Volume 32, Number 2

Closer to Home

Fred Schepartz

Though there’s no end of political issues to talk about right now—and seemingly forever—I think this time I’ll write on a more personal level.

I have been fully vaccinated for more than a month. My household has been full vaccinated for not quite two weeks.

As of yet, not much has really changed. My partner and I both continue to work from home, though I will start working in a hybrid manner this week. We still don’t leave the house much, though we make a point of getting out at least once a day to walk our dog or go to the dog park. We also try to get to a county or state park on the weekends for a substantial hike.

There have been some subtle changes. We don’t mask up anymore when we go to the dog park. I don’t bother to mask up if I’m taking a walk around the neighborhood.

A big step, actually, last weekend we had a friend hang out with us inside our house. This was the first time in almost a year that someone outside of the household had been inside our house. Ironically, it was the same person; we were forced to eat our take-out fish fry inside to escape a swarm of angry yellow jackets.

And tonight, we have plans to get take-out fish fry and eat with a friend inside his apartment!

All in good time.

I know what the CDC says. Fully vaccinated, we can go to bars. We can eat inside a restaurant. However, the consensus among my close friends is that we are not ready to take these steps quite yet.

As one friend put it, she’s a “toe-in-the-water” kind of person, but that is prudent given that she has an auto-immune disorder, so she’s at much greater risk than the general population.

Intellectually, I know the facts, the science. Breakthrough cases are extremely rare, maybe four people out of every 100,000 who have been vaccinated. Of those, a slim number will get seriously ill or day.

And yet, recently a 75-year-old woman right here in Madison, Wisconsin, got Covid and died, even though she was fully vaccinated. She did, however, have seriously overlying health issues.

It is enough to give one pause.

Much of the rest of the country is far behind Dane County in terms of rates of vaccination. Wisconsin is doing better than many states. And, of course, overall, the United States is doing better than most of the rest of the world.

Thus, vaccine hesitancy and obstacles of vaccine availability mean it may be a long time before we achieve true international herd immunity.

Or maybe that will never happen.

And that certainly does increase the chance of a vaccine-resistant mutation.

In their own mindless way, viruses are very smart. They are hardwired to survive, so they find ways to adapt.

All that said, I do find that I’m slowly but gradually able to relax. It all feels so unreal, this invisible vaccine in my body that provides immunity against this invisible virus.

I notice that I’m a little less anxious when I’m in a store though I try to make these trips quick and infrequent. I still smear hand sanitizer on my credit card after paying for something in a store or restaurant.

On the other hand, I’ve given up on my long practice of wiping down all groceries with sanitizing wipes. I still wear latex gloves when I fill my gas tank, but I don’t wipe the bottoms of my shoes when I return from a store.

I suppose years from now, I’ll laugh at some of the absurd measures I took to stay safe. Perhaps some were overkill, but better safe than sorry. And such measures, perhaps gave me and many of us very necessary peace of mind.

But I did stay safe, and by keeping myself safe, I kept others safe.

Let us not forget, we are talking about a once-in-a-100-year pandemic, maybe one of the more deadly pandemics in our history as a species.

It was not just a pandemic of disease; it was a pandemic of trauma and PTSD.

All that said, I find myself thinking back to about this time last year when my favorite science fiction convention was cancelled. I was a little sad, but I didn’t mind that much. My favorite science fiction convention is fun, but it can be a bit of a bother, so it was nice to get a break from it.

Last summer, our fantastic local beer-tasting event was cancelled. I caught myself thinking that I wasn’t that sad. The event is a lot of fun, but it can be a bit of a bother, so it would be nice to get a break from it.

My favorite science fiction convention was cancelled again this year. Well, it’s a lot of fun but can be a bit of a bother.

Yes, I do notice a clear and obvious pattern.

The other day I received an email from the Chairman of the Great Taste of the Midwest that as of right now, this great beer-tasting event is on for August 14. I am a member of the Madison Homebrewers and Tasters Guild (as a taster), the organization that organizes this annual event. I have a great volunteer job every year, working the brewers’ load-in the afternoon before. The home brew starts flowing not long before the end of my shift.

I wasn’t broken hearted that the event was cancelled last year. In fact, they pulled the plug pretty early, which was smart and forward thinking on the Guild’s part. This year, they are taking a cautious approach. Attendance will be restricted to half of capacity, and they have made it clear that conditions on the ground will determine what, if any, additional health and safety measures will be instituted.

I’m happy that the Great Taste is on. I’m happy that our wonderful neighborhood festivals return in August.

I’m not doing cartwheels, but I am happy. That’s a start.

Certainly, I find that I feel like the caged animal that doesn’t know what to do when the cage door is thrown open. Under the circumstances, that feeling is nature. The stick-a-toe-in-the-water sentiment is perfectly natural.

Living a life of meaning and purpose can be a bother, but we only get one shot at this, so what can be a bother is worth it.

* * *

Well, I do have to comment briefly on politics.

Recently, an anti-Trump Republican pundit on MSNBC said something that really gave me pause. He said that white, Christian males make up 25 percent of the American population but control 80 percent of the levers of power. They used to control 90 percent, he said, and they’re pissed that they lost that 10 percent. And they’re mortified about losing any more of their power.

I have to take what he said a step further. Given what we’re seeing right now, I think this minority of angry white men—white supremacists—would be willing to destroy our entire democracy rather than give up any additional power.

I can’t help but think of this in the context of the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Massacre in the Greenwood District of Tulsa, known as Black Wall Street. At its essence, this was a situation where a bunch of angry white men could not tolerate the existence of Black wealth and prosperity, so they burned Black Wall Street to the ground. At least 300 Black citizens were murdered. Thousands of Greenwood residents were displaced.

Apologists might say, that was a long time ago. Yet, every single day, Black citizens suffer the violence of institutionalized racism. Black citizens are murdered by police officers. And as we’ve seen recently, just about every single day, a state legislature considers more and pernicious legislation to take away hard-fought-for civil rights.

All because white, Christian men cannot abide by losing any of their power.