy and not a big deal. That’s one helluva take. No doubt, we will eventually see plenty of “while one million deaths is, of course, bad, COVID has proven to be not near as bad as the experts claimed” type posts by the Smartest Boys and Girls on Substack.
Ezra Klein has noted before that we as a society are very good at ignoring suffering. Klein used the example of the millions of deaths that occur globally each year related to pollution, and how we more or less just ignore it. This was something I heard him say in a podcast pre-COVID. I wonder if he ponders how COVID has made that concept even clearer.
Never forget that last year, a conservative talking point was “old and immune-compromised people dying is no big deal, they’d die anyway.” Or in May of this year, the worst thing was how those darn silly libs were addicted to the pandemic. Scared people are to be understood if they are conservatives. Mocked if they are liberals/progressives.
What does the death of others even mean anymore? I’ve said before, for a lot of people, the answer to the question “is it okay to murder someone” for almost everyone is “of course not” but for a lot of people, the honest answer is “it depends.” We saw that play out in social media reactions to the Rittenhouse trial.
Seriously, anyone who works in climate change mitigation, pay attention to what is happening right now. COVID is in that “sweet spot” where there are just enough deaths to worry some people, but enough for many to ignore or deny. I should probably call that the “bitter spot.” We will no doubt see that with climate change. Just enough deaths to alarm some, not enough to alarm the self-centered.
“I don’t give a shit if that west coast storm killed over 100, I live in Indiana, why should I have to buy an electric car?”
Just wait until the climate refugee crisis gets going in earnest.
But enough about death, we as a nation can’t even truly face the possible end of the American system. Yesterday’s Morning Joe featured a segment on a recent poll that found young Democrats won’t date Republicans. There were lots of tsk-tsking about division and not getting along with the other side. You know, shaming young Democratic women for not dating someone who is more likely to give them COVID and force them to bring to term an accidental pregnancy. Thankfully, Morning Mika ended the segment by saying sorry, I really don’t want to be around people who worship a man who started a conspiracy theory that my husband is a murderer.
This is relevant because I think this was a window into a reason for the lack of urgency about Republican attempts to undermine democracy. Too many are so obsessed with the idea that polarization is our biggest issue, I think that people just can’t accept that one side is trying to dominate the other. The people lamenting on Morning Joe that a Democrat won’t hang out with someone who fantasizes about killing them were DC insiders, and they were all very agitated about this, as if it’s The Biggest Issue We All Face.
Even among those who see the threats to democracy, there are those with a maddening view of who is the actual threat. People talk about things that Democrats do that are a “threat to democracy” that they really aren’t doing, as fellow First Draft blogger Michael F. pointed out here. Peter’s reference to Cokie’s Law, based on Cokie Roberts’ comment in 1999 that whether something is true doesn’t matter if people are talking about it as if it is true, is salient.
I am believing more and more that the eagerness to believe misinformation that is harmful to democracy is due to there being two groups of problematic Americans. There are the people who are all-in on America becoming a minoritarian-rule nation, and there are people who secretly want it too but are too cowardly to say it. So they jump on anything, like critical race theory hysteria, to make it okay to vote for the guy who wants to filet voting rights and ban books.
These will be the people who, God forbid, may be saying in several years “you know what, if AOC and Adam Schiff and the rest of them didn’t want to end up in jail, maybe they shouldn’t have said the things they said!” The people who will wave the flag on July 4th and talk about “freedom in the greatest land in the world” while ignoring, or supporting, governors who appoint their own electors against the will of the people.
Dark thoughts about my fellow humans? Yeah, pretty much so. Not everyone, of course, but overall, humanity is not looking great here. In fact, I’ll add that all the talk about the “great achievements in human history” as proof of the Greatness of People won’t mean much if we have a barely-inhabitable world that is our own doing.
Or maybe I need to get some sleep.
Last word goes to Jamestown Revival, who lamented in 2014 that the Golden Age is all but through. Little did they know how right they might be.