I am maintaining a journal every night. More often than not, I catalogue what we eat and who we talk to. Small things accomplished etc. Sometimes the entries are more focused! My handwriting has gone down the tubes, but it is nice to write with my hand regularly.
Here is the entry April 8th 2020
The 7pm clap and cheers outside for the essential workers was the loudest one yet. It felt like a crowd. We were talking with my Dad on the video chat when we heard the noise outside. We ran to the window with bells and pan lids. To hear the normally quiet surrounding landscape erupt for a few minutes as the sun hangs low in the sky is like a ray of sunshine bursting through the clouds. Joyous. Euphoric.
I turned back to the screen to see my father clapping with us from his isolated outpost in Connecticut. Something about that pulled me out of my momentary rapture. I shrugged at my Dad and said “What a dystopian moment eh?” as the applause died down.
We are animals in cages, caught in Groundhog Day loops, but without Bill Murray.We are ecstatic to hear others out there like us. We connect with loved ones through the veins of multi-billion dollar data harvesting companies, configured to use ourselves against, literally, ourselves for profit. We are nervous beneath the laughs. We shake our heads in disbelief.
There in the smooth black glass of the computer screen is an image of my father, the man who I turned to to fix things in one way or another most of my life, the man who fought like hell to provide us a foundation the first time I felt the world crumble beneath me when my mother died. That aftermath was dystopian too, and then normal. I caught a scent of that time through his image and became crestfallen. This is the future now. What have we done? What can we do?
We extended our palms toward the camera for virtual high fives. We concluded with a mutual “let’s do this again” instead of the usual vague “talk to you soon.”
How did we get here?
This virus is an existential threat to many of us, but not most. Disturbing yet obvious race and class disparities are emerging in case and death statistics. Friends unsuccessfully call the unemployment offices hundreds of times per day. Refrigerated trucks are being outfitted to store bodies. Public parks are hosting field hospitals and plans for temporary internments. There were more NYC deaths in the last few days than the World Trace Center attack. How is this America?How is corona’s impact not political?
A New England Journal of Medicine article from March 23rd states
“epidemics put pressure on the societies they strike. This strain makes visible latent structures that might not otherwise be evident. As a result, epidemics provide a sampling device for social analysis. They reveal what really matters to a population and who they truly value.”
We have already felt increasing pressure in the US over the last decade and I am worried how this epidemic may answer this question. It is disheartening to wonder how much more pressure the US can take. Bernie Sanders dropped out of the presidential race today, and many who supported him believe he was uniquely suited to relieve some of that pressure. This future is uncertain.
The epidemic will eventually resolve.
So far our immediate circles are fairing reasonably well. There have been a handful of illnesses and an increasing number of deaths 1 or 2 degrees removed. We are lucky. We are able to stay home for long stretches.
The fractures in our society will remain but we can and will remake things, hopefully for the better, when we emerge. It starts with things like the 7pm cheers.
Tonight we participated in a collective, self organized action, creating meaning with hundreds of neighbors in the community we never met. For those few minutes, it really felt like everything is going to be ok.