I’VE BEEN AVOIDING WRITING THIS
For a long time. Not sure why I’m writing it now.
I’m not angry, though I have felt that at times in the past nine months. Not disgusted. Still mystified. Incredulous even. Saddened, and discouraged a little. And at a loss for how to proceed.
It’s about masks. And all that means.
It’s part of the bigger issue so many of us are talking about. We are relieved beyond measure that Joe Biden won/Trump lost, and NOW, three weeks after the election, a handful of Republican “leaders” get up the gumption to acknowledge the indisputable, that Biden “likely” won that election. Too little and way too late. It is cowardly, and by definition treasonous. The GOP has become Trump’s cult and should be voted into oblivion. (But it won’t be.)
WE HAVE GONE DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE
But where do we go from here?
How do we begin to try to bring the country together, when we don’t even speak the same language? There have always been divisions, and hurt feelings and even bitterness after a national election. But not like this.
I remember a few years ago when I had concern over the deterioration of the language. I know it seems picky and get off my lawn you dang kids-ish, but really, how can we communicate if our words have no universally accepted meanings? It’s starting to derail every social/political conversation.
IT’S VIRTUALLY IMPOSSIBLE
People use “actual” and “virtual” interchangeably now. Just two months ago the Merriam-Webster folks decided to put “truthiness” in the dictionary. Only 15 years after the first time it left Stephen Colbert’s smart alecky mouth.
Are “beingness” and “isness” needed when “being” and “is” cover it? No, they’re redundant, unnecessary, and they muddy the waters, even if ever so slightly. Death by a thousand cuts. Last year the Merriam-Webster subversives added “deep state,” admitting that it did not even exist as a term until the 2010s. Ah, but many people are using it, so that’s good enough; into the official book it goes! Legitimizing another conspiracy theory. I expect to see QAnon and antifa make the cut next time.
2019 was a banner year. Also granted truthiness were “vacay,” “sesh,” “inspo,” “fabulosity,” “solopreneur” and “snowflake.”
I admit I am kind of obsessive about words and usage. But there is a much bigger issue here. Words are one thing.
FACTS ARE ANOTHER
If you can make up your own meaning for words, you can make up your own facts. That’s where we are now. And that’s why so many Americans still — still — refuse to wear a mask. The one most important thing that all the most credentialed and respected doctors say would help us beat back this virus, if everyone did it.
And yet, so many right here in Santa Monica still do not. Proudly, ferociously. A couple weeks ago I passed a young woman on the sidewalk who was not wearing a mask. When I inquired, nicely, “No mask?” she replied, nicely, “Why should I?” “More than 200,000 dead, that’s why,” I responded. She thought that was really funny and laughed, “Oh my goodness, you must believe the mainstream media!”
When the pandemic was new, I would notice that maybe 30-40 percent of people I passed on my daily walks in Ocean Park were wearing masks. A quarter of a MILLION deaths later, I’d say it’s up to 85-90 percent.
Still 10-15 percent? What is wrong with you people?
LOTS OF “REASONS”
But I blame most of it on Trump. He has had the bully pulpit (such an apt description here) and has used it not to protect the nation but to harm it horribly, by making fun of mask wearing and not taking any other recommended precautions. We know it was intentional. A political decision, to blame it on the blue states and cities, and win re-election.
Very credible doctors and scientists have estimated that up to 90 percent of the deaths in the US could have been avoided with a national policy from the beginning of mask wearing, hand washing, distancing and not gathering in groups. That would make Trump one of the worst mass murderers in history. Does that sound extreme? Facts…. are facts.
EVERY PERSON I PASS BY
On my walks who is not wearing a mask, wearing it under their chin, below their nose, on top of their head, holding it in their hand — is threatening me. And my family. To a possible agonizing death where every breath until the last is a labor of excruciating pain, with no dear face around to whisper words of love or hold a hand. Now multiply that by 260,000. And counting.
A few days ago on my walk I encountered a man on the narrow sidewalk near my house who was not wearing a mask. Because some are flesh-toned, you often can’t tell until it is too late. I couldn’t step out into the street as I usually do so I turned my back to him as he passed. He knew why I did that.
Some friends of mine consider it a social responsibility to always call people out for not wearing a mask; I hardly ever do. But this time I turned after he passed and said, in a stern tone, “where’s your mask!” He spun around and yelled, “F you!! Mind your own business!” I responded, “That’s exactly what I‘m doing, it IS my business!” He ended the discussion by demanding, “If you don’t like it, just stay th’ F away from me!” Well, who can argue with that good idea?
I feel the pain of all those deaths and their families and friends, and also of the beaten-down medical workers. I see them speak and cry on the news — except on Fox — and it is heartbreaking. A front page story in Atlanta the other day quoted an ER doctor, concerning the deniers who increase their work and suffering loads so much: “It Makes Me Shake with Anger.”
So — how do we even begin to try to bring the country together? Or even Santa Monica? I wish I knew.
Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 34 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at firstname.lastname@example.org