I have heard the remark that writing is like opening your veins, well I don’t know about that, but it is like taking off all your clothes and standing in front of an audience. The audience might be kind or not. Recently I put up a vulnerable post online and had someone I barely know tell me I was embarrassing myself. The way it was said was essentially disapproving. Not someone evidently who liked vulnerability.
In my country we value control, not quite the British “stiff upper lip” but damned close. We want to believe our flaws are invisible and that we will beat death. Well, folks we are not going to beat death and we are all standing butt naked in front of an audience.
This time the audience is the world. Someone quipped today in my earshot that the world is laughing at the United States. I don’t really know that this is true, there are some who are kind, like the waiter in Colombia this fall who leaned over and said conspiratorially, “I am so sorry for your problems.” He was referring to the current president and administration and folks you know it is bad when the waiter in Colombia, a country with no shortage of past grief, feels sorry for you.
Today, listening to a podcast, a well-known pediatrician and public health activist, Dr. Irwin Redlener, stated that at the rate the United States is going we are now having a full Wuhan every day. He went on to say that we are likely passed being able to control the contagion of Covid-19. He also went on to say that we will have up to a million deaths in this country that so prides itself on invulnerability and control.
I pulled my car over and cried. Then I sent the podcast to several friends. It was calling out into the void. For what purpose I am not certain. As I learn more about this train wreck, I must do a mental triage in my mind about who I tell. Who is not so fragile that numbers like this will harm them, who is not in denial, and who can hear.
We have become immune to the numbers. We have become blasé about the deaths. We are totally out of control.
Covid-19 as I have earlier stated, has given me benefits. It has woken me from sleep. It has tweaked the urgency in my life and clarified what is most important to me. It has also, like a tsunami that has left the shore, exposed every ugly detail of the world I live in. It has made obvious the things that simply do not work. For those who are looking at what has been left behind, it has rendered all visible.
Marriages are floundering that might have held together longer, children are not sure who to seek comfort from and for those who have patched over what is missing in their lives, Covid has exposed the hidden.
While people flock to the bars and Disneyland doing the best they can to deny and ignore, I watch wondering just how bad it will get. Today I think I found out. A million dead. All those people will die without friends and family near, many will never have the rituals of death and public mourning done in their honor and people go to Disneyland.
I understand wanting to go to Disneyland. Of all the times in my life when I have craved escape this has to be right up there. This is not something I judge, as the good doctor said, we are passed the point of being able to even slow this down. So, it is kind of like those old disaster movies when the public finds out the planet is doomed and simply dances on the rooftops drinking champagne. I get it.
So, I sat in my car and cried. I realized that I feel what has been called ‘Covid Grief.’ A tremendous loneliness that my country is dying and there is so little I can do about it, that I see the tsunami coming and no matter how much I yell, I will not be able to stop it. It is a kind of in advance post traumatic stress. It is strange to experience utter powerlessness in a culture that has so worshipped control.
It might be easier to be in Portland or Guam where a majority are at least wearing masks, are at least aware that there is some risk. In my area, few wear masks and many believe that Covid is no big deal.
In addition, there is a parallel disaster on its way. Many do not see the risk that our current administration poses to our country. It is a dual threat, as the disease mows down the physically vulnerable the administration careens, deliberately toward tyranny. My good friend says that all civilizations fall and that this is simply the falling but I remember, clearly, what happened to the people who did not get out of Germany early enough. I am starting to think of this more and more.
Europe has closed their borders to us, and who can blame them? For people that do not understand that our current political situation is most aptly mirrored by many former totalitarian states, or people who have never left this country and believe we have the best of everything, they simply don’t care who closes what border. The gates are coming down and they are content to ignore this. The wall is being built to keep us in, and they don’t care.
When I was in Mexico several months ago, I saw a t-shirt that read, “You are on the safe side of the wall.” I believed it. I am not saying that the politicians in Mexico are not corrupt, they certainly are, but somehow it is easier to live with corruption that is not in your country. As an outsider you can shrug it off more easily, I think. I will admit I can. This may be naïve and insensitive but there is something beyond sad to watch the country I have lived in for many years fall victim to its hubris.
When I was nine months old my mother and grandmother fled to Canada. My aunt had been accused of being a Communist by her ex husband during the McCarthy Era. He was attempting to use this accusation to assume full custody of their children. It worked and six months later she was dead, ostensibly of polio, but my mother and grandmother always believed it was grief that killed her. I don’t disagree. Was she a Communist? I doubt it. But does it really matter? Would this have made her a horrible mother? I doubt it. As a teenager she had attended a meeting of “The Worker’s Party.” I am not even sure they were Communists and she was a sixteen-year-old girl. She still died and McCarthy gained another scalp. My mother was afraid she might lose me, so she left.
We are heading into the same situation now, only in the heart of a pandemic, which makes it all the more volatile. As people become fearful as the pandemic worsens, they become more malleable. Fear is a tremendous tool in the hands of the unscrupulous. Watch it unfold. We are going to witness an amazing and terrifying phenomenon. The unmaking of the world as we once knew it.
Now I suppose none of this is big news to anyone who is not white. They have been living in a dictatorship forever, but I have not. I have been living with rose colored glasses hoping my darkest fears would never come true, even though I suspected they might. I am sad none the less. I sense how difficult this journey to stay or leave might be. My bags are not yet packed but I am alert, paying attention to any change. Incidentally, many of the same people who engineered the McCarthy witch hunts, are behind Trump’s rise to power. Roy Cohn for one, and the recently pardoned from his prison term, Roger Stone. Trump learned from some of the best. His bedtime reading was Hitler’s speeches. If this doesn’t raise goose bumps on the back of your neck you are not paying attention to history.
I am paying attention. I am afraid but I will use that fear to figure the way out. I am not sure what my game plan is and I trust I will figure it out. I wish I could change the direction we are going both with tyranny and Covid, and this is why I write.
It is time to act.