The sun set only a few hours ago and my hood is quiet. The building across from me is dark, with only half of the windows revealing the dependable orange glow of incandescent light. In one window, I see a Christmas tree. Nobody blasts music. Nobody even washes their cars anymore. The streets are lined with metal carcasses that don’t seem to move for alternate side parking, which is rarely enforced anymore.
Nobody in the building across from me utters a peep. I wonder if some of the residents have left, unable to pay their rent. Or maybe they lie there waiting. Waiting in the dark for the pandemic to be over. Waiting for some hope that neither the city nor the state nor the nation can give them.
There are two kids I once saw on a regular basis in one of the windows. They jumped up and down on their bed sometime around ten and engaged in pillow fights. And they did this through October. When I went into my kitchen to pour a nightcap, I would watch them, feeling some hope that joy and life had not died in Flatbush. But I haven’t seen them in the last six weeks. And I worry about them. I worry that they have been forced out of their unit or that their ability to make the most of a bad situation had reached a natural end point.
Even the guys who used to hang out for hours on the corner are gone. Last year, they stood there until December, pulling hoodies over their heads and chatting and smiling through shivers on chilly days. They likewise departed the streets sometime after Halloween. The only trace that they ever existed are a few bottles left on the sidewalk from their outdoor drinking. The only sign of their conviviality. Nobody has touched the bottles. In ordinary times, I would probably dispose of the trash. But I can’t find it within me to do so. Because those bottles are the only remaining indicator that people were there. I suspect that other neighborhood neatniks, the many here who silently pine for our old ways to return, feel the same way. The empty bottles serve as a memorial. A memorial to how the hood used to be. To how it might be again.
Over Thanksgiving, there was a lot of festive music played in my building. But nobody blasts any music now. They preserve the funereal silence of waiting and not knowing and staying quiet. Of knowing that we’re at the beginning of another crest of COVID infections and who knows how many deaths. Of understanding this is just the beginning of a dark time. A repeat of what went down here in March. The ambulance sirens are more frequent. They often wake me up at 3 AM. And I always think of the person inside ushered at high speeds to an ICU. My eyes moisten as I understand that the patient will probably die, leaving further grief for the patient’s friends and family.
The fight has gone out of people. We’ve accepted this as the new normal. We’ve accepted Trump’s indefensible inaction. We’ve accepted Governor Cuomo’s present “policy” to pledge “very strong action” while not actually doing anything. While keeping indoor dining and gyms open. Sure, there’s a vaccine on the horizon, but it won’t be here for months. We’re not even halfway through this long pain. Every other developed nation has a monthly stimulus check. We have nothing. Unemployment if we’re lucky.
So we sit in our apartments like ghosts. Because to inhabit the corporeal in any form is more exhausting these days, even when we are not in motion. And we need all the energy we can get. Because it’s going to be a long time before things return to normal again.
State Assemblyman Robert Carroll has proposed one of the most unjust tax schemes that New York State has seen in sometime. A $3 delivery surcharge would needlessly penalize struggling families, the disabled, the elderly, and anybody else in New York who is hanging on by a thread.
I’ve spent the last two days trying to tame a great rage I have towards an entitled millennial New York State Assemblyman named Robert Carroll — or “Bobby4Brooklyn,” as this clueless asshat likes to call himself on Twitter. (Sorry, Bobby, but styling your handle like the title of a Prince song doesn’t make you any less whiter.) But I cannot find it within my heart to stifle my indignation towards a remarkably insensitive and entitled dickhead who clearly does not recognize the struggles of people with disabilities, economically disadvantaged New Yorkers who are hanging by a thread for dear life, and the elderly, who are often barely getting by on social security and pensions. Carroll has proposed one of the cruelest and most poorly devised bills I’ve observed in some time. And this dimwitted weasel has the effrontery to call himself a Working Families Party candidate!
In the middle of a pandemic, as many people have been forced to stay indoors and remain socially isolated and thus order packages to get what they need, Carroll has had the audacity to propose a $3 surcharge for any delivery in New York City. The bill — specifically, A06078 — does provide an exception for “essential medical supplies, food deliveries and for those using supplemental nutrition assistance program, special supplemental nutrition for women, infants and children and any other successor program,” but this still leaves a woefully gargantuan set of essential items that will still cause the underprivileged to pay up. Got a deal on a winter coat? Pay $3. Or how about some household goods you need to keep your home in tidy shape? Pay $3. Need a specialized tool for your job that you can’t get elsewhere? Pay $3. Your landlord won’t fix the radiator and you need a heater to stay warm in the winter? Pay $3.
