The Perfect Vision Plague Diaries #20

TWENTY!

Notes on the general state of the neighborhood, the family, and the masses in the time of the virus.

Yesterday’s numbers:

  • 4,117 confirmed positive cases (up 231* from yesterday)
  • 277 confirmed deaths (up 19 from yesterday)

19? C’mon, man, take a friggin’ break already. Also from the day’s release:

Preliminary data shows COVID-19 impacting all races and ethnicities.

The simple, informative tone and lack of any guilt-laden social commandments tells me that what this really means is that it’s mostly white people dying. Any other demographic and we’d be getting lectured on our culpability for pathogenic injustice.

(sometimes I’m comfiortable letting my pragmatic cynicism off its leash)

………

The milkman came yesterday. (are you done giggling yet?)  He’s been a boon during the quarantine – no need to run to the store for milk or eggs or butter, plus we can order lots of extras like bread and tortillas and eggnog. Yes, eggnog. It’s seasonal! Apparently Easter is an eggnog holiday. Anyone out there accustomed to that? It’s a new one on me, eggnog always only being a Christmas thing in my world. I’m open to it, though, and we got some. The Boy absolutely loves it.

He has chosen to write his story for school this week about what he will do first when the quarantine is lifted. It has led him to think about what he misses, and he’s in tears. It’s beautiful. He’s always worn his emotions like a skin of fire, unable to restrain any kind of feelings. I’m watching him from across the room now, pencil waggling back and forth across the page, wiping tears with the back of his non-writing hand, and breathing all those irregular, sudden breaths of the deep weep that’s ready to burst out. He’s really feeling it. I know him, so I know this will do him good, and he will come out of it feeling grand and magnanimous.

He’ll want to be good to people, especially the 3 and 5 year-old neighbors who he has been avoiding because they annoy him. They come to the door asking for him, wearing their little bike helmets and staring up at me like living stuffed animals: “Can we play with your son?” Seriously, that’s how they say it. Then they annoy me when I tell them he’s busy, because they follow up with the inevitable “why’s.” He’s doing schoolwork. “Why is he doing schoolwork?” Because he has to. He’s still in school and has assignments. “Why?” Because that’s the way it works. “Why?” I eventually get fed up (I know, don’t be so grumpy) and say something like “why do you keep asking me that?” or “why are you on my doorstep?” or just a solitary “why” without any context. They say “why,” I respond with my own “why,” and they just stare blankly at me for a few seconds, and then turn around and walk away. Kids don’t have time for your stupid games.

………

John K. Samson is fun story. His music is so good and his lyrics are such brilliant poetry that I forget I heard him first in a band named Propagandhi. He was the bassist. They were a noisy punk band whose politics I took a very, very long time to pay any attention to. At first I was just a doofus in high school who was getting a recalcitrant chuckle out of the irreverence of the lyrics, especially the anti-religious stuff. It was all kind of funny to me. Then I realized that saying those things, like F*** religion, over and over again, actually meant something. It isn’t a cast-off, slipshod sentiment that you toss out there and giggle. If you say it and mean it, then you get behind it. If you don’t mean it, you don’t say it, and when you hear it you stop listening. It was about that time that I realized I could be an atheist without constantly mocking and jeering religion and the religious. I found out that faith was valid, respectable, and dignified, even if I didn’t have any. It took several more years to realize that all of it – the mockery, the disdain, the bellicosity – came from a place of insecurity in me, and an inherent laziness that prevented me from investigating the validity of anything whose importance was easier to dismiss than assimilate.

That’s a heck of a digression. Back to John K. Samson. He left Propagandhi, formed a band called The Weakerthans, and of course did his solo thing. I’ve never read enough to know if there was the classic ideological falling out between him and the fanatics of the original band, but none of his work after that seethes with politics the way Propagandhi did. Just more poetry, and a helluva lot more fun. He’s Canadian, but don’t let that turn you off right away.

Spring made winter an insulting opening offer

………

Gerard, commenting on the last post, mentioned the “socially immune.” It reminded me of the army, when the whole “drop and give me 20” thing was called “getting smoked.” Believe me, sometimes those smoke sessions got very creative and lengthy and painful. But one soldier – he was a troublesome Private, disobedient and belligerent. As is the case with so many kids like that, if he respected you he would work his butt off for you and be your best ally in any fight. When I was a forward observer, I loved having him as my RTO in the field. Anyway, he had just been dropped by an NCO for some snide comment or another, and he immediately flopped to the ground like a dead seal. When the NCO asked him, somewhat impolitely, what the hell he was doing, he simply answered, “you can’t smoke a quitter, sergeant.” Truer words…

So the socially immune. The homeless are socially immune. They can get arrested, but okay yeah, whatever. Like the private in the story above, what’re you gonna do? A jail cell is an improvement at times. There’s no deterrent save their conscience, and only they can say what sort of a state that’s in. If my brother’s any kind of representative sample, a social conscience among the socially immune is the sort of thing that can be functionally muted when it needs to be. I imagine that in all but the most mentally diminished, the conscience can never be fully silenced, but it can be quieted to the point that it’s easily overtaken by the sound of a needle breaking skin.

Bringing us, predictably, to your “Homeless in Coronafornia” update for today:

Mandatory mask which I shortly lost after I made it
aaaaand dead silent after sundown aaand homeless
people tearing up the library yard
I guess we have the ok to camp out there
and have another woodstock

That’s a very serendipitous report, given the above commentary on social immunity. You don’t want to say these things, but you don’t want to see them, either, and yet it’s impossible not to. So many efforts get made, especially in particularly stricken places like Seattle, to give the homeless some relief. Organization and stability. These small communities are set up by volunteers and good souls, little shelters built in unused areas so that the homeless can stay dry and warm and have a little bit of their struggle eased. A moment’s dignity in the day. But they tear them apart, time and again. I’ve asked my brother why there’s so much resistance to the help among the homeless. He’s not sure. He says there’s fear – of effort; of having expectations laid on them to do better, be better. Fear of the work and struggle it would take to break addictions and face, honestly, even for a short time, exactly who they’ve become.

There is the bristling skin of elementary social rebellion among the homeless, as well. But it’s reactive, not proactive. An illusory response to the sadness of their condition. They resent and jeer at the system and the rules and the strictures of our society.  Accuse us of being slaves, and pretending to prefer the freedom they enjoy, having broken away from the burdensome restrictions the rest of us live under. But of course that’s just defensiveness, the haughty donning of uncalled-for armor. A “mandatory mask,” if you will (which so much intellectualism boils down to, anyway).  The differences between us need to be made to seem like a desirable arrangement for them. But it’s all pretty silly and sophomoric in the end, like a high school student just discovering Noam Chomsky and convincing himself that he likes the taste of that barbed hook, once it’s in.

It’s ok to cry, Comrade Citizen! Jesus wept, too.

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