It’s only 7:30 AM on a Weds morning and I’m already staring into my desk drawer. This where I keep an assortment of bowls, bats, chillums, vape pens, and rolling papers, along with another half dozen or so forms of drug paraphernalia, scattered randomly among bits of stems, seeds, and discarded bud that will one day soon, when things get desperate enough, find it’s way into one of those devices and get inhaled into my lungs, and I’m asking myself “Is it too early to get high?"
Of course, time is really just an illusion and “early” is relative, depending on the hours you keep. For instance, if you snorted some speed at around 8 PM last evening, well, then it’s not too early. You might actually think it’s late. Or maybe you work the graveyard shift, in which case you’re probably already familiar with the magic of speed. However, if you're like me and you have been up for less than an hour and you're sitting in your home office wearing sweatpants, a t-shirt, and house slippers while sipping your third giant cup of coffee, it might seem a little premature. Then again, what do I have to do today? I’ve already done all the things a responsible adult does in the course of his average quarantine day: I’ve checked my email (none), responded to those emails that require prompt, professional replies (none), and I have read all of the sad, horrid, and mind-bendingly stupid news stories that one mind can handle in less than an hour in this age of terrifying disease, banal stupidity, and shitty writing, without succumbing to suicide.
Yes, America. This is our new normal. Not that anything in America has ever actually been normal, to me at least. I’ve always thought that this place was a little fucked in the head. Sure, freedom of speech and choice and all that jazz, and, well, jazz, but really, having spent my entire adult life trying to be a man who can pay his rent through his artistic endeavors, I have been forced to spend days, weeks, even months in some of the most insipid, brain-numbing, and pointless salt mines that this nation has to offer. I’ve performed countless useless chores that require only the skill to inhale and exhale at regular intervals and be subservient enough to be at the beck and call of some under-educated, vile, often racist asshole manager whose sole talent is following the orders that corporate America, which has deemed this creature my superior due solely to the sheer amount of time that this person could remain standing in one place at one time without having an original thought, has given him. All the while, being paid just enough money to keep me out of hoc and forcing my return week after week to some colorless, soul sucking, glorified warehouse just to keep the hamster wheel spinning in my favor. Yes, my friends, I have been in the sausage factory and I have seen the sausage being made. And it is not pretty. This is America. This is the America we hold up to the rest of the world…the America that we cradle in our hands and fondle by the balls. The America we drape in a cheap, Korean-made flag that might poison your kids, and the America we use to sell over-priced, gas guzzling cars. Of course, we don’t mention all the racist shit, the bad environment, the ignorance, the blood lust and the almost sexual longing for war and dominance, but that’s all part of it too. Normal America. It isn’t my world, but I live in it, and if that is normal to most people, well, then who the hell am I to argue? But that “normal” has been pushed aside and replaced by what the zombies on television are calling the “new normal”: Grown, well-read, educated people, perfectly sane adults on most days, upstanding citizens, drinking their coffee, staring into the abyss, looking for a way to make another monotonous, joyless day pass as quickly as humanly possible. And they are contemplating rolling a huge joint at 7:30 in the morning in the middle of the work week.
Of course, the work week is no longer what was even 6 weeks ago. For most of us Joe Six Packs who are accustomed to getting up and breaking our proverbial backs for what amounts to barely enough money to get by, work is a memory, becoming more and more distant and less desirable with each passing day. Our friends and neighbors have turned into masked strangers, almost villains, as we have closed ourselves off from the possibility of any contact with other humans, afraid that we might catch the dreaded Covid-19, a particularly contagious, curious, and sometimes insidious virus that has now killed more Americans than the Vietnam war. And while killing as many Americans as the Vietnam war in a little over a few months might have seemed like an impossible task a year or so ago, it should come to no surprise to any decent, thinking American that our current President, a national clown and perfect representation of everything wrong with humanity, could easily oversee a tragedy that could topple the combined death toll of a war conducted by the likes of LBJ and Nixon without even breaking a sweat. Catastrophe has always been his trademark, especially if it comes made-in-China and is plated with fake gold. You see, despite the best efforts of the President’s team to tell the story otherwise, this is not a tale of man vs. nature, or of science gone wrong. No folks, this is purely a story of one man’s ego and stupidity, and the lack of courage possessed by the people around him to stand up him that has led us to the brink of societal collapse. Tolstoy warned us all, but Americans don’t read anything longer than it’s takes to take a shit, so here we are. We are here because America really hates competence, despite its claims to the contrary. The New England Patriots and Tom Brady. The New York Yankees. The Beatles. All accomplished champions in one way or another, but rattle off those names to Joe Average and you’ll see exactly what America thinks about a winner. That’s how this dumb, evil jackass got elected in the first place. But there is no time to relive past elections or dive into the depths of the corrupted American system, or this country’s broken psyche. The boss is calling on the other line.