You may be thinking, “Well, $3. That’s not that big of a deal.” Well, how many times have you been forced to order something online when it isn’t available in the store? Or when you’ve feared braving the teeming throngs of people crowding a supermarket? Moreover, if Amazon decides to split up your delivery across multiple packages, would you have to pay $3 for each separate delivery? That would seem to be the case based on the language of the bill. You could easily pay $12 if the algorithm decided to split up a bulk purchase into four separate deliveries. And for many people struggling in New York, $12 could mean the difference between paying this month’s electricity bill or playing Russian roulette with Con Ed, hoping that they won’t shut the lights off after months of falling behind on the payments.
This bill is also a slap in the face to small businesses, who are often forced to shell out for UPS and FedEx in an effort to keep their customers happy and fend off the big online behemoths. Amazon has succeeded in undercutting small businesses by pricing down goods at a reduced profit margin. The cash-strapped New Yorker is often forced to go with the cheaper deal. But what if that $3 surcharge — theoretically on every item — is simply too much for someone looking for loose change under the couch to stay alive? Well, they may go to the retail stores. They could clog the parking lots, creating the very congestion that Carroll, in his infinite imperiousness, claims to be fighting.
Our fundamental goal here in New York is to prevent people from socially congregating as much as possible. According to the Washington Post, social gatherings are leading the COVID spread. The spread has been so disastrous that Governor Cuomo was forced to cap social gatherings at ten people. Moreover, in an age in which three dollars is the new thirty dollars, Carroll’s bill is a repugnant war on the working class. All the funds generated by this would go to bailing out the MTA — which, not to put too fine a point on it, hasn’t exactly beenknown for itsfinancial scrupulousness. Disabled people — who rely on deliveries in order to survive and who cannot use the subway easily due to the fact that only 77% of stations are accessible — are now being asked to bear the financial brunt of a public transportation service that has declared itself enemy to their mobility. And what about the immunocompromised? Surely, it’s an unfair financial burden on them as well.
Carroll clearly hasn’t thought out these obvious drawbacks to his bill. The $300 million he hopes to generate annually from a bill aimed at regular people would be a drop in the bucket for Amazon, which Carroll hasn’t targeted and which made $96.1 billion in revenue during the third quarter of 2020. If you asked Amazon to pick up the $30 million tab, that would be .3% of just one quarter of revenue. For the struggling New Yorker who has only $90 to buy an $89 winter coat, that would mean a $92 bill that he could not pay.
Well, it won’t work, Bobby. We now know that you’re an enemy of the people. We know that you’re a Scrooge and that you’re actively contributing to undermining public health during a pandemic.
If Carroll manages to pass this bill, here is my promise. I will put my energies into supporting any 44th District candidate who will primary him. I will knock on doors to expose this charlatan and tilt votes. I will do everything in my power to ensure that Carroll loses his seat.
Asking the people — especially disabled people who cannot use the subway — to take a tax hit for a corrupt and bloated agency that requires significant reform is an unconscionable and morally unjust act. You surrender any right to call yourself a defender of the people when this bill is your “big idea.”
So what’s it going to be, Bobby? Are you going to walk this vile bill back and admit that you did not think this thing through? As a man of Brooklyn, I will be the first person to defend you if you do so.
Or will you continue to remain smug and stubborn? Will you continue to believe that you know what’s best for the people of Brooklyn? If that’s the case, I’ll be happy to volunteer my time and energy to become a significant factor to ending your political career with a sizable turnout in the next election.
I should be laughing and shaking off the sediment. Feeling joy roiling from my rouse heart. Finding a liminal space to land. The television show I am streaming is comedic and should make me happy in theory, but it is too close to a life I once lived, one now presently impossible to live. The images are too vivid, too palpable, too recognizably amateurish, frustratingly reproducible only nine months before. I wish I could succumb to this work of art, giving myself over to it completely. I see what it is trying to do and, deep down, I commend it. In another year, I would be chortling over its clever premise and singing its praises and telling anyone who will listen to me that this is something that speaks the truth and is worth the journey. But I can’t. And I feel ashamed that I cannot give this show the attention it clearly deserves. As the ghosts of how I once lived melt across my monitor, as the images of a quotidian life that will not be possible for at least another year haunt my starved soul, I feel the tug of deep grief. And I am shocked to find myself crying.
This wasn’t the case a few months ago. Who knows how I’ll react six months from now?
