The pandemic may have stripped away some common courtesies, but there was already plenty of meanness in the halls of power

I saw something in the news that said Dallas has reached “herd immunity” as far as COVID-19 is concerned.

Personally, I have a feeling that we aren’t done — not by a long shot. The worst may be over, though, as far as the actual disease is concerned.

But it’s the “side effects” that have me concerned. There is abundant evidence that points to isolating a large percentage of our population being detrimental to our collective mental health.

We used to be social beings with a sense of connection to those we work with and to the cities we live in. But now, there seems to be an odd selfishness and disconnect from the world around us.

This past week, I was returning home from lunch, driving down Mockingbird Lane, when a woman in an SUV decided she could ignore Pauli’s Exclusion Principle (You know: No two electrons in an atom can have identical quantum numbers). I lacked the same faith, so I hit the brakes, and I hit the horn. She did not even wave.

We seem to have lost our humanity. This is but one example of numerous daily occurrences. Look, I get it. I experienced it just like you did. I worked from home for the past 15-16 months. I took the health department’s warnings seriously. I almost never left the house. If we needed groceries, we either had them delivered or we masked up to go get them. Business was done via Zoom.

And I guess it’s too much to ask for everyone to snap back to smiling and waving at one another, holding doors and — God forbid — actually talking to one another. But there is more to it than that.

Perhaps this pandemic has not been so much a cause of the social breakdown as it has been a broom that swept away the façade to reveal that which was already crumbling after four really divisive years with a president who listened closer to TV talk hosts than to scientists.

The former guy’s administration bungled the pandemic response in every way possible, costing thousands of lives.

Yet the man remains inexplicably popular with his base.

Meanwhile, here in Texas … .

In February, we saw a freak cold snap that the weather forecasters all predicted but that ErCOT missed. Dozens of people died! Countless others lost power and had their pipes freeze and then break and flood their homes when the power came back and the temperatures rose above freezing. The result was BILLIONS of dollars in property damage.

We found out later that we came within four minutes and 37 seconds of our electric grid collapsing completely!

That’s less than five minutes away from finding what life was really like when they built the Alamo!

When this catastrophe happened, Gov. Greg Abbott said, “Tragic does not even begin to describe the suffering Texans endured.”

That was in February.

In July, Abbott showed exactly how much he cares about the average Texan. How much is he truly bothered by our “indescribable suffering?” Not very much, as it turns out.

The issue of fixing the grid was not solved during the regular legislative session. But that’s OK, because, fortunately, Gov. Abbott can — and did — call a special legislative session. He alone sets the agenda for the special session, so surely the deaths, suffering and property damage done by the winter storm and the imminent collapse of the electric grid will be addressed during special session, right?

No. It won’t.

Because addressing the subpar electric grid isn’t on Abbott’s special session agenda. But keeping trans girls from joining the volleyball team in high school is.

No, seriously. The issue of keeping transgender girls from playing high school sports is among his legislative priorities! Really? Really!

Abbot is using fear to demonize a small group of already marginalized children. Where is the humanity? Where is compassion? Where are the careful stewards of our tax dollars?

Instead of reassuring Texans that they will be able to cool their homes in our ever-warming summers and to provide life-saving warmth when our winter temperatures fall to dangerous levels, Abbott found his sacrificial lamb in the form of transgender children.

I just don’t get it. Transgender kids playing sports isn’t a problem — anywhere. The governing body of Texas scholastic sports, the UIL, already prohibits participation by trans kids. Why rub it in?

Here is the deal: There are 29 million people in the state of Texas. We are not expendable zombies. We are your neighbors and friends. Teachers and students. Police, firefighters, medical professionals and food service workers.

We are mothers and fathers, friends and neighbors, some elderly, some young.

It would be nice to look to Austin and see people working to bring equality to all Texans, to see leaders who care about our health and safety rather than a bunch of petty, vindictive, partisan hand puppets using fear to manipulate people. After all, “governor” isn’t something you are, it’s something you DO.

So yeah, the pandemic quarantine was hard to endure, and, yes, it has had its impact. But I think the meanness we’re seeing in Austin has been going on much longer.