Pandemic Journal, Entry 7: America Has No More F***s to Give

It’s safe to say that everyone in America was watching television that day. The date: Sunday February 7, 2021. The time: Roughly 7:09 am GMT. We all were waiting for a milestone to pass. But this was no celebration – you’ll understand why in a moment. It was a countdown and a tacit admission that the “new normal” wasn’t working out so well. We were waiting for the last bit of empathy, concern, or sense of care to take wings and depart this once-great nation. We were waiting for the moment when there were no – zero, nada – f***s to give.

During the early days we were well stocked on f***s. You could say there was a f***ing surplus. Neighbors were reaching out to neighbors to offer help in all forms. We ordered take out from restaurants we loved in the hope that they would make it through to the other side. Kids and dogs were part of every Zoom meeting, and we chatted about life under lockdown and watched one another closely for signs of distress. We shrugged off bad haircuts and videos of grandparents on TikTok. Even at a distance from one another, many could feel a warm embrace.

Early signs of a weakening f***s index were subtle. An eye roll when none was warranted; deliberately forgetting to add a spouse’s favorite condiment to an Instacart order; insisting that a child’s cry hadn’t been heard. We ignored these signs and chose to believe that everything was okay.

The first visible crack in the facade reverberated across the public consciousness like a sonic boom. Alex Trebek was listening to a Jeopardy contestant describe her passion for nerd-core rap. He raised a finger to quiet her, placed his microphone on the ground, turned and left the studio never to be seen again. The seriousness of this episode became even more evident when a Gallup poll found that 83% of Americans couldn’t care less where he went, and 96% were completely indifferent to the idea of him returning to the show.

Alarmed, the few Americans who still gave a f***k tried to mobilize, but disinterest and a lack of leadership prevented immediate, effective action. Federal and state governments argued over who gave less of a f***k, while apathy quickly spread across urban and rural communities. Congress proposed legislation to make Ben Folds’ “The Battle of Who Could Care Less” the new national anthem, but none of its members could be troubled to show up to vote.

The president, still flailing after asymptomatic apathy had delivered him a second unwanted term, proposed a National F***s Reserve. The one reporter still attending daily press conferences, an intern with OANN, stuck out her tongue, quipped, “As if,” and chucked a shoe at him.

The Secret Service, slowly drained of f***s for more than four years, was nowhere to be seen.

So, there we sat, watching the National F***s Index rapidly move toward zero. At least, that’s what we thought was happening since the artist who was hired to design the NFI graphic really didn’t give a f***k and couldn’t be bothered to think about clarity or legibility. The NFI graphic looked like a squirrel that had been squashed by a bowling ball.

The program host, who didn’t give a f***k about sobriety or manners, gazed at the NFI, glanced over at the camera, sighed and offered a dismissive wave.

The screen went dark.

Americans breathed deep and…who am I kidding? It had been a long time since any of them gave a f**k.