These days, I can’t handle the images of New Yorkers slapping each other on the back and talking within inches of each other. The casual cigarette exchanged from one person to another just outside a bar. The hugs. All the hugs. All the physical contact. The kissing. The banter. The ability to walk into a random building and get into trouble and have an adventure. The small talk. The eccentrics and the true originals in the subway. The packed elevators. All of this is now gone. Sure, you can find bits of it here and there. There are still buskers in the Village. There are still dependable outliers shouting obscenities in the streets. There are still friends you can see if both of you take a rapid test the day before and the results are negative and you haven’t seen anyone for a week. But even then you are taking a calculated risk. You see people escaping the cold into enclosed tents with heat lamps, tempting fate as they drop their masks for a meal and the underpaid and undertipped waitstaff nervously serves them, some of them terrified out of their minds. Outdoor dining was fine when there was plenty of air and you could feel the warm sun pour onto your skin and you felt that the setup was reasonably safe for you and the servers who braved this new world. But despite many enticing invites, I can’t bring myself to take the plunge for this new “outdoor dining,” which is decidedly indoor.
We all know that existence won’t be fully restored for a while. Yet we try to live anyway, often forgetting that we are in a pandemic.
After ten minutes of watching the show, I can’t watch any more. I’ve reached my limit. Perhaps it is the documentary quality that is too real. Perhaps I recognize myself as a potential participant within the frame. What I know is that I cannot escape into a world that bears strong resemblance to what my universe used to be. If I am seeing New York from twenty years ago, it sits sufficiently enough in the past for me to enjoy it. If it is science fiction or fantasy, particularly if there are preposterous creatures, even better. But if it is true to me, if there is a strong likelihood that I could meet and know these people in my former regular life, then I find my heart pleating and retreating, tightening into a balled bundle of wistful tension. I can read books and listen to podcasts. Because I am using my imagination and using my memory on my own terms. But the stark visuals of once ubiquitous panoramas are just too much.
I am fatigued by the screens. I have grown exhausted by the Zoom meetings. If there is a potential romantic partner, I insist on voice only for that vital vetting. Because the voice is as close to human presence as we can get these days. It’s a ludicrous burden to get dressed up and tidy up everything that’s going to be within the camera’s range if you’re not even going to meet. Better to talk with a prospective paramour in your boxers. Or nothing at all if you’re spending the endless days going commando.
It goes without saying that we were never meant to live such a disembodied life. Theatre has survived for centuries because there is no better substitute for emotional intimacy other than face-to-face contact. Our best moments happen in the flesh. And that is no longer possible.
The reason so many of us have ordered so many items by mail is not merely because we need them. It is not blind consumerism. It is not merely because there’s a certain comfort in getting a new item by mail. A new item in the mail is like a present, particularly if one forgets ordering it, which is often what happens to me. If we can’t have other people, what we can have in our lives is something tangible, something we can touch. I ordered a dozen board games just so I could feel the cards and grasp the tokens and roll the dice and clomp around the splayed out board as if I had four other friends in my apartment. (I was fortunate to have a friend come by to play some of these games with me. But, for the most part, I’m carrying out imagined multiplayer scenarios on my own. This is ridiculous and possibly a little pathetic.)
Home used to be something you returned to. Now it is a place you stay. For living. For work. And no matter how comfortable or ideal your home may be, no matter how much you have, there comes a point for anyone in which escapism has its limits. How many of us will crack permanently before we have a nationally distributed vaccine?
New York Post wingnut Karol Markowicz has argued that we should carry on with Thanksgiving as America faces its worst case count and death toll because of COVID. Her logic doesn’t add up and belies a harder truth about what we may have to sacrifice if we hope to contain the virus.
We’re less than a day into November and already the anti-science propaganda has been unspooled like a mildewed floor roller desecrating an immaculate hardwood floor. Resident wingnut Karol Markowicz, the New York Post‘s answer to a Karen for the written word, has urged her readers to celebrate Turkey Day, come hell or high water. “Go and see your family in Thanksgiving,” writes Markowicz. It doesn’t matter if they are out-of-state. It doesn’t matter if they are old or immunocompromised. Markowicz expressed all this, even as she risibly claimed that she had arrived at this conclusion “precisely because I listen to scientists.” Actually, Karol, it’s pretty damned easy to dismantle your ridiculously convenient logic. Her remedy for not passing on the virus is to find some magical place where you can get a rapid COVID test and wait for the results before enjoying the turkey and mashed potatoes.
