Ken and Karen’s futile adventures

With so much news out there, it’s hard to pick a topic. So for today Ken and Karen will have to do.

Ken and Karen are stand-ins for various white Americans in the news. They try to use white privilege and guns to deal with the social change all around them. Ken and Karen were probably best epitomized recently by Mark and Patricia McCloskey of St. Louis. “Ken” was on his front porch hefting his semi-automatic rifle while his wife “Karen” next to him held her pistol with her finger on its trigger while protesters marched down the street on Sunday in front of their swanky home in a somewhat gated part of the city.

Ken and Karen hard at work
Ken and Karen hard at work

The protesters were part of the swelling and seemingly unstoppable Black Lives Matter movement, a local group called Expect US. They were on their way to the mayor’s house a few streets away. Parts of St. Louis are effectively long-standing gated communities, which is true of both the mayor’s and the McCloskey’s homes. The protesters were apparently loud, but not violent and got in through an open gate. They want the city’s mayor to resign over his handling of police violence in the city. While Ken and Karen brandished their weapons menacingly, the unarmed protestors passed by. Videos of the couple went viral. They became the latest face of white America’s discomfort with the social change underway. It’s just that most of us wouldn’t be so public about it. This Ken and Karen were sending a statement.

For me, the statement is about how clueless they are. Their cheese has been moved and they don’t understand it. If this change actually meant the collapse of civilization and you think that a few semiautomatic weapons are going to save you, you got bigger problems. If you think your guns are going to keep your little world safe from the Apocalypse, you are living in La-La Land.

Granted they have plenty of company. Millions of mostly white Americans are loading up on firearms and ammo assuming they will save them if all else fails. Some are also hoarding food and medicines, ready to ride out Doomsday with their gold and crypto currencies. They will join with their fellow neighbors when the time comes to take their country back and to reconstitute government into one they find acceptable, you know, one that leaves the whites with overwhelming power and money.

These Ken and Karen incidents are utterly predictable, so expect to see a lot more of them. They want things to remain as they were when they cannot and more importantly won’t. There are lots of us who cannot handle change, and they populate the Republican Party principally. At some level they know life as they knew it is coming to an end for them, and they need to adapt and seek a new stasis. And that’s going to happen in time. It’s inevitable as is this current time of change.

The thing is, the more they try to keep things the way they were, the worse it becomes for them. We can see their foolishness in many news stories. These Ken and Karen incidents though are minor compared to what these people are doing to themselves. They seem determined to have their cake and eat it too, no matter how much worse they make it for themselves. They might as well be hitting themselves on the heads with iron skillets.

Take COVID-19, for example. To those of us who understand science, the crushing rise in these cases in mostly red states comes as no surprise. I’d say I told you so, and I have many times in this blog, but they weren’t ready to listen. So their surrogates in power delayed shutting things down, and reopened the economy long before it was prudent to do so. Like our stupid president, they shun masks as unmanly.

Unmanly? If being a man means protecting life and property, there is hardly anything more manly than wearing a mask when outdoors. But if your idea of manhood is that you get to live life your way, damn the consequences to you or anyone else because of this bogus interpretation of freedom, you’ve got major problems upstairs. Also, it’s the height of selfishness. It’s like saying I have the right to trash my neighbor’s lawn because of freedom, or the right to drive drunk or not wear a seatbelt. Will they be advocating to not require drivers to be insured next? Taken to the extreme, this is not freedom; it’s anarchy.

And that’s kind of what they are getting in these states: driving systems like the health care system out of control. Naturally they will expect a ventilator to be available for them should they contract COVID-19, which many don’t believe is real. It likely won’t be in these states though. Someone else will be on it already, and there will be a long queue of patients with labored breathing hoping one frees up in time. And a lot of these Ken and Karens will be among the recently dearly departed.

Or you can be less stupid. I live in Massachusetts where the COVID-19 situation was very bad a few months ago, but less so in its western part where I live. We could have locked down sooner, but we did things reasonably well once we did. Now we live in the state with the least new COVID-19 infections. My county of 160,000 had only a handful of new cases last week, and no new deaths. Restaurants are reopening, but seating people mostly outside. We are wary and wear our masks. And we get tested. We’ll know when if it’s time to shut things down again, and won’t hesitate to do so. It’s ultimately less painful and expensive if you just do what the scientists tell you to do. It seems even red states like Florida and Texas are now figuring it out. The pain just had to reach an unacceptable threshold for them to see the light.

Society depends on the consent of the governed, and the nature of that consent is changing quickly. It must and will reshape itself until we arrive in a more equitable place. As John Donne noted, none of us are truly self sufficient. We all need each other. The McCloskey’s would have been much better served if they had joined the protests instead. In time, if they are still alive, they will wish they had.