Notes on Being a Decent Human

Lecturing Americans to show sympathy for Trump is like lecturing someone going through chemotherapy to show sympathy for their tumors.

Edited to add: There is at least one effort to share the stories of people affected by COVID-19, via the Faces of COVID twitter account. It also links to a crowdfunding campaign for a memorial project.

Yes, I’m finding myself sliding deeper and deeper into the pit of despair that is Twitter. But in my defense, an awful lot of stuff is happening. Rapid-fire, up-to-the-second, completely unverified, irresponsible, extremist reporting is exactly what’s required to keep up with it. The “president” has contracted a potentially lethal respiratory disease and been airlifted to a military hospital a month before an election, and the White House has spent so long blatantly lying to the American people that their official statements can’t be trusted.

But even more than irresponsibly and unreliably reporting the news, Twitter’s other main purpose is to provide us with a constant stream of performative statements and shallow, ham-fisted attempts to get a handle on the popular consciousness. Which means we’ve been barraged with stern reminders that we’re obliged to show sympathy for Trump and the people surrounding him. Basic decency demands that we show compassion even to the worst people among us. To do otherwise is to sink to their level. We should be better than that.

And I’d like to respectfully reply “Nah, you can fuck right off with that nonsense.”

To be clear: I’m not talking about the legions of hypocritical ghouls who’d barely had time to wipe the spittle from around their mouths after gleefully celebrating the death of Justice Ginsburg, before they turned to clutch their pearls and collapse to their fainting couches at the shocking lack of decorum from the “tolerant left.” People like Brit Hume, that barely-human personification of a Disney hound dog, who’ve so shamelessly spread their party’s campaign of disinformation that they don’t understand “human decency” as anything other than a phrase you shout out to try to win political points. There is less than nothing to be gained by trying to point out their ceaseless hypocrisy; they’re nothing but a blight, and if you want your anger at them to be productive, direct it instead to the people at Fox News and Twitter who’ve made their fortunes by giving them a microphone.

For that matter, I’m not talking about Vice President Biden, who hasn’t lied about or hidden his complete contempt for Trump, but who also understands that a leader is supposed to show a level of decorum and civility in public. One of the qualities I really like in Biden — and the main reason he’s so frequently accused of “gaffes” by pundits and the Democratic “establishment” — is that he’s able to openly acknowledge that what he says in public is not always the same thing as he says in private, but without it ever sounding insincere or inauthentic.

No, I’m talking about the people who speak as if this was a random act of God, instead of the inevitable result of months of arrogance and egregiously callous selfishness. It can’t even be called “ironic” or “poetic justice,” because there’s nothing unexpected about these assholes contracting a disease after months of lying about the severity of the disease, openly defying the easiest ways to prevent spread of the disease, and mocking people for being responsible enough to make sacrifices to prevent the spread of it. Telling Americans to feel sympathy for these assholes is like finding someone who’s spent the past four years being punched in the face by a bully, and scolding them for not being concerned whether the bully’s fist hurts.

I’m talking about the people who sternly tell us that we shouldn’t wish death on anyone. The lazy response to that is to point out how viciously and cruelly that Trump and his sycophants have spoken of other people, but I’m not interested in the lazy response. Wishing someone dead implies I have some agency, which isn’t the case for someone who doesn’t have any clue who I am but still has been given the power to make me miserable every day for years. It’s not the same thing as acknowledging that if he does die, I won’t feel even a nanosecond of sadness. The only tragedy would be that he didn’t live long enough to truly face the consequences of his actions. I’d much rather know that he saw what his life was like once he was no longer politically or financially useful to the sycophants he’s surrounded himself with, but who actually feel nothing but contempt for him.

And I’m not talking about the people who say that failing to show sympathy for him is sinking down to his level. I already know that I’m better than him because I feel sympathy for the millions of people who’ve died because of or suffered from this disease and who deserve my sympathy. The people who had to die alone. The families who couldn’t be with their loved ones in their final moments. The people who weren’t airlifted to hospitals and immediately given intensive care.

It’s because of those people — the hundreds of thousands who’ve died, and the millions who’ve been affected — that I’m complaining. This isn’t just me campaigning for my right to be petty. This is me reminding everyone how white supremacy is so deeply entrenched in the United States that it can even manifest itself in people trying to do the right thing and take the high ground. I don’t know the names or stories of hardly any of the Americans who have died from COVID-19; I was never told their stories unless they were deemed “newsworthy,” or unless their stories were considered ironic enough to be exploited to make some kind of point. White supremacy isn’t just people waving torches and screaming racial slurs; it’s a society in which one of the most useless people imaginable can spend over 70 years being given everything he doesn’t deserve, even after proving himself completely unworthy of it, over and over and over again.

There are so many people more deserving of our attention, and for four fucking years now, we’ve been forced to give all our attention to him. And now you want us to give him our sympathy, too? I’ve always been told that this isn’t a zero-sum game, that sympathy isn’t a finite resource. This administration has proven that it is a finite resource. Trump and his enablers have already drained so much of my energy. The delight you’re seeing from people isn’t just schadenfreude; it’s the glimmer of hope that comes from realizing we might one day be able to wake up without feeling anxiety and constant despair. So I’m saving whatever energy I have left for the people who actually deserve it.

I think about everything that responsible people have had to sacrifice this year, much less those who had to watch loved ones die from a distance, only to see that effort carelessly tossed aside by selfish people who “choose” to put everyone in danger. I have, as they say, no fucks left to give.

At the time I’m writing this, the most anyone has been able to deduce from unreliable reports from a White House that does nothing but lie to the American people is that the super-spreader event was a ceremony to celebrate their nomination of a Supreme Court justice. That they’re hypocritically ramming through in a shamelessly partisan political power-grab. Which is intended to, among other things, eliminate affordable health care for non-wealthy Americans. And openly disrespects the dying wishes of a great woman — to whom they’ve shown no respect, and in fact accused her granddaughter of “lying” about her wishes. And they all attended while openly defying precautions for mask wearing or staying separated. And then irresponsibly spread to who knows how many other people, some even after receiving their positive test results.

The only thing that keeps it from being the most perfectly repulsive display of every sin of this administration is that Pence didn’t test positive. The ultimate proof that 2020 is being scripted by an unsubtle and predictable writer would be Pence getting a disease from being too close to a woman.

I have more sympathy for the virus. These “people” have happily abandoned any claim to humanity or basic decency. The world will be undeniably, immeasurably better when they are gone and no longer able to endanger and steal from the people they are supposed to serve.

To the people telling us we should “go high:” seriously take a minute and think hard about who deserves our attention and our sympathy, and whether you’re just supporting a machine that perpetuates wealth and celebrity at the expense of people who aren’t shown the same respect. Think about why you haven’t called for us to show empathy to the journalists who made Americans aware of this story, or to all the staff who were forced to cater to these assholes who brazenly exposed them to the virus so they could celebrate their attempt to defecate on the judicial branch. Ask yourself whether you’re sincerely calling for civility, or if you’re merely taking advantage of this as an opportunity for performative righteousness.

And to the “president” and the growing list of enablers being diagnosed with the same disease your selfishness, negligence, incompetence, and corruption have allowed to impact millions of Americans while you’ve lived your tasteless lives unaffected by any of it in unearned wealth and comfort: Thoughts and prayers.

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