The problem here is that there aren’t enough rapid tests available — least of all in remote regions that are highly averse to implementing desperately needed testing and tracing. Here in New York, the state that has offered the most ample testing, there have been only 400,000 rapid test kits distributed throughout the entire state. 148,935 tests were reported by Cuomo yesterday. If we replaced all COVID tests with rapid tests, we would burn through the available rapid test supply in less than three days. But that’s not going to happen. Because these rapid tests have been earmarked for schools in COVID hot spots. Markowicz’s math simply doesn’t add up. Does she think that rapid test kits grow on trees much in the manner of L. Frank Baum’s lunchboxes? I can only imagine how poorly she manages the family budget. Moreover, she foolishly believes that COVID tests will take less than 24 hours to process when any of us who have been tested know that a result can take as long as a week to come back or, in a worst case scenario, ten days.
Adding balderdash to batshit, Markowicz also guilts the reader through offensively treacly rhetoric: If you don’t see your family now, you may never see them. This wantonly assumes that the majority of senior family members arranged at the hypothetical dinner table will drop dead in the next eighteen months. Dr. Fauci’s own projections indicate that we’re not going to have anything close to normality until 2022. And, even then, this would be contingent upon a global vaccine that was successfully distributed and applied among the global population.
The reality is that we’re going to be living with masks and social distancing for at least eighteen months.
Markowicz then goes on to defend Kim Kardashian’s deservedly reviled 40th birthday party on a private island. “It was the fact that Kim got a little ‘normal,'” Markowicz writes, “that really seemed to rub people the wrong way.” Actually, it was the obscene narcissism of Kardashian flaunting her wealth and privilege that caused people to get upset — as any cursoryreviewof Twitterswiftlyreveals. When an estimated 31 million people are waiting on unemployment benefits as Mitch McConnell holds up a desperately needed second stimulus check until the start of 2021, the last thing that anybody wants to hear is an attention-seeking moron insulated by vast wealth bray on insensitively about the luxury she gets to enjoy while a sizable cluster of America fears eviction. Markowicz even refers to Kardashian’s ploy as a “regular life.” Really? When frolicking on a private island is within the scope of more than 300 million Americans, then we’ll talk. But Kardashian is no more “regular” than a flock of dodo birds somehow transcending extinction to saunter through Midtown.
We then get two obscenely fabulist paragraphs painting a panorama of overeating, drinking too much, and arguing about the election. I’ve counted the family members that Markowicz adds to her sham idyllicism and we have a mother, a father, a great-aunt, plentiful cousins (let’s say four), and at least one aunt and uncle. That’s a super-spreader event of ten and I’m not even counting family friends or significant others. We know that roughly one in ten people have been infected with COVID. Let’s say that the family home is in South Dakota, which presently has a 46% positivity rate. These aren’t the kind of odds you want to mess with — not if you want your family to stay healthy and live.
Last year, 31.6 million people traveled for Thanksgiving. Let’s say that half of those people brave the planes. That’s still about 15 million. Scientists at MIT and the Harvard T. Chan School of Public Health have informed us that HEPA filters in airplanes don’t function nearly as effectively against the virus. If the planes are packed with Thanksgiving travelers, you’re going to see planes turned into superspreader vessels. Your chances of getting COVID increase if you remove your mask to eat food or you are sitting very close to an infected person. Let’s be hopeful and say that only 10% of our estimated 15 million travelers come down with the virus. Well, that’s still 1.5 million cases. And if 1% of those people die, that’s 150,000 deaths to add to the already 230,000 fatalities we have seen since March.
What Markowicz is arguing for here is mass murder. To offer her a historical example she can understand, Operation Reinhard killed over 11,000 victims in Krakow. Even if we reduce our estimate by half, she’s essentially arguing for seven Operation Reinhards to go down in December. And the hell of it is that these needless casualties are so easily preventable.
We recently saw Australia — a vast country of 2.97 million miles (only one million less than the United States) — emerge into some semblance of normalcy. No new cases for five months. And that was only because Australia adopted strict lockdown measures that lasted for 112 days. The United Kingdom is presently attempting a similarly strict lockdown that could last four weeks. Maybe longer. The nation is joined by lockdowns in France, Belgium, Germany, and Greece.
Without a vaccine, the only real way to fight the virus — particularly as it bristles into the central regions of America — is through a national lockdown and significant penalties for failing to wear a mask in public. Failing that, seeing as how our government refuses to enforce a life-saving measure that will result in fewer deaths and potential containment, it seems to me that canceling Thanksgiving this year is merely a modest strategy to eliminate further spread of a virus that is clearly out of control in the great American heartland.
The only reasonable way I can see anyone celebrating Thanksgiving is for a “COVID pod” to agree for all parties to quarantine individually for two weeks before the turkey gets carved. But there’s also the potential exposure risk that comes with air travel. So even that isn’t a foolproof solution for people who aren’t fortunate enough to live in the same city as their family.
