Friday, September 2, 2022

Recent Encounters with Derangement

MAGA Protests in Wisconsin
While strolling through the streets of Portland, Maine where I am vacationing, I passed three sane-looking people who were carrying a large banner and some signs. When they unfurled it in the middle of a public square, the banner read "F**k Joe Biden and F**k You If You Voted for Him." I wisely held my tongue and kept walking as they gestured to passing cars to honk if the drivers agreed with their heinous message. 

In another recent encounter with derangement, I was waiting for my physical therapy appointment in Rego Park, Queens. The waiting room was filled with patients, all masked as per the office's requirements. Two workmen entered and explained to the receptionist-office manager they were repairing the air conditioning in the building next door and needed access to this building. The receptionist said fine, but they would need to wear a mask (This was about two months ago when the COVID transmission rate was still relatively high in NYC.) The younger workman got his back up and refused to don a mask. Another patient tried to calm him down, saying "Look, man, I agree with you, but just put on the mask. It's her office." The workman's older colleague also attempted to get him to comply, but the younger guy spouted ignorant misinformation and blustered in outrage that he was being asked to cover up. 

Something in me snapped. I think it was his macho ignorance that offended me. I probably should have just said nothing, as I did with the trio of MAGA jerks in Portland. But as he was ranting, I raised my voice and said to this guy, "Look, if you don't want to put on a mask, just get the hell out." Fortunately--depending on how you look at it--he ignored me and concentrated on haranguing the receptionist. So the air conditioning duo left and I got into an argument with my fellow patient who opined that COVID was a hoax. "Then why are you wearing a mask?," I asked him.

"I'm wearing a bandana, I'm a rebel."

He suggested ending the conversation because in his opinion I was an old "sheep-ple" who believed whatever the deep state fed me. 

In one less volatile meeting I was coming out of the subway in Jackson Heights, Queens, and there was a marketing group offering samples of Chick-Fil-A. I wanted to confront the cheerful staff members about the company's anti-gay history. I was set to walk away when a tall, friendly employee asked if I wanted to sample his chicken. "Is Chick-Fil-A still giving money to anti-gay organizations?," I asked.

He smiled and replied that was a corporate decision and he had nothing to do with that. I asked if he was even aware of Chick Fil-a's history of bigotry. He gave a noncommittal response that he had nothing to do with the corporate level. 

These three encounters are a sampling of the division in the US now. A frighteningly high percentage of the country actually believes Trump's lies about the 2020 election. There are also those who STILL think

Philip Baker Hall as the Library Cop
on Seinfeld. "I'm after those overdue
classified docs."

COVID is a hoax and would sit silently by as gay rights (possible same-sex marriage) are trampled on. Trump is an existential threat to our continuance of a representative republic. He has stated if he wins he will "seriously" consider pardoning the J6 rioters. His lawyers have said the documents he illegally took to Mar-a-Lago are no more important than overdue library books. (Time for the Library Cop from Seinfeld!)

I don't believe Trump will legitimately be re-elected, but he could steal it if election deniers are placed in positions of power in swing states and the Supreme Court rules partisan state legislatures can reject election results. It looks like the Senate is safe for Dems in 2022 with clownish candidates like Dr. Oz, Herschel Walker and JD Vance on the GOP side. (Thank God Sarah Palin lost her special election in Alaska and the voters of Kansas rejected a draconian abortion ban.) The House will probably still flip and that means nothing will get done in a split government scenario. Kevin McCarthy and Jim Jordan have already promised their top priority will be getting revenge and launching investigations of the J6 Committee and Anthony Fauci for daring to get at the truth and for protecting our health.

While on vacation here in Maine, I saw bumper stickers reading "Annoy a Liberal" and "I Don't Believe the Mainstream Media." I saw a PBS Frontline documentary of Jair Bolsonaro who is remarkably like Trump, down to enlisting his children in the family business of political corruption. (He even had his son run against his ex-wife, the kid's own mother, in an election.) I read Emily St. John Mandel's Sea of Tranquility, a sci-fi thriller where characters from different eras experience an anomaly in the space-time continuum where different fragments of time suddenly come together. With these events, I felt a similar mash-up as I imagined a future where climate change made large swatches of the Earth including the Southeastern and western US uninhabitable, where dictators like Bolsonaro of Brazil and Orban of Hungary are the norm and not the exception, where the US splits apart in separate countries. It's not that far-fetched. It could happen as soon as next year. 

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