(Disclaimer: This post came to me from a dream last night, but I think it might actually make some sense.)
I grind my teeth.
This is quite inconvenient, and has come up relatively recently in my life, increasing in incidence after I had a child. After all isn’t this what dad’s do? Worry to distraction and keep it all inside? After all it’s what my dad did.
That’s right! My own Dad grinds his teeth, and has for years. He’s mostly easy going, to the point of almost downright carelessness, so when I first noticed the tooth grinding it was a surprise to me. I remember it most clearly from my 20’s, when I would visit the family home from graduate school. Dad would be sitting and reading in his chair, jaw working away at some problem. In fact, as I think of it, I also recall it from my teens! I feel bad, now, for not asking to him about it, but then that is the lot of fathers I suppose.
I suspect that a lot of it came from work at the time. Dad was working in the Sudanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs during my teens, mostly after the coup which resulted in a military government, which ended up driven by a fundamentalist, kleptocratic Islamist party (go here for a little more info). This government differed from previous ones in that it initially sidelined all the career civil servants, and then began packing ministries with its own (unqualified and corrupt) operatives. In this environment my father stuck around and tried to do what any career civil servant would do: to serve the interests of the nation and it’s people as best he could. To that end he continued to file reports, advise and speak – but no one listened, and occasionally they would do the exact opposite, to the detriment of the Sudanese people. This Sisyphean task took its toll and, eventually, he left the service of his country. While life afterward was frustrating, it was not as bad as it had been, to some extent because he was not watching his colleagues being purged, and not being ignored.
I feel like this parallel well with the current state of affairs in the US response to the corona virus pandemic. Dr Fauci of NAID is emblematic of what many other civil servants and experts of various kinds are going through. They are being ignored at best, and being discredited at worst. Character assassination, if not actual threats of death, are being used to attempt to silence them and bury the inconvenient truths they are speaking. These people are civil servants or scientists who have, by and large, eschewed the material rewards of the private sector to do something for the common good. What’s most concerning about this is that it implies that many of their fellow citizens do not believe in this common good, or that anyone would work towards it. Or worse, they may not care about the common good at all, inasmuch as it might require them to do anything whatsoever. Paradoxically, these people equate not caring about the whole with being somehow patriotic or superior to everyone else. How does this track? While Americans in the 30’s and 40’s made their sacrifices for what the common good seemed to be at the time, Americans now seem to believe that only the most symbolic of gestures are sufficient – and even those should be done by “someone else” (cf. unnecessary flyovers by military craft to thank first responders who would have rather had access to better PPE, a coherent national strategy and, perhaps, that erstwhile patriots actually use masks and engage in social distancing).