It’s kind of fascinating to me that so many folks find it necessary to take a position on absolutely everything. That sounds totally exhausting. Who has the time or inclination to gather all the information and weigh opposing views in order to come to an informed opinion about everything that comes down the pike? Of course, if one skips those steps, one can arrive at an uninformed opinion with enough energy left over to defend it with great fervor. Not in the streets, of course, but at least on social media.
Shortcutting the process by just taking on the positions offered by one’s favorite talking heads is tempting to many. But sitting in the comfort of one’s own home while some commentator squirts lighter fluid at the camera and invites the viewers to set themselves on fire isn’t my idea of doing one’s homework. It’s lazy to be sure, but not anything new.
And when did the War on Poverty morph into the War on Those in Poverty? Or was that war going on all along and I just thought we were a kinder and gentler nation? I think I know the answer to that one.
Now it’s not like everyone receiving unemployment benefits is living in poverty—far from it. And it’s important to remember that workers paid for those benefits themselves when they were working. But it seems those pesky $300 weekly supplemental benefits from Uncle Sam (or should I say Uncle Joe?) are encouraging some workers, particularly at the lower end of the income scale, to stay home, eat bonbons, and binge watch Netflix. At least that’s what 24 Republican governors seem to think, so they’re ending those payments.
But this is America, after all, and the love of motherhood, the flag, and apple pie co-exists with a widespread need to make sure folks aren’t getting anything for which they didn’t work. Deploy that old trope, and we can alleviate the pressure on employers to pay better wages.
The unemployed should just take what’s on offer, and get back to manning those minimum wage jobs, right? Living in poverty may be virtually guaranteed, and the resulting dependence on government assistance may disguise the financial subsidies to employers. But if keeping a subset of the work force economically insecure or even impoverished makes sure the Jack in the Box is fully staffed and we continue to get back to normal, that’s a good thing. Or so I’ve been told.
I could go on and on about police shootings, which disproportionately affect people of color, and those statistics wouldn’t even include George Floyd, who was murdered but not shot by police. Or we could talk about mass shootings, which continue unabated. Or we could look at the round of old voter suppression strategies being trotted out and called new—Election Integrity!—and the gerrymandering that will almost certainly result from the 2020 census.
But those issues have been with us for a long time—at least for those directly affected by them and those who have been even halfway paying attention. Just some things from the old normal that seem to be making their way into the new normal.
That reads kind of pessimistic, doesn’t it? But the new normal, at least that part of it that is actually new, is pretty good. Feeling newly thankful to meet friends for lunch or dinner, being unmasked in public, even wearing lipstick are little things that mark the change. Hanging on to gratitude is a new objective.
Driving home after dinner with friends the other night, I had opened the windows to air out the car. A song came on my favorite oldies station that I hadn’t heard in years. “Patches” by Clarence Carter has the kind of melody and rhythmic appeal that made me turn up the volume, start to sing along, and do the above waist dance that we all do in our cars at some time or the other.
A traffic light turned red as I cruised toward it, and I had rolled to a stop along with the fellow in the next lane before noticing that his windows were down, too. Knowing I must have looked an awful fool to the young man who hadn’t even been born when that song came out, I turned down my radio before realizing that he was listening to the same station.
He looked over at me and smiled, and I turned my volume back up. We sat at the light, doing backup singing and shoulder dancing, until the light turned green. We gave each other a thumbs up as we moved away.
Just an unexpected moment. Just some innocent fun with a stranger briefly going in the same direction. Something a little old, with something a little new. Something that should be normal.