It’s not technically summer yet, but Memorial Day is the unofficial start of Summer and also it’s going to be 95 tomorrow, so that’s close enough.
I just put in the air conditioner into our kitchen window. It’s a small window and our old one broke. It’s not clear when it broke, but a good guess is: last fall I accidentally dropped it on the concrete floor of our basement and something made a big “I just broke” noise and I thought “sounds like something I’ll deal with in the spring.” I was right. I’m very smart.
I’d already reinstalled it before I realized it was broken, so it was just in the window for about a week doing nothing until I tried to turn it on. It wheezed for a minute and then clicked off. I searched for an appliance repair place, but those don’t really exist and it’s going to be 95 tomorrow. I bought a new one on Amazon and it was delivered to the house same-day.
While I was removing the broken one it started leaking rainwater all over the floor, and the dog was underfoot, and he got wet, and he tried to hide from the water but clipped the back of my knee. So I kinda fell backwards and then was angry and tried to hurry out the door with a big box of rain but I forgot to unplug it, so I ripped the socket out of the wall.
Only the bottom socket broke, so I plugged the new AC into the one I didn’t destroy and have decided to forget about it, hoping it doesn’t catch fire because I can’t order a new socket on Amazon. I’d have to call a guy who knows how to do things and I’m exhausted already.
There’s a clip I think about a lot. I can’t find it now. I think I saw it on Tim Robinson’s Instagram stories of all places. It was a guy in his late fifties being interviewed by a local news crew near the start of the pandemic.
He’s in his SUV in a Home Depot parking lot and he’s pleading with the news crew about how he can’t go in, baffled and upset. Home Depot is closed because of the pandemic, because the governor of his state shut down all the stores until they’d figured out what’s going on. Which nobody ever did, but at the time a few days off from stores was a big deal. Really hard for people, and eventually everyone sort of forgot about the pandemic, which has made it much easier to buy things generally speaking.
Anyway, this guy is almost in tears. “How am I supposed to buy my fourth of july stuff?” I think that’s what he said, maybe that’s what Tim Robinson said, but anyway he’s really upset, really almost crying about how he can’t go in this store to buy something he probably doesn’t need. And, just to stereotype, he doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who is ok with crying. He’s really at the end of his rope.
And maybe it’s misdirected fear about the pandemic. Maybe he’s just scared about this disease that’s crawling across the world and channeling it into something that he happens to be in front of, but I don’t think that was it. I just think he really wanted to buy stuff and couldn’t and had a genuine breakdown about it.
The pandemic was a real eye opener as far as how broken our country is, how troubled we are as a group. There was another shooting at a church two weeks ago and another school shooting where another group of young kids were murdered and again, I think we’re broken beyond repair, but since I saw that guy crying about Home Depot I just think about how so many tragedies wind up being viewed through the lens of what it means to consumerism.
The mask debate had so much to do with the ways in which we spent our money. Everyone talked about freedom, but really the same focal points kept popping up. People talked about having to wear masks in grocery stores or at restaurants. Maybe that’s the only places we really interact with each other, but it felt like having a mask on at work wasn’t as big of a focus.
There were five thousand videos of a person in a store demanding respect from an employee, some right of patronage that they had where they’d spent their money and so they could do whatever they want. I paid money to be here. You cannot throw me out of Ikea. They started shouting about free speech and Hipa laws, pulling their rights as citizens into their idea of real day to day humanity, which was just as a thing that purchases stuff.
The gun control debate gets pulled into all these higher ideals of democracy and the second amendment and vague civics discussions about what our individual rights are but I really think the big thing is: it’s really hard for people to be told they might not be able to buy stuff.
People have so little freedom in this country, every moment is so commodified that our primary role in our society, maybe the last function we have to the greater good at this point, is as a consumer and I think when you take that away, people start freaking out a little bit. I buy guns because guns are the most important thing to me because they’re threatening to make it so that I can’t buy guns. Which is an easy thing to exploit, if, say, you’re not interested in public safety or children or people at church/night club/etc.etc.etc., and are only interested in selling guns at all costs.
After hurricanes and natural disasters, there’s always a perverse focus on looting. People up to their chest in storm water taking a case of water out of a drugstore or whatever. Same with protests. People are hurting the stores. These barbarians are breaking the stores. The natural order of things is for people, regardless of need, to buy a thing. Doesn’t matter if you’re up to your chest in sewage or need medical care. The only true path forward is to pay for it. You work for money and then you give that money to everything you need, and if you don’t have enough, too bad. Should’ve worked harder. I’m not going to pay my money for your stuff.
One of the most right wing people I ever met found out I had an electric car and he said it wasn’t fair that electric cars existed because he’d heard that sometimes charging stations are free and he said “I can’t get free gas.” And I said I couldn’t either. And he said “But you can get free electricity.” And I said “But so can you.” And he dismissed it, said it was crazy. He also thought that gay people “stole the rainbow from us”. It wasn’t something he could use anymore because someone had taken it from him. Guns are something to be taken from their cold dead hands. Taken.“ I’d rather be dead than for you to have my possessions.”
Anyway, I don’t have a closing point here. I’ve just been thinking about capitalism and tragedies today. Who knows why. Happy Memorial Day. Remember: Freedom isn’t free.