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Nothing like indignation to get rid of boredom!

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For some reason the shutdown is really starting to get to me. Even though I’ve been sheltering-in-place like most of you for the better part of a year, I’m feeling the walls closing in more tightly than ever. And I’m climbing those walls in boredom.

Maybe it’s the time of year: the dead middle of winter, when daylight hours are curtailed. The gloominess of the season is heightened by the incessant clouds that cover the Bay Area in winter, bringing with them cold, pitiless winds from the icebergs of the Aleutians and—much needed—rain. On such a day as today, I barely want to venture outdoors.

But these four walls are feeling like a prison! I long for sunshine, for outdoor activity. I want to get back to the gym, to have a gimlet in a bar, to eat sushi at the counter again. But all these things are forbidden. I asked my Facebook friends the other day, “Do you think History will look back at this era of COVID and determine that the shutdown was too severe?” And the overwhelming response was, “No!” Everybody agreed that the shutdown had to happen. Everybody agreed that the COVID deniers, like science deniers in the Republican Party, are basically sociopathic assholes who are prolonging the shutdown by their insolent refusal to be part of the solution.

That’s why my heart goes out to our governor here in California, Gavin Newsom. He’s come under such nasty attack by his political opponents, who in all likelihood will succeed in their effort to get a Recall vote on the ballot sometime this Spring. Had Californians truly shut down, as he has been urging for the better part of a year, we would not have had the surges in infections and deaths; but Californians did not shut down. Many did; but many others gathered unmasked at Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years Eve, the Super Bowl, weddings and church services. They got infected, and then they went out, unmasked, into their environments and infected others. I’ve found myself wishing we could be more like the Chinese. Remember when they reacted so swiftly to the Wuhan outbreak? There was video on T.V. of uniformed officers physically seizing unmasked citizens, throwing them into vans, and hauling them off to wherever these scofflaws are hauled off to. Yes, it’s not “democracy,” per se. It’s authoritarian. But maybe we could use a little more authoritarianism here in the U.S.

Did I really say that? I, who have long complained about trump’s desire for an autocratic state? Yes, I did say it, and I’m aware of the contradiction. How do I reconcile my own desire for a more law-abiding country, to be achieved even at the cost of more aggressive law enforcement, with my ideals of personal freedom? This question is especially poignant for a gay man. Our argument for decades against the christian busybodies who wished to contain us was that we are guaranteed freedom in the Bill of Rights. That’s certainly true. Why, then, do I not grant the same freedom to a man—albeit an idiot—who refuses to wear a mask, or to socially distance?

The answer is because my exercise of my rights as a gay man puts no one else in danger, while these maskless Republican morons put all of our lives in danger. Shouldn’t we be able to draw a line when it comes to public safety? “Here is the line. You have absolute freedom on that side of it. But as soon as you cross the line, your freedom will be severely curtailed by the State.” What’s wrong with that?

Well, it’s not going to happen. America isn’t China. We have a different tradition. Democracy is messy, as Churchill conceded, but it’s a better system of government than any of the alternatives. Trump didn’t like democracy, because he knew that, if all Americans are allowed to vote, Republicans would never again win another presidency. He even said as much. From his point of view, then, it made sense to practice voter suppression. From my point of view, the more people who vote, the better. But we have to educate our children, so they’ll be smart voters. We can’t leave it to the christian right to instill superstitious nonsense in the minds of kids, who are so impressionable.

Many years ago, Carl Sagan, the great American astronomer and popularizer of science, wrote, in his trail-blazing book, Cosmos, about the challenges that scientists faced in the 16th and 17th centuries. This was a time when a repressively ignorant medieval church still dominated Europe, and sought to stifle science whenever it conflicted with theology unchanged since the Roman Empire. Johannes Kepler, for example, “lived in a time when the human spirit was fettered and the mind chained; when the ecclesiastical pronouncements of a millennium…on scientific matters were considered more reliable than contemporary findings made with techniques unavailable to the ancients; when deviations…from the prevailing doxological preferences, Catholic or Protestant, were punished by humiliation, taxation, exile, torture or death.” Despite the church’s active opposition, however, such courageous men as Kepler, Copernicus, Galileo, Brahe and Newton revealed the self-evident truth of celestial matters, and our modern age of science was born.

But we still face the opposition of truth-hating religious fanatics, the sort of ignoramuses with whom trump associated himself. These are the science-deniers, the ones who say COVID is a Bill Gates (or Obama, or Hillary) conspiracy, that climate change is a hoax, and all the rest of their rightwing nincompoopery. Fortunately, we still have brave scientists—Dr. Fauci comes to mind—who speak the truth, even at the risk of getting death threats from the insane cultists who will follow trump to his, and their, doom.

Well, I started out talking about how bored I am, and you see where it has led! Nothing like a little politics to get the blood pumping. And more good news: the days are getting longer. Even as the rain and wind lash Oakland, Spring approaches; the flowering trees here are in full bloom, and butterflies sip from their nectar. Now, all I need is for the government (or whoever it is) to get more of the damned vaccines into California, so I can get that shot in the arm!

  1. Steve wrote:

    “Did I really say that? I, who have long complained about trump’s desire for an autocratic state? Yes, I did say it, and I’m aware of the contradiction. How do I reconcile my own desire for a more law-abiding country, to be achieved even at the cost of more aggressive law enforcement, with my ideals of personal freedom?”

    You are experiencing a case of “cognitive dissonance.”

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