I occasionally volunteer as a COVID-10 at the Salud Family Health Center in Commerce City, Colo. It’s a nice change of pace from my day “job” at the keyboard. I use the only complete sentence in my Spanish arsenal (besides “No hablo espanol”), Podría leer las siguientes y responder sí o no? and point to a couple of questions about various possible symptoms, possible contact with coronavirus-positive people in the last 10 days, and Covid tests taken in the last two weeks. I also open the door for folks and fetch the occasional wheelchair.
Salud is understaffed at the front desk at the moment, so my principal value is to make things a bit easier for the bilingual front desk staff. Today, the woman I was helping out was having a hard time.
It wasn’t the job. Maria is fully bilingual and skillfully handles all sorts of inquiries, steers appointments to the dental clinic in the basement or to the Red or Yellow medical clinics upstairs, deals with the mail, the whole bit. No, she was having a hard time because her cousin was among the nine men killed in the mass shooting in San Jose, Calif., this week.
Despite my being a guy and therefore working on a reduced perceptiveness budget by chromosomal fiat, it was hard to miss the long hug one of the doctors gave Maria shortly after I arrived. “You OK?” the woman asked. She was, Maria said, lying.
There were slow periods during the morning. During one of them, she told me how her great grandmother on her mother’s side had died in the childbirth. The seven surviving children had been dispersed – to Colorado, to New Mexico, to California. Her grandfather, one of the middle children, had always emphasized how important it was to stick together as a family despite the family’s tragic dispersion. Her family heeded that call. Maria was close to her cousin.
I write this to make clear that the senseless deaths caused by mass shooters who exploit the political cowardice of Republicans in the thrall of the gun lobby reverberate across the country. These Republicans are self-aggrandizing assholes – interested foremost in their own professional (i.e. political) futures, not the good of their constituents beyond their big donors, let’s not dance around that. They in turn brush off the horrendous acts of yet another asshole, one who happened to be insane and murderous and in possession of 12 firearms and 22,000 rounds of ammunition, with the usual “thoughts and prayers” bullshit, the same “guns-don’t-kill-people-do” crap.
Another nine dead. Tomorrow, or the next day, or next week, but not more than a week or two, there will be nine more. And so on.
And still our Republican elected officials – calling them “leaders” bends the definition too far – protected by gerrymandered districts and a swath of landlocked states sprinkled with enough narrow-minded yahoos and ignoramuses to constitute a majority (ignorance that, with some actual leadership, could probably be swayed to consider the occasional fact over the comforting meme), block all attempts to rein in what is clearly a firearm pandemic.
We’re all less safe, and Maria’s cousin is dead, and she is heartbroken, because American “conservatives” of the sort embodied by the likes of Kevin McCarthy and Mitch McConnel and their many sycophants are pussies (not intended as a sexist term; see fourth definition here) concerned not with the good of the people or the country but with hand-jobbing the narrow constituencies that enable their minority-rule hold on power with lies, exaggerations, and obfuscations.
Many books have been written about the history that has dragged us into this risible political moment. Where we are is that the personal ambition of an alarmingly large crop of perhaps psychopathic, perhaps merely morally bankrupt Republican politicians can operate with increasing impunity and, heedless of the blood to be mopped up again and again, choose to do so.
Before I left at noon, I stepped over to talk to Maria one last time this time. I said, simply, “Take care of yourself.” Given the state of the GOP, she’s going to have to.