Yes folks, that’s right. It is time to go back to work. You’ve heard the call coming from the usual suspects: GOP goobers like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and their bevy of empty-headed, bible-thumping, elected henchmen, each with a long laundry list of failed ideas that continue to recycle themselves into our lives every 4 to 8 years: tax cuts for the wealthy, the elimination of social services, privatization and corporatization of everything holy (including the remaking and resurrection of Jesus the corporate lawyer) and the support of brutal dictatorships, including the one we are currently living under. The usual suspects want you to get the economy rolling again. Of course, that group basically represents all of the problems that make America what it truly is to the rest of the world: a festering dung pile of stupidity. (Sorry, America, I know this sounds harsh, but you should get out more.) Yes, in this stilted Democracy where the people vote, but an antiquated system designed by brutal slaveholders chooses, these stooges, bought and paid for by the richest people in the world, whose names and identities and how much they have donated must remain a secret in order to uphold the rule of law and preserve our freedoms, are our elected officials. After all, the Supreme Court acknowledged in Citizens United that money is form of freedom of speech, and it’s time we as Americans just accept the cold, hard truth: some Americans (and wealthy foreigners) were born with more freedom than us lowly worker bees. And their voices are clearly louder than ours. And they are saying it’s time to get back to work. The true heart of America, the economy, is not beating as strongly as it can be, and it needs fresh blood. That blood must be yours.
Of course, doctors and scientists are still saying that America isn’t performing enough tests to “reopen” safely, whatever that means in a country where mass shootings are so frequent that going to school has become a ritualized survival test. However, this is America and we don’t listen to educated people, especially those elitist Ivy League bastards who think they know things better than us. Americans don’t care about the disease, how contagious it is, or how many deaths it will cause. Americans don’t care that the two populations most vulnerable to COVID-19 are minorities, specifically African Americans, and the elderly. Let’s be honest: America has never really liked minority populations anyway. And the elderly? We used to love the old folks, but the reality is that the elderly around today just aren’t Greatest Generation material. No, they’re the Baby Boomers, who started their adult lives with such great promise by giving us Dylan and the Summer of Love, and Sly Stone and Woodstock. Then they gave us Altamont. And then The Eagles. Another term for Nixon. Eventually, over the decades, they slowly devolved into a hideous amalgam of everything they used to stand against and morphed into the slimy moral ambiguity of Bill Clinton, the soulless and evil stupidity of George W. Bush and the Iraq War, and the shameless mediocrity of the post 1970’s Rolling Stones.
Now we have the ultimate Boomer in the Oval Office: Donald J. Trump. He’s pompous, rude, incredibly dumb and dangerous and he doesn’t give a flying fuck about anybody but himself and his own self-image. Obviously, this pandemic has not been good for Donnie Asshole and just like other times when things have not gone well for him, like his previous marriages and every single one of past business dealings, he wants out and he wants to stick you with the bill. In fact, he’s already got one foot out the door. In his bleach-contaminated mind, this pandemic is over and done with. He has defeated the virus that Obama stuck him with, and further effort is futile. Pack up the task force and if anything more needs to be done, well, have your governor call Jared. Trump has got his proto-Nazi rallies to preside over. In other words: Fuck You. Get back to work.
