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The Wisdom in Gavin’s Dinner and Nancy’s Salon
How Governor Newsom's hypocrisy gives us wisdom about COVID-19
The Sacramento Bee had a wokey-woke conniption over Governor Gavin Newsom’s recent dinner with his wife and a number of friends. What, pray tell, would cause such concern at Sacramento’s august paper of record?
It went against the very restrictions the governor has been pushing for Thanksgiving and the holidays. Many in attendance, in close quarters.
It was $350 a plate, at the Michelin-rated restaurant “French Laundry”, when many folks are suffering, economically. Let them eat cake, yo!
It was for a high-powered lobbyist, Newsom’s friend, for his birthday.
This lobbyist was on Newsom’s transition team, but now works for the fracking industry, and despite Newsom’s claims of being enviro-dope-lit, this friend’s corporations got approval to rob the earth of its gaseous plenty.
The lobbyist’s wife is Newsom’s wife’s hairstylist.
And on top of it all, the main dish was called noodles a la hypocrisie.
Ok, I made that last one up. Only the last one.
In view of this delicious spread of double and triple standards, cooked to Michelin-star perfection, the Bee barks: “Gavin Newsom’s hypocritical French Laundry fiasco harms California’s COVID-19 efforts.”
Skin in the Game
I disagree, Bee. Gov Gav and his aunt Nancy have done us all a favor. He in his restaurant, and she in her hair salon, have shown us true wisdom. I never thought I would say that, but hey, it’s 2020.
Now, before you flog me for speaking in disrespectful tones of our governing authorities, remember that derisive humor is often employed in the Bible, to point out when the emperor has no clothes. Think Elijah and the prophets of Baal - “Maybe your god went to the bathroom?!”
And remember that Representative Nancy Pelosi and Governor Gavin Newsom are more than governing authorities. They are humans, living in the same morass of fear and panic as you and me. They’re a family - he’s her nephew. They eat ice cream. They send their kids to school. They own businesses - just trying to make a living, man. And they’ve chosen to do all that in public.
So it is good and right for us to observe, and make conclusions. And sometimes, those conclusions are best served with a side of twice-baked, lightly-seasoned le sarcasme.
Thus let us return to the Gov’s French Fiasco. What wisdom do we find there, among the haute cuisine and the joie de vivre?
Simply this: watch what those with deep knowledge of a situation DO, when their skin is in the game, not what they say.
While Nassim Taleb argues this principle in his delightful book, “Skin in the Game”, the Christian church has been following this wisdom for a long time. When we choose our leaders - “elders” or “deacons” - we don’t listen to what they say with their words as much as we consider their life, up to that point (1 Tim. 3:1-13). We watch the game they play, when their skin is in the game - in their family, at work, when no one’s looking, more than the game they talk. It’s simple really.
So let’s go back to that idyllic scene, at French Laundry, or the moments when dear Nancy was caught on tape getting her hair done. Let’s dispense with the hypocrisy. That’s not the point anymore. Let’s just ask ourselves, when their skin was in the game, what did they do?
Watch and Learn
Governor Newsom, with all his knowledge of COVID (“SCIENCE!”), chose to still live his life with his closest friends. I’m sure some wise precautions were taken that evening. I’m sure there was plenty of social distancing. And it would seem that all present were very confident in our medical system, to care for them well, should that bug jump the foie gras. When his good friend’s birthday came along, Mr. Newsom still gathered, with those he cares for and does business with.
And let us, like Dicken’s Scrooge, float like a Christmas ghost back to Aunt Nancy’s hair salon. What do we see? We see a woman who’s making her living. She’s probably stressed - she’s going to be on TV in a few hours. So what does she do? She breaks the rules, that she clearly knows, in order to do her job. She is careful - we see social distancing clearly being observed. Though no mask - after all, we’re just moving from this room to that one. Mrs. Pelosi is doing business with another vendor who is clearly essential to doing her “essential” business.
I know it’s hard, but again, let the waiter take the side of le hypocrisie from the table, and just take in these scenes. A few observations I see:
They don't believe in the snake oil they're selling. The stock of "Quarantined & Bankrupt Inc." is nowhere to be found in their portfolios.
All businesses are essential, because they support other businesses, which support others. I note that Netflix is based in California, and it still gets to my TV. This, by the way, is a Christian principle. God wears all good workers as His mask, to push good into the world.
These two citizens freely made informed assessments, about the risks, for themselves and others, and they acted on those assessments. When their skin was in the game, what was best, in their estimation, was not following a government edict, made far away from the situation on the ground. What was best was taking measured risk, while following measured precautions.
And they still lived their lives. In both cases, there was something better, more valuable to them than simply being locked down.
Wisdom of Our Dear Leaders
There’s wisdom here. Our dear leaders have not harmed our COVID efforts. Not at all, Bee. They have advanced them. In the restaurant and the salon, Gav and Nan have shown us the things that the lockdowns inhumanely take away from us:
A delightful meal, with friends - the thing that Ecclesiastes says is one of the chief joys of our brief lives.
Providing for our families - something the Bible commands us to do.
Exercising wisdom and agency - the biblical term is “exercising dominion” - in the face of threats, which are always there, in this fallen world.
These are things worth living for. Dear reader, the next time you read of a church or a Christian bucking the COVID protocols, consider that that person is not primarily against the government. Not at all. They’re forother things. Which, because of the government’s intrusion into our lives, naturally, impossibly puts them at odds with the decisions made by bureaucrats, far away from that situation.
That distance - between the soil we walk in life, and the desks of protocol writers in the governor’s office and the departments of public health - that’s the most inhumane feature of our moment. That distance removes decision-makers from the real consequences layered upon real people, right now. It is impossible to be human right now, and at the same time to follow the government’s protocols.
Governor Newsom’s dinner, and Representative Pelosi’s hair salon show us a better way. It’s time to for all of us to have the freedom to wisely follow what they do, when their skin is in the game.