The armrest on the bus was stabbing me in my side. The seat on the small van was too small
The Great Abdication: Why No One Can Be Bothered Anymore
"Do you want us to test you for HIV?"
I'd come in for severe strep throat, only to find out what I had was a fungal infection that shouldn't have been happening. The staff was dumbfounded. "Do you have diabetes? Do you want us to test you for that?" I declined the tests. There was nothing else they could do.
"We can give you a mouthwash."
So there I was outside the ER at 4 am, after being told there was something deeply wrong with me. And yet it didn't strike them as urgent, not like a gunshot or a knife wound. Nobody had any answers, and nobody really cared. A few weeks later, I would get billed $2,000.
I would pay half of it.
At home, I combed through the internet to confirm that, yes, you're at risk of fungal infections after Covid.
I'd just had it.
It wasn't a doctor but someone on social media who recommended I get a lymphocyte panel. They sent me a link to a commercial lab where I could get a blood workup. I paid out of pocket for several reasons. Most of all, I didn't want my insurance provider to even suspect I might have a compromised immune system.
My spouse asked, "Shouldn't you go to a doctor?"
"I can't," I told him.
My regular doctor didn't wear a mask and didn't use air purifiers. I needed a doctor, but my doctor might give me a disease that my immune system couldn't fight off.
Feeling "normal" mattered more.
Millions of vulnerable and immunocompromised people find themselves in this crater every day. Until today, I hadn't considered myself among the vulnerable. But now I have to be honest with myself.
So I got my blood workup
I found a lab where I could get blood drawn. Nobody made me take down my N95 for anything. It was simple, in and out.
There was hardly anyone there.
The lymphocyte panel cost me $150 out of pocket. It wasn't that hard to interpret. According to the charts, my immune system hovers one step away from the danger zone. For weeks, I've been trying to find a silver lining and convince myself that I wasn't taking enough vitamin C. Like the far right so often likes to say, facts don't care about my feelings.
One more infection will probably knock me into the red. This after a life of eating kale and running 5Ks.
Somehow, I've always known.
I've always been prone to infections. For the longest time, I thought it was just bad luck. I chalked it up to being a teacher, always exposed to everyone else's germs. But that's not it.
The real reason goes deeper.
I could've had a good immune system
I could've been healthy.
Instead, I got a lifetime of poison from parents who chose to chain smoke around me for nearly 30 years. Between the two of them, they went through several packs a day. My dad couldn't go 15 minutes without a cigarette. My mom called them "cancer sticks" and laughed.
That didn't stop her.
My parents had a way of making faces when I coughed or complained. My dad rolled his eyes when I told him I couldn't breathe. He slid his ashtray to the other side of the table, as if he were making a great sacrifice and I was being melodramatic.
In the end, I gave up.
I accepted a life of smoke. An 8-year-old in the 90s didn't have much of a choice. It would take at least 10 more years for the public to finally admit how bad smoke was for you, despite hundreds of studies. Only then would cities start banning cigarettes from restaurants and offices.
Here's the gut punch:
Secondhand smoke doesn't just cause cancer. It doesn't just increase your risk of strokes and heart attacks.
It weakens your immune system.
This is something I always suspected but didn't want to know. Then I read up. It's real. There's no denying it. Someone like me, who grew up with two unapologetic chainsmokers, is going to have a warped immune system. It explains the pneumonia I had when I was little.
It explains all the respiratory infections I got before I started wearing a mask and advocating for clean air.
It explains everything.
It explains why I could never place in long-distance races. It didn't matter how hard I trained or what I ate. My body always hit a wall, a point where my lungs couldn't give my muscles any more oxygen.
It's a heavy thing to acknowledge.
Nobody wants to believe their parents set them up for a life of vulnerability. Nobody wants to believe someone else's bad choices could leave such a lasting impact. Everyone wants to believe they can do anything they want. They want to believe their future belongs to them alone.
Everyone wants to be strong.
It's just not true.
Nobody wants to say it.
This entire time, I've been one of the vulnerable people I was trying to protect. Meanwhile, a vast majority of the public has been tricked into letting a deadly, disabling virus spread around the world unchecked. And they've been convinced it's not a big deal.
And I've been living in denial of my vulnerability.
