Mona Charen: Why are we so horrible to each other?


On Saturday morning, as I prepared to head to our basement to use the stationary bike, I sensed something. As I opened the basement door, I saw something that no one ever welcomes on their house floors – running water, at ankle height. Calling my husband to get the wet / dry vacuum cleaner, I rushed downstairs to make the second disgusting discovery: This water contained raw sewage. The source was the drain under the water heater. It kept coming and going, a great outpouring of horror.

And so, the frantic phone calls began. We called the Arlington County sewer emergency line. We called Servpro. We called plumbers. We called the insurance company. The county said it would send a crew.

I ran to my neighbors to warn them. One had just entered his driveway. When I let go of the seizure, it froze. “You might want to check out your basement!” I repeated, confused by his gaze. “I know,” she said, “but I’m terrified.” His basement had not been spared.

During this time, our basement had become a huge latrine. Sewage, now 5 or 6 inches deep, watery and brown, swirled around the sofa, the ottoman (did I mention it was a finished basement?), The bed skirt , rugs, bookcases, dog beds and cupboard contents, and draining out the back door. He was also coming out of the toilet. The smell was foul.

Eventually, a truck with county technicians arrived and finally found a way to stop it.

Then the angels of Servpro arrived and began the disgusting work of cleaning up the mess. They did so with the greatest courtesy and diligence. They didn’t complain. Fortunately, they didn’t make any jokes. We weren’t ready for jokes. Still not, honestly.

We had to spend that night in a hotel and rush in the early hours to take care of the animals. For two days, we cleaned, called and dealt with the failing systems. What was that alarm? The sump pump? The water heater? The furnace? What could be saved? What was lost? Family photos ? Servpro technicians, after cleaning the floors and walls, sprayed disinfectant everywhere. The smell slowly faded. We slept in our bed on Monday night with all the windows in the house wide open.

And then came Tuesday. Coming downstairs to check the dehumidifiers and fans, I saw and smelled it again. Mud. Running water. It was back.

As of this writing, we still don’t know if the county has found the source of the problem. The flow has stopped, and Servpro is cleaning… again. And while I am restless and upset, I am also grateful for the professional manner in which the insurance company, the folks at Servpro and others handled the emergency. My family rallied (I am currently working on this column for my son); my colleagues offered us their beach houses, guest rooms, etc.

Of course, Twitter’s jerks were heard as well. In the Saturday morning panic, when I couldn’t reach anyone for a while, I tweeted about our urgency in case someone in authority in Arlington could see it. It couldn’t hurt, could it? But, of course, some respondents, in the spirit of the times, indulge in taunts and name-calling. “Maybe God sent it in response to your approval of Communist nominations,” one said. “Karma is ab——, eh? Act as if your political values ​​are avenging your embrace of Democrats, ”said another.

For the record, most of the comments were sympathetic, but Twitter is its own kind of sewer. The anonymity mixed with the hyperpolarized climate encourages the worst in people. I understand much of what drives conservatives on the left mad – the language police, the constant attribution of racism and xenophobia to opponents, and the uncritical adoption of fashions in the name of inclusion, among others. But what I still have a hard time understanding, and frankly doubt I can ever really understand, is the legal abandonment of mere decency. Do you remember during the 2020 campaign the death of Donald Trump’s brother? Joe Biden issued a statement: “Mr. President, Jill and I are sad to hear of the passing of your younger brother Robert. I know the immense pain of losing a loved one – and I know how important family is at times like these. Hope you know our prayers are with you all.

Until recently this sort of thing would have been quite commonplace, one of the thousands of courtesies we grant in a civilized society. But in 2020, after five years of vertiginously descending into rudeness and venom, it felt like a note of grace. I remain puzzled that even if you watch partisan TV all day and frequent optional factual websites, you can dismiss basic human decency as the fashion of yesterday.

I feel that people’s anger makes them feel alive and gives them a much needed sense of community. If you hate together, you’re at least together, right? People are too atomized. American families have been in decline for decades, which has weakened communities and localism in general. The internet has isolated us even more, freeing our credentials while starving our hearts.

I don’t know where this all leads. Yes, I mean the house, but also the country. We’re in the s—- now. Hopefully there is a way out.

Mona Charen is policy writer for A union columnist since 1987, she worked in the White House under President Reagan and at the National Review. His books include “The Benefactors: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim To Help – And The Rest of Us.”

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