Here’s what reading the news is like these days:
- I take a cursory glance at some headlines
- I clutch my sides in agony
- My retinas begin to bleed
- The demonic gibberish starts
- The shrieking and gnashing of teeth follows promptly
- I grab the stainless steel potato masher
- I climb to the rooftop
- I beckon Yahweh to send the lightning
I mean, things are fucked. That said, the news comes so fast and furious that the quality of its delivery has massively deteriorated. Gone are the days of proofreading, fact checking, and basic lede orientation. People are just climbing to the top of antenna towers and screaming. When Anderson Cooper does a spit-take live on air with the mayor of Las Vegas, you’re gonna spend more time sifting through bullshit than smoking on facts.
I recently asked my granny what it was like living through the polio outbreak. “Oh my GOD,” she replied. “I had four kids. I had to work. I don’t even remember the 50s, let alone polio. I was so busy. I didn’t even have time to eat. Eventually we all went to the doctor and got our shots. That was polio.”
Granted, she’s a little prone to theatrics, but it tracks. You get so busy focusing on daily survival that you don’t have time to sit down and take notes for future archeologists. You’re just sailing from island to island, yelling to the natives on shore to see if they have any relevant news or edible potatoes, and then getting back in your boat and fighting on toward the edge of the world.
I’ve spent so much time researching this pandemic that I’ve had to put myself on a diet from consuming media about the virus. If you could contract COVID 19 from rolling around in its raw data, I’d be Typhoid Mary right about now. I find myself resigned to concur with the minds of our time who anticipate this to be a process of years, not weeks or months. Logically it’s only probable: the fastest we’ve ever developed a vaccine is four years; there is no coordination of American public health, nor are there adequate resources to maintain it; and radical political action and systemic reform are essential in the U.S.—far more than just voting Trump out can accomplish—to meaningfully sustain our society and repair our economy.
The reality is that blocking my news apps for a few days might be a nice breather for my brain, but ultimately, I need to summon a greater, and different, fortitude to truly endure these weird times.
The reality is that you and I will likely get this virus eventually, as will almost everyone that we know.
Given that many carriers can be asymptomatic and I was working in a busy corner of the service industry until six weeks ago, I may have already had it (that’s doubtful). But eventually, like encountering an adult of a certain generation who never got chickenpox, knowing somebody who hasn’t had it will be the anomaly.
Staying home is simply the vital (and practically only) thing to do right now because it will help ensure that when each of us has our turn, we can get the care we need without being left on the steps of an overcrowded system. Staying home dams the inevitable to a more manageable tide, but ultimately it cannot stop the flood.
I need to accept, and maybe you’ve been able to do this already, that some things are done for a long time, some things are done forever, and yesterday, today, and tomorrow, bad people are going to do everything they can to capitalize on the misery. As somebody who’s been to the edge a few times before, I can assure you that there is no value in sugarcoating reality. Things fall apart all the time. If you want to live through it, you need to know what Things Falling Apart looks like. That’s probably why I’ve never thrown away the photos the surgeon took of my tumor. I don’t look at them with any regularity, but having the evidence on hand that nothing is certain is the best way to redirect my mind when I find myself taking all this for granted.
The future is complicated and troubling, predicated as it is on today’s faulty systems and poisonous practices. Many, many things have to change if we’d like to see a better world on the other side of this event. Not all of them will. And not all of those changes that must be made are going to be up to everyday people like you and I. There will be many times, like now, where we will be at the mercy of decisions made by people in charge, some of whom will have their own harmful agendas.
I sarcastically dubbed this site a “blog for the end times” back when I thought global warming was the real turd in the punchbowl, and that still may work out to be the case. I don’t know that these are truly the end times, not these specific times we’re in right now. Hell, they might be. I do know that they are the first signs of human life moving in a radically new direction, and that many people are digging their heels in and insisting that this is all just another flu because anything else is too much to fucking face. That’s natural. We need to give each other a lot of grace in that department.
For me, today, my main project is grieving this reality for what it is. Grieving that some things are done for a long time and some things are done forever. Grieving the loss of life. Grieving the loss of stability, the loss of certainty. Grieving the callousness and the capitalism.
Only when we see this for what it is can we let go of it, and start to imagine what yet might be. But you can’t carry both things in your mind at the same time.
Or at least, I can’t.
I’m sad for today. But I still believe in the future. I’ve been surprised before. And I hope to be again.
No mud, no lotus, dudes.