I  have need of pancakes, which is to say I have need of a Syrup Delivery System. Not even the Village Inn can botch a short stack, so I head up the street to the one near my house. Carbs and sugar and comfort food always make me believe I can soldier on through the storm.

They announced the closing of all the restaurants this morning; they could have closed Village Inn last week. When I enter, there’s more wait staff than patrons. Me, a couple huddled in the corner, and an old man nursing a cup of coffee. Every Village Inn, every IHOP, every Denny’s, every diner in Oklahoma has an old man like this. I assume they come with the lease. They ramble on to the waitress, stop mid-sentence when she walks away, commence once again upon her return.

“You think we’ll be very busy?” the youngest waitress asks the manager. There’s fear in her voice. She needs tips.

“I don’t know, hon. Not busy all day.”

“Might as well go out. If you’re gonna get it, you’re gonna get it,” announces the old man to the empty space, directing his comment to the pitiless universe.

Here we go.

Someday I might be rich. Then people like me better watch their step–Futurama

I have been listening to comments like this for years, continually amazed by their smugness and the certainty everyone in the room agrees with them. The old man says it because he is conditioned to do so, but I can tell the smugness and certainty have started to waver. He desperately tries to catch my eye across the room, looking for a head nod or encouragement. But I have syrup to consume, my second-rate ambrosia for the trials ahead.

People believe because I grew up evangelical, I have been listening to such nonsense my entire life. But evangelicals didn’t speak this way during my youth. Yes, we believed you were going to hell, but we also believed you could be saved if shown some kindness and the true path. Besides, we had to behave to prove we were one of the elect.

That’s all gone now. Because when you wed politics with Calvinism, all you get is a brutal fatalism, devoid of hope or salvation. Even your own salvation is drained of meaning or joy. You are merely one of the chosen waiting for the end when all this refuse around you will be swept away. Until then, the order that keeps the rich in their lofty perches must survive. This has led to the strangest mass self-flagellation in human history. I must suffer in my poverty because everyone else is getting exactly what they deserve. We no longer dream of wealth for its luxuries; we want to mete out the punishment we once received.

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means–The Princess Bride

All these old men suddenly have an adversary they can’t dismiss with a lie, a meme, or a tweet. A virus will not be bullied. Cannot be promised power or the whip. Culture is a construction that can be manipulated, twisted, and corrupted once we succumb to the insidious creed of our times: Inevitable. A virus is a force of nature doing the virus things nature has bequeathed it. You cannot stop it with a withering nickname or conspiracy theory. A virus penetrates the carefully fashioned bubbles we currently reside in to echo our illusions.

We’re gonna get it as long as we keep deciding to get it. Viruses. Inept governments. Hatred and racism. Inequality. For change, we just have to quit listening to old men telling us the line of transmission cannot be broken.

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