It's not hard to grasp why. Just like nobody wants to admit their parents abused them, nobody wants to admit they're vulnerable. Look at how society treats anyone perceived as weak.
Who wants that?
No, most people hide their vulnerability, even from themselves. They don't want to be treated like a burden. They don't want to be dehumanized every time they ask for accommodations. They don't want to be constantly told they don't matter. They don't want to rely on someone else just to get by. They'll try anything else first.
They want to be seen as strong and independent.
Society values that.
Strong independent people get more help. Doctors take them seriously. They get better loans. They sell more stuff. They get better jobs. They get more promotions and raises.
People want to support them.
If you want help in this world, the best way is to act like you don't need it. Then suddenly everyone wants to help you.
How ironic is that?
The vulnerable need care, but we can't get it. We go in for appointments and treatments, but nobody wears a mask. They're scared of air purifiers. Public health agencies have spent four years explaining to everyone that "only the vulnerable" need to worry about things like Covid. Then they turn right around and refuse to protect the vulnerable.
Doctors and their secretaries almost brag about their right not to wear a mask, as if they're happy to kill their patients.
They break the first rule.
They do harm.
The great abdication
This goes way beyond the coronavirus.
We see this attitude with climate change. We see it with the ongoing genocide in Gaza. A large majority of people don't care. They don't care about their chronically ill family. They don't care about Palestinian children. They don't care about all the disasters happening.
Tens of millions of people don't want to try anymore. They want to accept the status quo. They want normal, no matter how many people like us get sacrificed for it. Brunch has become some sacred right that "normal" people feel entitled to, so much that they'll destroy the planet for it. If you get in the way, then you must die.
The world is melting.
Our leaders pat themselves on the back. They invest more time and money into downplaying problems than dealing with them. Either that, or they find a profitable scapegoat. None of them want to risk their comfort or careers to do their jobs.
Still, our friends and neighbors go on their vacations. They drive their trucks. They wave their flags. They go to their concerts. They get angry at the slightest suggestion that their actions might have an impact on someone else. It's all divine intervention.
Nobody wants responsibility anymore
Everyone wants credit.
They want credit for being a good person, but they'll only do the things they consider kind. They won't listen to what you or anyone else needs.
This attitude used to be something you found only in the darkest corners of the alt-right web. Now it's almost everywhere.
People are giving up.
The elites love the great abdication
People don't normally act this way. Just a few years ago, they were at least willing to make an effort to care.
They've been trained not to.
They've been groomed.
Billionaires and CEOs have been trying for almost a hundred years to turn everyone into a greedy, selfish jerk who only cares about their own happiness and gets offended at the idea of collective responsibility. They took advantage of the pandemic to push everyone overboard. Have you noticed? Everywhere you look, you're encouraged not to care about the world's problems. You're told you can't do anything.
You're told to shut up and cross your fingers that the elites have everything taken care of, even as they sit around and describe what amount to hallucinations about colonizing space.
Wake up, we're almost here.
You can probably count on one hand the number of people you can actually have an honest conversation with or lean on during an emergency. Everyone's lonelier than ever. The corporate media go on and on about our mental health, and they show up with things AI chatbots as the answer.
Well, I have a different idea.
I think maybe it's hard to hang out with someone now that deep down everyone knows that everyone else is willing to let them die for concerts and brunch. Do you know how I know?
My parents trashed my immune system, and I spent nearly 40 years denying it. I denied it because I wanted to believe that despite her mental illness, my mom still loved me in some weird way. I wanted to believe that despite his stoic face and cold insults, my dad also loved me.
The truth is devastating.
The truth is that it doesn't matter how much you say you love someone or think you love them. It matters what you do. You can think you love someone and still get them killed through your neglect.
That's a hard pill to swallow.
People are accepting the great abdication because acknowledging it hurts too much. It causes too much pain to admit that some of your closest friends and loved ones were willing to infect you with something and let you die or languish in a bed for the rest of your life for something as trivial and fleeting as a brunch or a concert.
It doesn't have to be like this.
Sooner or later, we're going to have to deal with all of this anger and pain. If we don't deal with it in a healthy productive way, it's going to grow just like a cancer. It's going to kill us.
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