no justice, no joy

How do I feel joy and mirth when life's greatest chance for blissful irony has passed us by?

In October (or late September...), the not-so-good president came down with Covid-19. It saddens me that remembering this fact only brings me a flicker of the initial excitement and happiness I experienced then. Everything about the event was typically absurd, from his fear of "going out like Stan Chera" to his doctor's Leo Spaceman-like belief that it would be possible to "give information that might steer the course of the illness in another direction" to the stupid and fake photos of him pretending to "work" while sick. As with everything related to him, a million other fraudulent and pathetic schemes took place on his behalf over these few days of illness.

When the diagnosis first happened, I felt good. I mean, really nice, just a big grin on my face. This strikes some people as ghoulish, sinister. But, at the time he was diagnosed, about 200,000 people had died from the illness (we are at nearly 400,000 just over three months since), in large part due to his cruel ineptitude. He incorrectly believed (and still does, if he even thinks about the disease anymore) that by concealing the infection numbers and weakening public support for mask-wearing, Americans would feel less concern over the disease than they might otherwise. It's a stupid idea on its face; people's family members, neighbors, and friends are going to be disappearing by the thousands and no one is going to notice? No part of this barely-controlled spread is going to affect his chances at winning reelection? Look, I'm not here to explain to any reader or myself why this is insane, because everyone outside of the real knuckle-draggers of the world can see it for what it is. But it feels worth quickly pointing out the essential villainy of his behavior -- how it was not just mismanagement from incompetence that has led to hundreds of thousands of deaths, but intentional obfuscation and negligence. This is why it is not, in fact, ghoulish to wish he had been claimed by the disease in an ultimate act of Dramatic Greek Irony. I firmly believe that wishing he would survive the disease so that he could go on being president and hastening even more deaths is, in actuality, the real sin. No one wants a President Mike Pence under normal circumstances, but a few months of President Mike before a Biden administration could have saved tens of thousands of lives. It's hard to see how Pence could have killed more people, at least.

Despite feeling so genuinely heartened by the news at first, my inner pessimist nagged: He'll make it, this is all stunt, he's at Walter Reed watching his stories and pretending to be sicker than he is so that when he gets out he can say it's not so bad. And while that does seem to be exactly what happened, my pessimism did still let little bits of light through back In The Moment.

I believe the cheeriness and jitters I felt over those few days were so extreme that my brain's pleasure center was completely blown out. Just, gone. And not only is my brain's ability to feel joy gone, I am now starting to think I can no longer feel much in the way of fear, despair, or panic. My brain is simply decaying in my skull now, with no purpose or ability to react to any stimulus. This is borne out by my massive shrug to the president's Twitter ban and my inability to hold onto any feelings of anxiety over the violence at the Capitol Building. I am now a human Flipper song. I am... blackpilled.

How can this be?

My theory is that my brain had a ceiling for stimuli. That ceiling was been obliterated not just by the usual pressures and pleasures of life, but by my brain's inability to effectively process the last four years. It is just worn out, absolute mush.

I believe that even a few glimmers of realized hope might have saved me from this, but nothing has been realized. There has been no Justice. When the virus failed to dispatch him, my brain gave up. Why even want anything anymore? Why even think anything might ever be any different? What could ever be worth anticipating again? Anything you could name here, from the dismantling of Exxon Mobil to an end to not even WORLD hunger but hunger in your city, ain't gonna happen! The president is a stand-in for the world's injustices, in that, whatever insane shit must be going on in his head at any given moment, few people get to live so comfortably and face no real consequences for a lifetime of rape, theft, and, now, murder. There is no way to significantly improve the world while people like him skate through it. I'm not calling for guillotines, just, like... even one fuckin' day in jail for any of these guys.

My brain saw a small chance at cosmic justice in October, a chance for the universe to right a wrong humans wouldn't, and had its brief hopefulness and excitement blown the fuck up. Implicit to my excitement about his Covid-19 encounter is the acknowledgement that humans have failed to correct any of the, like, kinda important stuff they should have corrected -- various -isms, climate change, poverty, you name it! At some point, the cold purely random chance of the universe has to step in, right? Not so, apparently! The way has this has all played out has me wondering not if there is no god or if we live in a simulation, but if there is a god and it is the devil.

If I have any real takeaway from this experience, it's that I can't find hope in anything without justice or consequence going forward. I'm sure a Real Cynic is out there saying it's always been this bad, but, even if that's the case, you need a certain amount of time to get where I've gotten. The crimes of the Bush administration, and the lack of accountability there, for example, could have been (and was) the breaking point for people1, but I hadn't seen enough yet. And, even if I had seen enough by that point, I don't think I would have first experienced such a rush from the potentially perfect ironic undoing of a criminal dimwit. It's really all of the pieces of the puzzle coming together for me here -- the four years of nothing but heartbreak and grim news, the chance to think the universe is capable of anything unreservedly Just and Fair, the utter disappointment, the realization that the rest of my life is going to be spent both around and under these unaccountable scumbags. Oh yeah, and then all of life's usual bullshit mixed in with that. And to compound things, my life isn't even that bad! It's pretty good. It's not like that makes things any easier on my brain, though. "Why do I get a life a whole lot better than a whole lot of other people?" Cool. After, the last four years, I can't even contemplate that anymore.

Most of January has involved waking up to the news that a sex predator on the Supreme Court, appointed by a sex predator in the Whitehouse, who is enabled in part by a guy who excused sex predation in the high school he taught at, is okaying the execution of another human being. Time was, I'd be spinning in circles, mentally, trying to figure out how to handle that information. Now, my brain feels asleep and numb. Not like, "Who cares?" More like the experience that I am having right now: staring at a screen with glazed over eyes but information still going "into" my head, only nothing is happening to it once it's there.

A well-intentioned, I assume, person might remind me that, heck, we can still make a difference in the world around us. We can still go out and help our neighbors and loved ones. We can still donate to charity, give back to our communities, take careers in useful professions. No duh, we can do these things. And we should! But it really is a Sisyphean task, being a normal-to-decent person. Being normal-to-decent is an almost meditative act, if not plain habit, where you do something you've done many times before because it once felt good or useful even though sometimes it was neither. But maybe it will be again! Or maybe not. At least it usually doesn't screw things up too badly. That's basically the point of any automated system.

Rolling a boulder up a hill over and over again would require, probably, some ability to think, even as you're bruising and your skin is being torn from your body, "I can do anything for five seconds." That thought has got to be about the only way a sane person can get through the day. Because if you think about any of this too long, if you try to even make peace with it, your brain will disintegrate.

  1. I would argue that the real breaking point for these guys came during the Obama administration, when they let themselves think things might get any better -- a situation not unlike my present one. :) ↩︎