state of play, five months or so to go

On the face of it, it really looked like they were going to spin this as 1968 redux. Cops vs agitators, the police are the new Troops, and the virus was under control until Those People started spreading it again, and the triumph of the Administration over the Foreign Virus was undone by the Axis of Evil of Antifa, Illegals and Negroes. It sure seemed like they were lining it up, and that the usual Very Serious People were going to co-sign it.

But something funny happened. The protests continued. And they had an impact. All of a sudden the NFL is all for somebody signing Colin Kaepernick. There are huge block letters on 1st Avenue South in Birmingham hard by Railroad Park reading BLACK LIVES MATTER. Companies are falling all about themselves to give people Juneteenth off. Something snapped, and it’s hard not to feel like people are suddenly puking up the faux populism they’ve been overserved for the last five or six years. People who looked dourly on the notion that we had a racial problem after Ferguson or Charleston because “we have a black President, what more do you people want” are suddenly realizing that what we want is for everyone to enjoy the same expectations of life and safety that a rich white guy from Alabama has just going around with his normal life. And I think what people are finally reacting against is the plain evidence that such a life is not on offer for people of color in this country, and it’s been legitimized by four years of abject racism as the face of the GOP.

And, as I predicted, Facebook has more or less done for the First Amendment what the NRA did for the Second. It turns out that most people’s idea of “freedom of speech” doesn’t involve a nihilistic free-fire zone where harassment and abuse is “just the price of freedom” – and where the worst sort of toxicity is waved away under a flimsy banner of “satire” or “entertainment.” The problem is, when you build your whole philosophy on trolling – from Limbaugh to Beck to Jones to 4chan, and going further down the sewer hole with every turn – it’s like misusing opioids. What starts as keeping the rest of the bottle of Tylenol 3 just in case eventually winds up with Russian krokodil sloughing your scaly flesh off in chunks. And as Bush 43 alumni raise money for the Biden campaign and one prominent inside-the-Beltway pre-Trump Republican after another endorses the Democrat and campaigns for the Democrat and tells his fellows “suck it up and vote for Joe, it’s important”, all you’re left with is the people who got high on racism until the body rotted away.

That’s how you get to where we are now: where in the middle of the biggest public health crisis of the 21st century, a simple and obvious solution that costs very little and has a better preventive effect than any drug gets turned into a shibboleth of machismo for the smooth-brained idiots who gave us the current occupant of the White House. Wearing a mask in public is the easiest goddamn thing in the world, unless you are somebody whose identity is bound up in believing that whatever you hear from other than the Sacred Source is automatically bad. We have a good solid 27% Crazification Factor drowning in their own oppositional defiant disorder, and on current form, the people who were willing to hold their nose and pull the lever for Not Hillary are revolting at being confronted with the prospect of four more years of “how bad could it be” now that it’s really bad. 13% unemployment, a hundred thousand surplus dead, a joke to the rest of the world except for the dictatorships that Agent Orange begs to help him get re-elected?

Joe Biden just needs to pick a nice pleasant woman of color who will do exactly what he’s done: sit back, watch this Administration shoot us all in the face, and at the right moment, ask “are we done here?” Because it really looks like a solid majority of Americans want to say “yes, yes we are.”

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