Look, nobody loves cooking for sixteen hours and feeding people more than I do. I’ve done the full Thanksgiving cooking marathon — turkey and all — five times now. Nobody loves ensuring that stranded friends have a place at a table during the holidays more than I do. But the rules of existence have changed. The way we live now is not the way we lived in March. If we want to return to that way of life — and we will eventually — then we need to consider some fairly radical ideas about how we can stop COVID. Now is not the time for the kind of foolish misinformation and fake news that is apparently Karol Markowicz’s specialty. But then she works for The New York Post. One would expect no less from a paper that couldn’t even report the professed Hunter Biden scandal right. When Tucker Carlson serves as the voice of reason, you’re hardly in the position to be arguing the wholesome high ground.
It goes without saying that Ken Doll dumb white males are part of a significant epidemic now plaguing America. We can usually tolerate such privileged dunces because they can be laughed out of a boardroom or deservedly ridiculed in a local bar. But what happens when such a hideously arrogant and hopelessly stupid lowlife with an inflated sense of importance presides over vital city affairs? You get a guy like Dave Piepkorn.
The good people of Fargo, North Dakota have apparently decided that Dave Piepkorn, arguably the stupidest man to hold local office in the United States, should continue to serve as their Deputy Mayor and City Commissioner. Dave Piepkorn first came to my attentions on Sunday morning, when a video shared by journalist Aaron Rupar went viral on Twitter.
The video documents an October 5, 2020 meeting of the Fargo City Commission, whereby the dutiful leaders of a city populated by 125,000 people discussed a mask mandate. But the maskless Piepkorn embarrassingly states, in full defiance of the science, that masks are no defense against COVID-19.
“And the facts are I’m just as protected as you are wearing that mask of COVID-19,” said Piepkorn. “COVID-19 passes right through that mask. Isn’t that correct?”
There is then a pause, almost as if the collected attendees are collecting their jaws from the floor, understanding with shock and shame just how much of a putz they have in the number two slot. One of Piepkorn’s fellow commissioners, along with the audience, shout numerous noes.
Piepkorn responds with the haughty smirk of a six-year-old sociopath who has gleefully stomped on a helpless salamander with his sneaker. The meeting is closed for public comment. And then Piepkorn continues, “But basically a virus, it doesn’t — it goes, it goes right through the mask. And so for us to start mandating something that doesn’t work, that doesn’t make sense. And as far as the people…”
There are additional stunned reactions from the crowd that one hears off-mike.
And Piepkorn, who clearly doesn’t understand that the hill he has chosen to die on stands in the face of rudimentary rationale that even a preschooler can understand, then grows imperious. His voice takes on the raised autocratic tone of a twisted Karen using her privilege to ruin a Black man by making a phony 911 call for a purely manufactured offense:
“Okay, here’s how it goes. Once again, if you behave yourselves, you can stay in the room. You’re welcome to. But if you don’t, you’re going to be asked to leave. And if you don’t leave, then the police will escort you out. Is that clear?”
The meeting continues.
“The masks are not effective with the virus. Period. That’s proven. The coronavirus passes through. And so it’s false to tell people that they’re going to be safe by wearing that. And as far as sitting six feet apart, it’s liberty. If you don’t want to sit next to each other, then you don’t have to. You can go someplace else or watch it on TV. Or on the Internet. So thank you very much.”
A few weeks after this meeting, North Dakota has now seen its biggest upswing in COVID infections and deaths in some time. Cass County — home to Piepkorn’s Fargo — is now the second most infected vicinity in North Dakota. And it’s all thanks to feebleminded fuckwits like Piepkorn, who scatter falsehoods into the wind like poisonous seeds permanently sullying a promising orchard.
In short, Dave Piepkorn is the living embodiment of Idiocracy, though with more of an ego-driven tinge than Mike Judge’s characters. He refuses to consider other viewpoints. He refuses to grasp science. He is dense when it comes to comprehending basic facts. He is, in short, a contemptible clod who is better suited to work as an assistant plumber rather than as assistant to the highest local office in the land. And that’s only because no respectable building contractor in North Dakota would ever trust this incompetent buffoon to fix the pipes by himself. It also doesn’t help that Piepkorn’s face is so ugly that he looks as if he’s the secret love child of Charles Manson follower Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme and Boris Karloff. Honestly, with a visage so hideous, you’d think that Piepkorn would be on the side of wearing a mask, if only to disguise his aesthetic limitations.
