Hurricane season is coming.
People bring it up with worried voices. News anchors lament it with polished concern. And, yes, some of us Floridians roll our eyes and go back to our coffee. But hurricane season is coming.
It is coming at perhaps the worst possible time for a hurricane season to come. Given the wild year we've been having, it is understandable that the last thing any of us want right now is a named storm ravaging the coastlines. More than one hundred thousand of us have died to COVID-19, and states' opening prematurely seems almost certain to cause another spike in cases, probably around the time the hurricanes get here. Hospitals and their workers are overburdened. Medical supplies are short. First responders are spread thin. Now seems like a terrible time to put even more responsibility on their already strained shoulders.
The public isn't faring much better. The COVID-19 lockdowns have generated a recession. The state and federal governments seem unwilling to divert necessary funds from unnecessary expenditures and unable to collect even a fraction of what is owed by large corporations, so the public has gone largely without help. Businesses are laying off employees and the unemployment system is unable to sustain them. Restaurant and cafe owners are pushing the "cautious" reopening guidelines in response, shoving way too many unmasked folks into small spaces where they can pay to ingest one another's droplets. People of color are, of course, disproportionately affected by these firings, less likely to receive proper medical care, and more likely to die as a result of the pandemic.
It doesn't help that many consumers don't believe the virus is a bad thing, anyhow, just a scheme overblown by the "liberal news media." Their sources for understanding reality are pushing for continued reduction of protections, knowing that the "chips falling where they may" means that they crush the marginalized and the workers who give their lives to care for them. We live in a post-truth world, after all, so anything goes. A hundred thousand bodies can be reframed as a triumph. A rising number of cases outside of New York is not a problem. Scientific evidence is opinion and hearsay. Compassion is political. Protection is tyranny. In an effort to nip any criticism at the bud, our government continues to demonize health officials, manipulate data, and withdraw from international caring organizations. They are applauded by a small but vocal minority of citizens who have chosen to confuse the creative tension between truth (which deals with meaning) and fact (which deals with observational reality). And so they say that any report of six-figure confirmed death totals are biased, any precaution taken to protect oneself or one's neighbors is offensive cowardice, any concern about a communicable, maybe asymptomatic, potentially fatal illness is just a difference in opinion.
This rhetorical and media environment can be frustrating and headache-inducing, especially from the vantage point of one who works a couple different jobs in two "essential" fields. As internal precautions continue to tighten and the danger of the present moment is taken more seriously, watching the state roll back protections and hearing white, middle-class, workers in nonessential industries pontificate about how nothing is wrong is wearying. And so, I find myself feeling very petty, because hurricane season is coming and it warms my heart a little.
It is a tasteless satisfaction I get knowing that hurricane season is coming. It is made possible exclusively by my privilege. I have a broad support network and well-paying employment that resulted from lots of education, most of which was sponsored. I cannot imagine preparing for the possibility of a major storm as a person of color who has been laid off, is not receiving any assistance from the state, and is struggling to make rent. For all those who are not in my comfortable position, I pray that we don't have a named storm. But there's a gross part of me that looks forward to a solid cat-4, because I know that no matter what folks think we should do before or after the storm, everyone will believe it is happening.
There will be no red cap-wearing teenagers crying about the tyranny of the auth-left and how they feel upset every time they see a facemask in Target. There will be no middle-managers in tactical drag banging on the doors of the empty capital building, demanding that all the plywood be taken off the windows. There will be no pseudo-intellectuals shrieking "IT'S NOT WINDY" through the torrents of the eyewall. Everyone, regardless of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group will agree that the cyclonic cloud formations and 140 mph winds are a problem. There will, of course, be problematic media portrayals of evacuees (somehow white people are always "finding food in the wreckage" while black people are "looting the supermarkets"). There will be unjust distribution of disaster relief resources (somehow Naples always sees FEMA first). There will be a few days of aid, a celebration that crisis has been "averted," and towns left to the years-long rebuilding process on their own.
But for a few, short, blissful, blessed days, there will be agreement—"there is a problem." There will be sweet moments of intellectual and emotional solidarity as we prepare for and bear the storm together. There will be a sliver of recognition for common humanity. And I am spiteful and selfish and immature enough to want that right now.
The Critter is released in volumes. This is the end of Volume 5. While we take a month to regroup and prepare for the next volume, coming in July, take a look at some of our older pieces and follow us on social media.
See you soon!