I see a German mother I haven’t seen since before lockdown at the playground near our supermarket. We stand two metres apart, but we don’t really force the kids to socially distance. The thing about my boy is, my tiny toddler, he’s so little, he kind of socially distances anyway. He is more interested in dogs than people and he doesn’t really play WITH other kids, just alongside them. Every now and then they argue about a spade and sometimes swap them. I wince. I don’t tell him off. I just wince. What would Dr Drosten say, what does Dr Drosten say, what did Dr Drosten say? I used to want to be married to a Kinderarzt or a Hausmeister, now I want to be married to Dr Drosten and text him all day long to check if I should be doing or not doing whatever it is I am doing. I feel like this is okay, because my boy, my tiny toddler, isn’t back at kita yet? I think that’s what he’d say, if he were my husband, and I was texting him at work. I remember how much I hated him at first, because he said that about the Bier im Freien, and loads of smug Germans quoted him and thought he thought they shouldn’t care about Corona. Back then I used to think: if their parents die, they’ll change their tune.
But now I realize that for a huge number of people there will never be enough death to make them change their tune. Certain people will never change their tunes. Certain people ARE their tunes. If they changed their tune, they’d stop existing. They’d disintegrate into the air.
The German mum says: I am going to organize a Kids Lives Matter demo.
I look at her: Are you? I ask.
She says: A socially distanced demo! I nod, and watch Baby Leo, pretending to be a pirate.
I think about the black people in the States, more likely to die from covid, more likely to die from police brutality. I think about the changes these Black Lives Matter demos have already inspired. About the statue in Bristol, about the way the cops who killed George Floyd are literally in prison now, and they wouldn’t have been, otherwise. I think about Mark Duggan, how he looked like someone I knew, not specifically, but generally. And I think about how the chances of higher new infection rate might be worth the change in consciousness that is happening now, all around the world, inside people’s heads. And I worry that this isn’t true, I even worry that maybe, on some level, the desire to send black and brown people off on these demonstrations is a subconscious perverse desire to see them die? And my brain twists and turns in my skull like an evil worm digging for food.
Oh, I say to the German mother.
It’s against their human rights! She says. My son only has 90 minutes of school a day.
The school year’s almost over, isn’t it, I reply, vaguely.
This is about their human rights! She says angrily.
Do kids have human rights? I say.
What a question! She says.
I say, slowly: I think if kids had human rights, school would be cancelled forever? Surely?
Well, she says, of course not every child prefers school. But hwat about extracurricular activities? the gyms are open, but the kinderkarate is still closed! It’s discrimination.
I don’t know, I say. It’s kind of discrimination, maybe, but also we don’t let kids drink, do we? And they’re a bit shit at social distancing. And also, you know. It’s not like they signed themselves up for karate or anything.
So, you know, I think I definitely underestimated the psychological impact lockdown would have, back in March. The rapes, the violence, the hatred. All that black tar inside our hearts, ready to explode, and then bubble, trickle out of our mouths. But German people’s addiction to their Alltag still kind of disgusts me, to be honest. I worry about the Black Lives Matter demos – but how can you possibly think yoga or karate or gym visits are more important than black people’s lives? I feel contempt for these people, and I mean this in the nicest possible way, nothing but contempt for people whose lives are so meaningless and imaginations so stunted that while half the world chokes to death under a nazi policeman’s boot or suffocates to death on a ventilator, they want to go out and fight, literally fight, for Kinderkarate. buy your kid a Kung Fu Panda DVD and shut the fuck up.