This isn’t the first time that Piepkorn has been a clueless contrarian. He has partaken in comparatively more innocent acts of idiocy, such as being the only no vote in a measure back in May that allowed vegetable and flower gardens to be grown on local boulevards. (The measure passed anyway.) And this certainly isn’t the first time that Piepkorn has demonstrated that he has slightly more brain cells than a gerbil. In a September 9, 2019 Fargo City Commission meeting, Piepkorn condemned fellow Commissioner Tony Gehring for not being present during a special assessment task force meeting. Gehring swiftly pointed out that he was then being deployed by the military. “Sorry, Dave,” snapped Gehring in disbelief. But this didn’t stop dimwitted Piepkorn from actually attempting to follow through on this failed gotcha moment after being publicly embarrassed by Gehring. “It’s just ironic that you seem to be, um, very upset about it, but then your not at the meetings.” It’s certainly no surprise that Piepkorn is too dense to comprehend that irony usually happens when the subject is unaware of his actions and does the opposite of what he says he will. And I suppose it’s ironic that a poltroon like Piepkorn doesn’t see the irony in his own failed attempts to point out irony. (Although, if Piepkorn is reading this, that concept may be a little tricky for his bradykinetic brain to understand.)
It’s easy to simply dismiss Dave Piepkorn as some jaunty jackass who is embarrassing the most populous city in North Dakota. But when you place such an unqualified pillock in power, just as if we have seen nationally, there are often dangerous ramifications.
Piepkorn is also a racist whose atavistic words and actions have ignited racially charged violence in the region. One little known fact is that 8% of the Fargo population was born in another country. These people fled to North Dakota from war and devastation in an attempt to build a new life and contribute to the promise of America. But for repugnant xenophobes like Piepkorn, refugees are clearly a scourge. In September 2016, Piepkorn stood in the way of a refugee resettlement program operated by Lutheran Social Services. When not condemning the money going to a nonprofit devoted to helping people who had fled violence, Piepkorn made unsubstantiated racist remarks claiming that Somali refugees were more inclined to commit crime. Less than a year after Piepkorn expressed his bigotry, Somali-American Shuib Ali was assaulted in a hate crime. Moreover, Piepkorn’s opposition to benevolent organizations helping out anyone who isn’t white has resulted in local racists turning into Piepkorn fans, showing their true colors and loudly ranting against Somalis.
Dave Piepkorn is living proof that fatuous and flatulent imbeciles must not be allowed to hold power. Given how much of a local embarrassment Piepkorn is, perhaps the good people of Fargo can restore their city back to good grace by initiating a new recall campaign, ensuring that Piepkorn never holds any form of political office ever again.
Let be more specific in case the Secret Service has flagged this article and some dutiful bean counter is now adding my name to a list. I do not possess a homicidal bone in my body. I have no interest in hurting or assassinating anyone. I am not threatening the President’s life. I am merely stating my opinion that, should the President expire of the very virus he stubbornly failed to control and that killed so many people, I’d probably sleep much better at night and chuckle over the poetic justice.
To further clarify the nature of my opinion: If I learn that the corpulent moronic mass of Donald Trump drops dead in the next month from COVID, I will take the chilled champagne out of the fridge without hesitation and pop it open, watching the cool parabola of bubbly goodness explode from the bottle just after the cork shoots into the air like a wild projectile that has been waiting four years to demonstrate its resistance to gravity. I will probably grab my guitar and sing “Born free, as free as the wind blows” very loudly out my window. I may even bust out the confetti and some party blowers. I will then probably dance naked in my living room, blasting Rage Against the Machine at top volume, and paint my body all sorts of exciting colors. Based on some informal text canvassing of some sleepless friends, I am far from alone in my methods.
Why would I do this? Because this is how I celebrate liberation. This is how I celebrate being released from grief. Let us not forget that all of America has been held captive by this brutish bully for almost four years. He’s had so many opportunities to be presidential, to be an eloquent leader who the people can look up to, even if they disagree with him. He has botched them all and he has demonstrated that he will never change or apologize. I’m sick of the stupid neoliberal belief that we can’t play dirty. With Trump, it’s self-evident that the normal rules of schadenfreude do not apply. There is nothing shameful in denouncing this monster. If anything, it’s an act of patriotism.
