Just Another Pandemic
Pride is not the first thing that comes to mind when I think about the early memories I have of the pandemic. And yet, I find it there in the mix for some reason.
This is a silly thing when I dwell upon it late at night, as I do, as I dwell upon the many things, the several people I know who are now gone, all the other losses that have been sustained. Pride exists in there somehow.
Everyone I’ve come into contact with — and that phrase now has it’s own new context; but here I use it strictly in the sense of the online world — has a story, some sublime, some sad, some silly. Some completely ordinary. Ordinary yet…this past year has wrought a perspective upon the ordinary for some that perplexes and strains the very sense of ordinariness.
Baking bread has taken on a new meaning. Isn’t that very ordinary thing now odd?
I began this pandemic year doing something once ordinary for me, working in politics, but it was now not ordinary. I had made a promise to myself to stay as far from politics as I could. But this time I had to commit and fully. I confess: I jumped in so deeply that I had to lose my Medium membership for a while, the subscription resources being donated to the candidate for whom I worked.
Between April and August I worked hard for a candidate who ran tough in what was essentially a three-way race between the Tennessee Democratic Party’s benighted “Just-Another-White-Boy” choice, a Black Bible-thumping woman and my candidate, a Black woman with a deep background in the environmental justice movement.
Every step of the way we were confronted with groups of people, on all sides including our own, unmasked and gathering far too closely together.
As the months crept forward, as our friends working in the front-line medical fields were being swamped, and as the crowds were becoming more vicious, with unmasked hecklers literally spitting in our direction at times, it was difficult to maintain order. But the only consolation was knowing that the hecklers were coming from outside the Democratic Party.
This was not enough consolation, however, and the days were long for everyone involved. Long days and nights, too, were ordinary, as I recalled from working on campaigns previously in California, New York and South Carolina.
By August we had done the improbable. Not only defeated the Party’s choice, but the Bible-thumper as well. Now it was our turn to face the impregnable force.
The Republicans had run their own primary, of course. A white, brown-headed, middle-aged, gun-toting businessman against a white, brown-headed, middle-aged, gun-toting businessman. Guess who won?
One night, while tracking him down racing across our state as he eluded us, refusing to debate, I rested at a local Wal-Mart parking lot. My head dipped over the steering wheel of my Honda. There was a knock on my window.
The white man knocking looked rough, unkempt, unshaven. I was sporting a bumper sticker for my candidate, which my wife had warned me not to do.
I put on my mask and rolled the window down anyway.
“Hey, man, do you have a spare mask? I don’t wanna go in there without one.”
I stared at him for a second. I didn’t have a spare. I apologized to him. He smiled and walked back to his wreck of a car where he sat, with his door open, apparently waiting for the next person to ask.
White, brown-headed, middle-aged, gun-toting businessman Bill Hagerty is now our second Senator. That’s life. And a good segment of Tennessee’s population is still running around maskless, dying to party.
But you cannot make generalizations about them. And you cannot generalize about anyone. And there is still an ordinary out there. Despite the pandemic.