Karen: “Stop, In the Name of the Pandemic”

Reader’s note: You may find this post to have more than its share of sarcasm. Blame it on quarantine.

If you follow the news, the most notorious “Karen” who has emerged since the start of the national and statewide lock downs and quarantines has been Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who signed a pandemic-related executive order that bans among other things: the sale of nonessential goods that include clothing, gardening seeds and car seats.

You can go into a big box store in her state, one of the few stores allowed to be open, and find yellow ‘crime scene’ tape, blocking off the items she doesn’t want to give you access to. It doesn’t stop there. She’s prohibited you from driving to property you own, to family, and of course to public parks and other outdoor locations.

She’ll let you hop into a sail boat or a canoe, but don’t try to use that outboard motor. For some reason, that’s more of a risk to spreading a virus than huge canvas sails.

And while, she won’t let you buy tomato seeds to start in your kitchen, she will still let you buy liquor. You’re gonna need it. Of course, she will still let you buy lottery tickets, which not surprisingly, generate revenue for the state.

But, she’s not done yet. She’s also banned advertising. That’s right, advertising. Her executive order states:

“By April 13, 2020, refrain from the advertising or promotion of goods that are not groceries, medical supplies, or items that are necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation, and basic operation of residences.”

Somehow, the logic is that if you see an ad, you will be compelled to violate every other Whitmer dictate and run out to buy goods that are not groceries, medical supplies or something else that she does not sanction.

This is an exercise in absolute control that I haven’t seen any elected official exert on American soil in my lifetime. But this blog post is not about governing, it’s about Karen.

“Who’s Karen?”, you say.

The common name, “Karen” is now increasingly used in pop culture as a pejorative. Aja Ramono of Vox describes it this way, “Karen has a ‘can I speak to the manager’ haircut and a controlling, superior attitude to go with it.”

If you’ve spent any time on Twitter since the quarantine started, you’ve no doubt seen posts from some of the “Karens” of the world. I have to admit, I didn’t know this myself until last week when one Twitter poster named Mandy pointed it out in a very entertaining back-and-forth with someone named Jen who Mandy kept calling, “Karen.”

“What am I missing?”, I thought. So, I looked it up and a lot of this started to make sense.

In this new world where we surrender our freedoms so easily, there’s a new boss on the block and she goes by the name of “Karen.” Let me be clear. I didn’t pick the name or the gender. I’m sure there are both male and female “Karens.” But for the sake of editorial style and consistency here, we’ll match our pronouns with the name.

If you’re walking your dog and get closer than six feet to your neighbor in a casual conversation, Karen will point it out to you, all in the name of saving lives, of course.

If you use your legally approved fire pit in your own back yard, Karen may report you to the township authorities. (Not kidding. This is happening in at least one Pennsylvania municipality.) What I don’t get is how fire pits can be acceptable before and after a pandemic, but now because of a virus, fire pits used privately, legally and responsibly warrant a call to the police.

And then of course, there is the real crime, which is the choice many are making and that is to be optimistic. I believe in many cases you can choose to be optimistic in the face of any real or perceived challenge you face. But that’s just me, not Karen.

If you decide to focus on the good. If you decide to see progress being made against the virus. If you post online about the need to get our economy back up and running, Karen will be there to tell you that you’re a part of the problem. That you don’t care. That you don’t take this virus seriously. That the entire crisis will last longer because you’re not as miserable as she is, even if you do follow the CDC guidelines to the letter.

And as sure as the sun will come up tomorrow (if Karen lets it), Karen will be there to tell you about it.

This is the era of Karen. Let’s hope it passes quickly.


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