Why is it so bad to express this? Why should the measure of goodness involve believing that all people are worthy of commiseration? Sure, most people are. But Trump is not most people. As the writer Zito Madu declared on Twitter, “It’s always insufferable when people see the true test of their kindness as extending public sympathy for the worst people who have spent their time on earth being cruel to others.” Don’t give me the Christian malarkey that you’ve never once wished for bad things to happen to bad people. I mean, I’d probably give you the sideeye if you spent most of your time doing this rather than doing good work and being good to other people. But if you’re a normal person, I guarantee that you’ve probably stewed over some son of a bitch who burned you earlier in the week, an ogre who made your life a little more hellish during a time in which patience is increasingly a hard-won virtue. Perhaps you chose — wisely, I might add — to hold your tongue and not react to the transgressor and focus on the positive. Life is all about how we choose to react. Even so, it is a perfectly justifiable reaction to rejoice if Trump dies. Remember: We’ve had nearly four years of this.
Some may argue that this makes me a bad person. But it doesn’t.
The number of people who I want to die can literally be counted on one hand. Believe it or not, I tend to be kind and respectful towards other people. But Trump falls into a category of animalistic slime that defies all known human classifications and thus excludes him from the virtually universal privilege of being given clemency or the benefit of the doubt. At the end of the day, you can still have a conversation with a cop or a gun nut or someone who leans to the right. But with Trump, you clearly cannot. This man is a boor and a bully and it’s this very personality quality, this incurable narcissism that a troubling cluster of Americans believe to be a virtue, that has inspired dangerous public health policy decisions that have contributed to the deaths of 209,000 people.
Trump effectively sentenced these people to death. He was more efficient than the NKVD during its notorious Polish Operation of 1937-1938. More people dead than the East Timor genocide. More casualties than the Greek Civil War of the 1940s. It’s a staggering number that will likely spill over the casualty count in Darfur. And it only took six months for Trump to do this.
If that doesn’t fill you with red hot rage, I don’t know what to tell you. What people often forget about angry people is that they are often angry because they believe in a corresponding set of positive virtues. In my case, my unshakeable anger towards Trump is driven by my unwavering faith in democracy, of returning to a nation in which we can actually have conversations with each other again.
My great desire to see the most dangerous fascist in America disappear permanently from public life is predicated upon all the goodness that I see from everyday people. In short, I want the American experiment to continue. It won’t under Donald Trump. His removal from office or this earth, whatever fate decides first, will surely be one of the 21st century’s most awe-inspiring achievements.
They’ve thrown temper tantrums in stores. They’ve congregated in indoor rallies while donning red MAGA caps. Even when people among them die — such as the late Herman Cain weeks after Tulsa — they insist that the COVID protection is all a conspiracy — even after every scientific authority has insisted that the mask is the best way to protect yourself and others against the virus. They believe that any edict urging them to wear a facemask during a pandemic is an assault on their basic freedom.
So it was only a matter of time before they would start hitting the big box stores, adopting the ancient flashmob format — the finest social gathering format that 2005 had to offer.
A video of maskless demonstrators running amuck in a Fort Lauderdale Target went viral in the last two days. They walked into the store on September 15, 2020 wearing masks. Then they blasted the music. Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Going to Take It.” A man ripped off his facemask and shouted, “Alright! We’re tired of shopping with masks on. And now we’re taking the masks off. You guys, we’re done with it!”
“Fucking idiots,” replied one of the people videotaping the incident.
The protesters ran like crazed proselytizers through the red decor of Target, urging all and sundry to “take their masks off.”
“That’s the only way it’s going to work! Is if we all unite!” shouted one woman.
They were allowed to do this for at least five minutes. One Target employee aloofly tried to intervene, not knowing what to do and mumbling something about having a nice day. But one of the agitators cried back, “Hey, you have a nice day, man!”
This was clearly the beginning of a makeshift movement. Cristina Gomez was one of the protesters. In a video that Gomez posted to Facebook (mirrored above), a man standing on the bed of a truck in a parking lot, shouted, “How is it that when their mask is working that I have to wear one too? And here’s the bottom line, okay? We’ve been using the medical exceptions. We’ve been using the religious exceptions. And that’s all fine and good. But no more exceptions! No more any of this!”
Gomez then pans her camera to a group of kids and shouts, “Can we get the kids? The cool kids? These are the cool kids. These are the future real men. Grown future grown men [sic] that are not wearing a mask.” Preying upon the innocence and vulnerability of kids is very much a part of this operation.
In the video, a young man by the name of John Gustavo, who claims on his Facebook page to be an “honest journalist,” then proceeds to interview this rowdy bunch — much in the manner of a Daily Caller reporter embedded within a Trump rally. What’s important is that these protesters look as if they could be taken seriously. And if that means using a flashmob format that appears to have emerged from an action plan or looking important enough to attract illusory “media attention,” this too is part of the deal.
At no point in any of the footage that I have reviewed do these protesters consider their maskless activity to be dangerous or infectious. And as I was to learn in a phone call on late Wednesday afternoon that I had with a Fort Lauderdale assistant police chief, the concern for public health clearly wasn’t shared by the authorities.
