Anger+Inertia

There is a trend in politics today where the people who were ultimately wrong are only proven wrong after most people stopped paying attention and subsequently fall silent, one assumes this is because they are hoping the other people didn’t notice. This is true in most cases except one. First, it is obviously true in terms of the COVID lockdown where the people who were ranting about anything short of a full lockdown was killing grandma and everything else up to and including domestic abuse was effectively collateral compared to the viral wave that was fast approaching and yet always two weeks away before cresting on the shore with an anti-climactic shudder.

They won when it mattered and now, at least anywhere that isn’t the Midwest or the South, we are seeing the destructive results of that victory play out and the people who were so loudly moralistic about it have gone quiet. The same is true with the Kenosha riots and in particular the case of Kyle Rittenhouse. As information came out that complicated both narratives, things settled and people stopped paying attention. Turns out, for example, Rittenhouse was supposed to be defending that place and was, acting in self defense against the skateboard guy.

There are other conversations to be had, regarding how a criteria for when lethal self-defense is justified was tactfully and willfully avoided yet again, but that’s not the point of this essay. What’s particularly fascinating is the general feel of the election. As Donald Trump, an old, senile guy with an at best loose relationship with reality and sub-optimal relationships with women squares off against Joe Biden who is all of those things but a Democrat and therefore possessing a media covering up the fact he can’t complete more than 5 sentences at a time, only 2 of which ever have anything to do with each other.

The reason this is fascinating is because it is the apex of this trend when both sides fall silent. The Trumpets seem less enthused about him than they did initially whereas Biden’s enthusiasm is also room temperature. It seems to be an unspoken realization that both candidates are actually terrible but a collective pride still obliges us to vote for one or the other because “A third party can’t win”. It’s about “the lesser of two evils” for the second straight year. Whereas the previous rendition had a cogent sociopath squaring off against the Democratic demagogue, we are left with a title fight that boasts a surprising lack of mental dexterity and even less substance than its rather vacuous predecessor. The funny thing about this is it creates a tacit agreement where both sides realize Trump supporters realize Trump is a terrible idea and Biden supporters realize Biden is a terrible idea as well, but we want the other guy to break first because we want to be able to say we stuck it out longer. Or something. 

Viewing this from the state with the 3rd strictest (unconstitutional) set of rules in the country, there is this strange cocktail of three separate feelings. The first is a realization that things needed to reopen to a much more significant degree two months ago (6 weeks if you’re still married to the idea of the lockdown, yay for compromise), the second is the byproduct of a feeling of running in place and the third is a tacit realization that the country as a whole is in deep trouble if the Presidential election is “the most important of our lifetime”.

Just like the last four elections were “the most important of our lifetime” and “the stakes have never been higher” and all that. Aren’t platitudes just wonderful?

Anyway, the first two have worked together to create this feeling of running in place. People are working wherever they can, putting plans in place for when things open up and yet, Gov. Wolf, as he has done throughout this entire party, has thrived and quietly insisted on uncertainty with moving goalposts. As mentioned before, we are so far under the green phase metrics that the only reason we’re not open has -got- to be political. Except the gubernatorial election isn’t until 2022 and nobody with a clear understanding of what’s going on is going to blame Trump for wrecking the state’s economy and destroying, for example, Pittsburgh’s legendary food and arts scenes, save maybe for a few sycophants who blame Trump for their bad moods. Further, if this does keep up until that election, it’s hard to imagine a tenable argument that says Trump or Harrisburg Republicans kept Wolf and Levine’s restrictions in place. So we’re left with two options for Wolf. Either they are out of touch and unable to lead or they are playing some ill-advised long game.

In the real world, running in real-time, the grinding effect brought about by six months of “we should be moving, but aren’t” is compounded by the rest of the news regarding racial injustice and the presidential election, which are just as deep, honest and in good faith as most conversations on Facebook or YouTube. The time off has made clear the American attention span seems to be that of an outraged gnat. People are told to get angry about something, that everyone else is lying, information comes out proving to one or both sides that “perfect good/perfect evil” is a myth, but everyone either ditches the issue entirely or ignores complicating information. I’m reminded of the expression from years ago that went something like “if you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention”. 


Who have the angry ones been lately? The ones rioting, insisting that suicide and domestic violence were collateral and the usual ideologues insisting that the Republicans or Democrats were entirely evil and they were entirely good. Maybe being angry is paying -too- much attention to the parts that make you angry, but not the whole thing. Someone who wasn’t angry, or at the very least wasn’t married to an idea, would see that a lockdown for longer than three months would actually hurt the little guy more than anyone else. As the decision that ruled Wolf’s restrictions unconstitutional noted, closing small businesses did not kill demand for a product. It simply sent people who would buy that product to Target or Wal-Mart, which were allowed to stay open as grocery stores. We’ve mentioned several times before about being locked in with an abuser, having cancer procedures postponed, depression, anxiety, poverty and the like. Anyone could’ve seen that if they weren’t angry at the people pointing it out for not being wildly afraid of a virus the numbers and models simply didn’t indicate was the threat it was advertised to be. What good has MeToo done for sexual assault cases? Are they more easily prosecuted? No, it’s easy to argue they’re actually harder to get a fair shake on. Has anti-racism made things better for the discussion on race? Nope. In fact, considering the number of cases that either disappear or are outright disproven (again, when 95% of people have stopped paying attention) it makes more sense now to wonder what the accuser has to gain in either case from whatever accusations of racism or sexual harassment they make. 


Where are the activists two months in? Nobody knows. They’ve gone oddly quiet, except to pipe up about how the riots, Mao-style struggle sessions and stuff they once endorsed never represented the movement. We don’t hear from Georgia’s “experiment in human sacrifice” anymore. Their curve has long ago flattened, and they’ve had the same loose restrictions in place for months now. California has the highest number of cases in the country with their trademark insane restrictions, not hearing much on that. Not much on the damage to communities in Kenosha or Minneapolis, the lack of movement on any front regarding police reform and so on. All that bluster, all the chaos, all that anger, and yet, for those who pay attention, it appears to have signified merely anger and otherwise has made the situation it claimed to support remarkably worse. Portland saw someone shot in cold blood for supporting Trump and there hasn’t been much outrage from BLM supporters regarding the police ambush in LA. The unity on the Netflix child porn movie is refreshing, thank God there’s a line somewhere.

But if we vote for the right President (because they’re both so very different), everything else will be better. That’s what makes it “the most important election of our lifetime”. Again. Just like the last four. At least.

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