How is everyone doing out there? I've been thinking about you all and have been pulling together a letter for you for weeks, and the rapidly evolving situation with the virus along with the quick death of "hot vax summer" has meant lots of re-writing, re-thinking, and updating before I can press the "publish" button.
By the time you get this, you already well know that we are deep into the fourth wave of the virus in the US. In my little world that happens in Vallejo, there wasn't much discussion: masks started covering faces again about 6 weeks ago, indoors and out. Personally, I think wearing a mask outdoors when there are few people around is a bit much, but if there is one thing I'm tired of having an opinion on, it's masks. Masks went back up immediately after one of my close friends got a breakthrough infection, closely followed my many others in my larger community. The White House started using the phrase, "a pandemic of the unvaccinated", which has basically set loose the rage people are feeling toward those who have refused to get vaccinated. Who you are raging at basically reflects your political stance, a mirror of our overall sad state of affairs. It's easy to get stoked by press reports of red state vaccine resistance, but the real story is way more complicated, and even more difficult to fix.
At the time I'm writing this, I heard that the White House is offering people a booster shot, starting sometime in September. That's how it was phrased, "The White House is offering people a third booster shot". Excuse me, did the White House open a clinic? Is the White House a doctor or some kind of hospital? Putting aside the complicated issues associated with a booster shot, this phrasing bothered me and is tone-deaf for the moment. One of the biggest failures of the pandemic is the politicization of people's health in the government's response. This has not magically changed because someone new is in the White House. Obviously these decisions are hammered out at the top levels of government, but it is health officers and health authorities who ought to be informing the public about the need for this booster and letting people know boosters will be becoming available. The lack of education and information around the booster shot is a continuation of the sloppy and reactive response to this virus.
I've been overcome with a sense of fatalism around the coronavirus, as well as a feeling of detachment. I think I have finally realized and accepted that this virus is way more clever than we are. The virus is so good at stripping our broken systems bare. It understands our weaknesses way better than we understand ourselves. It now feels incredibly naive to think that inventing a vaccine against this virus was ever going to be the answer. My 13-year old niece asked me last weekend as we were taking a walk along the beach, "Is covid always going to be around?" While I truly don't know the answer to that question, there was no way I was going to put a sweet spin on it. "Probably," I said, "and we're going to find a way to live with it."
The detachment I'm feeling is an emotional retreat from the events around me. It's not just the virus, but also the fires, the climate change, the world political events and disasters, the California recall election, and finally, the toxic backwash from four years of chaos from our weak man in the white house. The outrage button has been pressed too many times, as has the terror button, and now all the buttons are kinda broken. And before I make a run at fixing them, I'm sitting back and considering which ones I actually need fixing, and which ones can stay broken or in disuse for a while. I'm really done with the outrage and terror, that's for sure. Judgement and disdain can go too.
"Here, then, is the current pandemic dilemma: Vaccines remain the best way for individuals to protect themselves, but societies cannot treat vaccines as their only defense."How the Pandemic Now Ends, Ed Yong, The Atlantic
"[Health recommendation] revisions are normal for science, but as seen throughout this pandemic, they are not good for policy. In the absence of clear, definitive, fact-based guidance, people make up their own rules, and the sense of risk, fairness and responsibility — key social rudders that guide behavior among those of us who care about one another’s welfare — gets badly out of whack."I got a breakthrough covid infection. The worst part is the conflicting advice, Greg Harris, Washington Post
"The message that breakthrough cases are exceedingly rare and that you don’t have to worry about them if you’re vaccinated — that this is only an epidemic of the unvaccinated — that message is falling flat.”Don’t Panic, But Breakthrough Cases May Be a Bigger Problem Than You’ve Been Told: Current public-health messaging may understate the scale and risk, David Wallace-Wells, New York Magazine
"But now, many people are experiencing a starkly different set of feelings — blunted emotions, spikes in anxiety and depression, and a desire to drastically change something about their lives." Why this stage of the pandemic makes us so anxious, Amy Cuddy and Jill Ellyn Riley, Washington Post. Also, an interview with Amy Cuddy on "pandemic flux syndrome" and mental "surge capacity" on Make Me Smart podcast with Kai Ryssdal and Molly Wood
"For a few months in those early days of the pandemic I thought maybe this would be the thing that would jolt America out of its obsession with personal responsibility. And then pretty soon everyone was making up their own guidelines to a global pandemic, so apparently not."The Cult of Personal Responsibility Is Killing Us, Amy Westervelt, The Contract
"When you equate a lack of kids with 'failure,' it helps solidify the societal understanding that the only way for a woman to “succeed,” or at the very least find happiness, is to have children. That conception is slightly less rigid today, but it endures — and if you think otherwise, you haven’t had a frank conversation with a woman who doesn’t have kids."Your Own Harriet: The tremendous power of life choice representation, Anne Helen Petersen, Culture Study
"The great resignation, as it turns out, doesn’t apply to everyone. Even at a time when some employees have more options than ever, the most marginalized groups, like immigrants and low-wage workers, aren’t living in some job utopia; they often lack the resources to apply for government benefits, shop around for new gigs, or go any length of time without a paycheck." What Happens When All of Your Co-workers Quit? As a record number of Americans leave their jobs, those who can’t are working themselves sick. Angelina Chapin, The Cut
"And now, we're kind of used to [the pandemic]. We're focused on what's next. But do we even know what just happened?" Essential: The pandemic forced jobs to change, but then the workers changed, too,This American Life
"For generations, American shoppers have been trained to be nightmares. The pandemic has shown just how desperately the consumer class clings to the feeling of being served." American Shoppers Are a Nightmare: Customers were this awful long before the pandemic, Amanda Mull, The Atlantic
"All of us are emerging from the darkest days of the pandemic with a good deal of unprocessed trauma and a bone deep fatigue. It’s been described as burnout or hitting the pandemic wall. Some of it is the result of existential depression, and some of it is a sense of isolation or languishing. Organizations have tried to acknowledge the difficulty of the moment — while also expecting their employees to continue working, with little to no fluctuation in actual productivity."It's Time For A Summer Slowdown, Charlie Warzel, Galaxy Brain
"It’s never been easy to forgive. But I do think there’s something about this moment in history that makes forgiveness even harder or, at least, harder to talk about. Social media is obviously part of this story, but it’s more complicated than that."Why Is It So Hard to Forgive?, Vox Conversations, podcast