I wanted to know what Target planned to do about this. Because this incident seemed to me a baleful escalation of all the other maskless rallies. I was able to get in touch with Target’s Danielle Schumann by telephone. She pledged that she would provide me with a specific statement on how Target planned to respond to the incident. (As of Wednesday evening, despite a followup phone call to Schumann giving Target an opportunity to respond, I was not in receipt of any such statement. Nor has the company’s Twitter feed produced any statement condemning the maskless flashmob.)
[UPDATE: Schumann did send along Target’s statement not long after I filed this piece. Here it is below:
We shared earlier this summer that Target requires guests to wear masks whenever they’re shopping in our stores. Our priority remains the health and safety of our team and guests and we communicate our mask requirement through signs in our stores, overhead announcements and reminders from team members at the front of our stores.
We’re aware of the group of guests who came into the store last night and we asked them to leave after they removed their masks and became disruptive and rude to other shoppers.]
Schumann was very nice, but did not answer numerous questions that I put forth to her about how Target would contend with unruly shoppers without masks in the future or even how they had coordinated with the police. She did confirm with me that Target had a nationwide ban in place that went into effect on August 1, 2020. But that was all that I was able to get out of her.
I made calls to the City of Fort Lauderdale to determine if they planned to shift their policy after this incident. My calls were not returned.
Interim Assistant Chief Frank Sousa of the Fort Lauderdale Police Department was nice enough to get in touch with me. Given the tendency of protesters of any stripe to push their shenanigans further, I had many questions about how the police was enforcing Executive Order 20-21 from the Broward County Administrator, which specifically prohibited people from entering establishments without a mask.
Sousa told me that the police had arrived at the Target, but the protesters had disappeared. They had only spoken with the store’s loss prevention officer. There was some talk of a guy in a T-shirt.
“There was no further action taken,” wrote Sousa to me in an email. “I do not know if you are aware but the individuals in the video originally complied with the E.O. issued by the County by entering the store with their mask on.”
I wrote back: “Are you basically saying that if someone were to go into a store with a mask on, that the executive order would not be enforceable?”
There was some back-and-forth. The emails got longer. Finally, Sousa telephoned me. I tried to lighten the tension from our feisty email exchange by joking about how we had both lucked out by being on the right coast, given the orange skies on the Pacific. He laughed.
Sousa informed me that, despite the executive order, walking around without a mask was not a crime. The only consequences were a civil fine.
Well, how do you expect people to comply with the executive order?
Sousa declined to say, but he suggested to me that there wasn’t rampant non-compliance in Broward County.
“They’re there to make a statement,” said Sousa of the Target group. “It’s the First Amendment.”
But doesn’t putting other people’s health at risk belie free speech?
“It’s not the police’s position to be the opinion police.”
I suggested that there were some situations that transcended mere opinions. I asked Sousa repeatedly if he would consider shifting this policy. I asked him if he considered walking into a store without a mask and endangering other people’s health to be riskier than, say, protesting outdoors without a mask.
He said he didn’t have an opinion.
Sousa suggested that there had been some enforcement of people not wearing masks indoors. Citations as well as fines. But he told me that he couldn’t offer me a precise answer because he didn’t have the stats in front of him. Which was a completely reasonable answer. But ultimately he believed that the Target incident was a free speech issue.
“They have their First Amendment rights. There is a county order.”
I liked Sousa. He seemed like the kind of man I could probably have a beer with, but only if he left his gun and his billy club at the station. Still, there was a growing tension to our exchange, one that I was able to gauge through the increased number of surly “Sirs” he barked at me over the phone as I carried on with my questions. I respectfully pressed Sousa on hypothetical changes to this policy, especially if the infection rate or the number of cases went up in the Fort Lauderdale area. But he declined to answer.
The takeaway here is that, if you are in the Florida area and choose to lead a maskless rebellion within the expansive confines of an indoor shopping mall, you will probably not be arrested by the police. The Fort Lauderdale Police, for one, certainly isn’t going to press you with additional charges. Especially if you have the foresight to leave the premises before the police arrive.
If you happen to be one of those people who sees masks as an affront to your freedom rather than an essential tool that will help flatten the curve, then, hey, sky’s the limit! Nobody will stand in your way. Not Target. Not the police. And certainly not the mayors and the governors who refuse to evoke protective regulations that can decrease COVID cases and save lives.
SEPTEMBER 16, 2020 8:30 PM UPDATE: I just received a statement from Target. I’ve added it to the story.