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Gotta get out of bed, get a hammer and a nail

Gotta get out of bed, get a hammer and a nail October 1, 2021

• It’s been a fretful week here. My wife tested positive for COVID last Friday. This is a “breakthrough” case — we’re all fully vaccinated, and both younger daughter and I have tested negative (twice) since then.

The ‘vixen hasn’t had any severe symptoms, she’s just been wiped out, sleeping 12-16 hours a day. We’re hoping that her sort of hibernating through this will turn out to be our story, feeling grateful (to Providence and Moderna) if this is the worst of it. But we’re also all a bit on edge, hyper-self-conscious of any slight hint of anything potentially symptom-like. I’ve stocked up on chicken soup and ginger ale and Gatorade and cranberry juice and all of the other things one buys when someone’s sick, but doing that in the context of all those white flags on the National Mall seems inadequate and surreal.

The fact that we’re all vaccinated makes this a hugely different situation than it would have been if this had happened last autumn. That’s undeniable. But it’s still weird how impatiently blasé our employers are now compared to how responsive and responsible they both were a year ago.

Most of the pandemic-necessary HR measures the Big Box and the salon had in place have already ended even though the pandemic itself has not. Thus I was briefly sent home to get tested, but then was right back to work in the (crowded) store the next day after testing negative. I was encouraged to get the home-test kits (at my own expense at $12 a pop) and to test myself regularly — on the honor system I guess? — until our household is back in the clear. But that’s it.

So the pandemic is still happening, and the Box still has rules in place to bar potentially infectious employees from working, but the supports once provided to enable those workers not to work are no longer in place. The Box doesn’t seem to be dealing with the fact that its hourly employees may, once again, be financially constrained to come to work while sick. The same is true for the salon. The ‘vixen is, of course, forbidden to return to work until one week after she’s back to testing negative, but the only support she’s getting now was some guidance on how to file for unemployment until then.

One gets the sense that part of the reason the pandemic will never end is that so many employers are acting like it already has ended. That’s distressing and a bit infuriating.

• Given that there’s another cresting wave of the “Is empathy a sin?” and “I feel like my agenda is threatened by the idea of ’empathy’ so I must condemn it” nonsense at the moment, here’s a flashback from two years ago:

I went back into the archives searching for when the traditional virtue of empathy — the bedrock of the Golden Rule — became a partisan punching bag. I’d thought this weird and explicitly sociopathic “argument” traced back to President Barack Obama’s description of Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor as someone possessing the heretofore unambiguously positive and admirable quality of “empathy” as the breaking point for Republicans (if Obama praised anything, they imagined they had to condemn it). But I find that Fox News and other partisan Republican outlets have been raging against empathy since the early 2000s.

Opposition to empathy is genuinely one of the most disturbing, morally imbecilic talking points to emerge from America’s white right-wing cesspools. It’s literally an attack on the Golden Rule itself, an assertion that we have no obligation to do unto others as we would have them do unto us.

So what makes anyone listen to such a vile attack, nodding their head in agreement? Partly, I suppose, it’s just the habit of playing one’s assigned role. Fox et. al. says jump and you say “How high?” Partly I suspect it’s due to some weird idea about empathy being a form of weakness. And partly due to the fear of retribution that any thought of empathy is bound to conjure up for people who know that they would seek such retribution if their situations were reversed.

But reading the hideous posts from those CBP agents, and hearing from pro-Trump Camp protesters egged on in support of their hateful cruelty, I’ve also begun to suspect that many people oppose and condemn empathy because they don’t understand it and therefore don’t believe it exists. They have trained themselves never to think of others in such a way and so they’re bewildered when normal people claim to do so. If I don’t care, at all, about the plight of children in cages, then I cannot believe what others say when they claim to care about those kids. I will think they’re faking it for some weird liberal reason. And so I will mock their tears, just as I mocked Obama’s tears after Sandy Hook, because I desperately need to believe those tears are “fake.”

Rejecting my own humanity, I will be forced to deny others’ as well, lest I be forced to come to terms with my own inhumanity. Or something like that. I dunno. I’m trying to empathize with people who deny, reject, and oppose empathy. But it’s tough.

• The Indigo Girls lyrics in the title of this post could be read as a sardonic version of the Big Box’s prematurely post-pandemic policies for its workforce, but that’s not what I was thinking there.

Today is Jimmy Carter’s 97th birthday and this song reminds me of him (because Emily and Amy are also from Georgia, and so is Habitat for Humanity). Here’s the video, which reminds us that 1990-91 were still part of the long ’80s.


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