That puts the average working American in quite a bind. Without adequate testing, we can’t know for sure how many people are still infected. Furthermore, the symptoms and the severity of the disease vary from person to person, so there is no way for sure to tell who is going to become a carrier without symptoms, and which people will wind up praying that an extra ventilator pops up on a local Craigslist ad in time for the overworked and understaffed hospital that they are in to procure it fast enough to save their lives. Once again, as history has always had it, the working class have become the sacrificial lambs of Democracy. It would seem lucky for Trump and his cronies that the Feds are going to walk away from the pandemic as if it’s over, and force us to go back to work, because the economy is the only thing, besides corruption, Trump has going for him. So, we will be forced to go back to the daily tasks that barely pay us enough to live decently or provide proper health insurance. For this is a capitalist society, and the wheels of the machine don’t stop for viruses. If you want to survive in this country, you’re going to need a few bucks for bread and water, and to pay that outrageous cell phone bill you’ve accumulated during this lockdown, and to buy all the drugs you are going to need just to deal with the reality that has been foisted upon us. It’s almost as if we have no choice in the matter. We will have to risk our lives and go back to work. And when we do, more people may die. And, despite the death, or maybe because of it, the economy may get going again. And if it does get going again, Trump may very well get the credit. He will certainly take it regardless. And it just might happen in time to usher him into a second term, God help us. And then once again, Donald J. Trump, like some reverse-Midas freak show, will have squandered another fortune just to come out the other side unscathed, while everybody else in his wake is left holding the remains of his destruction and the tab that comes with it. It’s a dark and likely scenario so predictably American, F. Scott Fitzgerald himself could have written it a hundred years ago.
But what if, my fellow stoners, slobs, and deplorables, what if, for once, WE had the upper hand in the fight? You see, the presidency of Donald J. Trump, and his own self-worth for that matter, ride on the idea that the economy and stock market are symbols of his successes. And now that it’s all in shambles, he is afraid that if people don’t go back to work and the economy doesn’t rebound quickly and sufficiently, his electoral goose may be cooked. You can see the cheap bronzer caking up and running down his protruding frontal lobe from all of the nervous sweating, revealing his slightly green, translucent skin, a product of a diet that involves only overcooked grade D beef, oceans of ketchup, and Diet Coke. The Donald desperately needs us to go back to work. More importantly, the Ringleaders that fund this Circus of Incompetence and Terror, the real ultra rich people, the kind of people who own private armies, need us to go back to work so that they can keep lining their fur pockets with the blood of the workers. It’s Economics 101.
But what if we stood together in solidarity? What if we stood together and told the ruling class pigs to go fuck themselves? What if we demanded, for the first time, some goddamn respect for all the work that we do to make this whole entire clusterfuck operate? What if we refused to go back to work until our simple and reasonable demands were met? Perhaps this pandemic is some kind of strange, twisted, and demented sign with a really fucked up sense of humor, telling us that THIS IS THE TIME TO FIGHT? After all, it is the perfect time. Perhaps having this ego-driven Oompa Loompa and his incestuous family (yes, it’s probably true) running wild in the White House will finally work out in our favor. After all, this is the man who’s only real qualification to be President stems from his stint playing a fake Billionaire on a reality TV gameshow. This is the man who is constantly bragging about his ability to make a deal. His expertise, according to his own books, is the Art of the Deal, is it not?
So here is what I propose: We, the tired, overworked, and underpaid citizens of the United States (and working non citizens), hold the economy hostage by refusing to go back to work. And like any good hostage takers, we make a list of demands. Hell, maybe every working person can contribute a letter or two from their favorite magazines to produce a ransom note that calls for the following:
1) A living wage for every worker. And a huge raise in the minimum wage.
2) Health insurance for every human being
3) Paid child care and family leave
4) Paid sick leave
5) Free education for every American who wants to better their lot in life
You see folks, these are not insane demands. They are, actually, quite reasonable and quite doable. They offer similar plans in nearly every “civilized” country in the world, except for America. We have been fighting for these rights for years, only to see our candidates called “socialists”, our advocates called “freeloaders”, and our concept of caring for each other wholly “UnAmerican”.
Well, fuck that. We now hold the key. What do we have to lose? The economy is already in the shitter. Our jobs are already gone. We couldn’t have a worse President. And if we give in, we might all die from an insidious virus that probably could have been contained by an even slightly more competent administration. Let’s take this chance now. Let’s stand up for ourselves, and for our children (at least your children), our future, and god fucking damn it, our entire way of life!
Think about it. I’m going to smoke this joint.