I Do Not Want to Return to Normal: Complacency is the problem.

Though the Covid Delta Variant is causing a bit of a stir, I have to admit that it has not been difficult for me to return to “normal” in the least. In large part, that speaks to the fact that I am extremely lucky given the almost nonexistent, negative, medical impact that Covid had on my own health or that of anyone close to me. And though I do count my blessings, it is unfortunate that proximity seems to affect human compassion as much as any other factor, and I am human. I feel that I did a decent job of fighting my own detachment by following the rules set out by the CDC, regardless of how I felt about any of it. In other words, I forced myself to care when my ego and selfishness took over.

I was impacted directly by Covid through the shutdown, which led to a furlough and my complete dependence on unemployment benefits. It became difficult for me to weigh my need to earn money and provide for my family with the public’s need to suppress a deadly disease. Fear of personal loss often exceeded my compassion for the lives of others in my mind.

From the beginning of time — or at least since the beginning of written history — there has always been a push and pull between private and public needs, and this struggle rages in American society maybe more than ever. I am not immune to it though I like to think that I try, and for good reason. After all, private and public needs are not mutually exclusive. They affect one another endlessly and are very often indistinguishable. Never-the-less, too often we think of the immediate, obvious and direct impact that policy has on our lives and ignore the bigger picture.

So, with relatively no health impact on my life, when the shutdown ended, I did not have a problem returning to work. Even with a shortage of workers, which surely affects the efficiency of our restaurant staff, money has never been better for me personally as a server in the food and beverage industry. And when money is good, it can be easy to lose focus on some things that truly matter. In other words, a return to normal may not be a good thing in full.

When I think of 2020 and the Covid pandemic and shutdown, I think about a lot more than mask wearing, vaccinations and even the economic impact. Though my compassion for Covid related public health was a challenge for me, I was strongly impacted by the civil rights issues that coincided with the pandemic. There is a good chance that these issues impacted me more than others because they seemed more real to me.

The images of body bags outside of hospitals — because of the pandemic — did not have the same impact on me that the murder of George Floyd did. After giving this some thought, I attribute it to the personal experience that the video of Floyd’s death inspired in me. It felt like I was there with him, feeling his pain. Beyond that, I was without question living among people of color and feeling their pain by proximity alone. After all, I live in Minneapolis, the epicenter of the explosion that sent shock waves around the world. I watched as the pain and frustration of the black community sparked the match that burned down part of our city, and I understood it…even more than I understood the shutdown.

Understanding something and approving or disapproving of it are two entirely different things. I understood the riots as I understood the need for a Covid-19 shutdown, but my approval for one of these things was subject to waver on given day. I was captured by the Black Lives Matter movement more than anything that I can long remember that did not directly impact my own selfish needs. There was no question that I approved of the cause.

Medium became a place that I turned to express my frustration with institutional racism, police violence and the Trump administration. Not only was I moved by Black Lives Matter, I was taking action the best way I knew how. One can always do more, but I was not able to take to the streets as I once did with BLM when Eric Garner was murdered on my birthday in 2014, a moment in time that was probably as instrumental in sparking my compassion for this cause as anything else. George Floyd just took it to the next level. But at least I was doing something this time around, and to my surprise and delight it did reach a small audience on Medium and other social media outlets.

And then, the shutdown was over, and I returned to work. Both naturally and unfortunately, my needs began to take over once again. My return to “normal” meant that my passion for civil rights was dampened to a complacency, and complacency is extremely dangerous, maybe more than immoral action itself. Immoral or destructive action is easily identified, but complacency is insidious, quietly leading to things like Donald Trump, Derick Chauvin and Charlottesville.

Complacency is also a luxury of the priveledged. I can afford to be complacent on civil rights issues more than those directly affected because I am a white male. I easily forget that racism is a reality for so many. And my complacency as a white man — maybe more than that others — is dangerous and can lead to the blatant affront of hate. It normalizes the abnormal. When I am complacent it creates a void that others will surely fill with their own agendas.

I do not want to return to normal.

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