(This turned into another wall’o’words post. Apologies.)
PREAMBLE: Longtime readers will have noticed that I seldom do political posts anymore. Honestly they were never anything but filler to help me fulfill the Post Every Day rule, which is hard to do with slice of life posts because I live very quietly and blogworthy things simply don’t happen every day. When I stopped with the political stuff my readership crashed – not a lot of people out there really care what-all Tobie did today or whether Ian’s water softener is behaving itself, and I don’t blame them.
It didn’t matter. A major reason I maintain the blog is for my own mental health. My idea of good mental hygiene involves minimal engagement with political bullshit that happens outside the Gulch: It never seems to make anybody happier, and I found it excruciating but as a lifelong political junkie it was difficult to unplug even though it has virtually nothing to do with most of my day-to-day life. So I view my waning interest in who’s insulting whom at a white house press session as a good thing in terms of my personal road to satori, y’know? If it costs the blog some readers, so be it.
My point being, when political bullshit does manage to intrude itself into my very quiet life, it’s actually painful. I was going to write this post yesterday but kept putting it off. And now I’m finding it difficult to compose, so bear with me. End of preamble.
One major advantage of being a frickin’ hermit in the frickin’ desert is that you don’t have to deal with all the bullshit surrounding the Covid lockdown(s), mask mandate(s) and to-vax-or-not-to-vax.
Not all of the bullshit. It seems some of it is unavoidable. Really, I spent part of yesterday pondering just what freedomistas who live in cities have to put up with.
Here’s my problem: I deal with neighbors on a reciprocal basis for a good deal of my living. And until recently this has been easy and pleasant because I like most of my neighbors. The ones I don’t like, I don’t have to deal with. Their political opinions hardly ever enter into it: For the most part they don’t even come up.
I have one set of neighbors with whom I deal quite a lot, and I’ve always known that they derive their entire worldview from watching hairsprayheads talk on the television. I haven’t had access to a television during this century, and even when I still did I never paid any attention to broadcast ‘news’ because damn. And in March of this year I spent parts of 3 days housesitting for some neighbors, actually watched some ‘news’ shows on their TV, and oh my god the current generation of newsreaders makes Howard Handupme look like Edward R. Murrow. I could never stand it for more than a few minutes at a time, I felt myself growing measurably more stupid by the second.
Thing is, I knew this about these neighbors and it didn’t make any difference to me. In matters of actual life these two are as normal and sensible as anybody you’ve ever met: In political matters they just spew whatever the last thing was that they saw on TV, apparently with complete conviction. They used to go on and on about Trump, and that didn’t bother me because I’m not a big fan myself though I figured that whatever Rachel Maddow or Don Lemon had to say about him were probably party-line lies. So I could just smile and keep my mouth shut, and it didn’t affect anything important.
Starting last year with the Covid thing, matters became more serious. I mean, it made a certain amount of sense for them to take it seriously – they’re both considerably older than I am and both have serious health issues, so it made sense to isolate themselves and do the mask thing. They rushed to get vaccinated at the first opportunity and that may have been a rational choice. You have to understand that we live ‘way back in the boondocks here and the chance of catching any disease from anybody is very low – but not zero, I had a bad case of the flu myself back in 2017. It can happen.
But there was still that television thing dinning in their ears. You might recall that Covid instantly became a big political issue: It seemed rational to me to discount the most extreme views spewed by either side of what passed for a debate, but my two beloved neighbors accepted whatever the TV poured into them uncritically. Last summer they believed, for example, that bodies were piling up in hospital parking lots even though they both spent time at hospitals and couldn’t have seen any such thing with their own eyes. This summer they insisted that I resume the mask when we went to town because the “delta variant” made the vaccine – which I suffered through in February and March for their sake – meaningless and hospitals were packed with dying patients again.
All this was just an annoyance I put up with for the sake of friendship and – frankly – business. I do things for them, they do things for me, and I’ve grown dependent on the relationship.
But yesterday we were in the parking lot of the Palace of Food and there was this old guy with a shopping cart taking his annoying time getting out of the way of their truck. And one of my neighbors said to the other, “Run him down, he’s probably unvaccinated anyway.”
I joked back, “Now, now. Let’s not let our view of the unvaccinated go to extremes.” And this person replied, not at all joking, “What extreme? They’re killing innocent people by the thousands.”
And I…said nothing. Okay: I don’t apologize for being an extreme introvert, you shouldn’t be shocked by any tendency on my part to avoid confrontation. But I suddenly realized that the company of these two people, whom in every other way I like very much, had crossed the line into being painful.
Maybe they’re an extreme case? I don’t know. They’re isolated, they watch a lot of television but don’t do the internet, they’re never exposed to any conflicting views. Maybe they’re an extreme case?
And yet, as I said, they started out as reasonable, sensible people. I watched the appalling mess that people with political commitments tried to make of the world in summer of 2020: Most of them probably saw themselves as reasonable and sensible. Maybe my two neighbors are really the norm. Maybe the world really is falling apart out there.
Gad, it’s depressing.