Like everyone else I am having trouble thinking about anything other than the coronavirus pandemic and the shockwaves it has sent, and will continue to send, through the system. As it began to unfold I found myself thinking, talking, and posting about it fairly constantly. In an effort to try to keep it confined to a given time and place, both physically and psychologically, I am keeping a diary of it all.
April 15: A hundred or two angry people stormed the Ohio Statehouse today, lambasting Ohio’s governor and health department for their “unconstitutional tyranny,” while baselessly claiming that Trump has the full and unfettered power to overrule them and “re-open” the states, whatever that means right now. They are calling themselves “patriots who love and respect our liberties and the Constitution are sick and tired of the fear-mongering.”
But they’re all so very afraid. Afraid to live in a world that, for one moment, requires them to think of anyone else but themselves or of the greater good. Afraid to live with any sort of deprivation, even if it means the difference between life and death.
They’re not just afraid. They’re unhinged. If you want any more evidence of that, just look at this photo of them that accompanies the article, taken by Columbus Dispatch photographer Joshua A. Bickel, who probably deserves a Pulitzer Prize:
Unhinged in deed and word. Here’s the account of the man leading the chants of the protesters:
“Don’t Mike DeWine supposed to be a Republican (sic)? Don’t he believe in less government? Small government?” [Kevin] Farmer said. “He has an obligated right to get us back to work, because if not, what do you think Americans are gonna go through?” Farmer also led the demonstrators in a series of “When I say tyrant, you say Mike DeWine” chants, among others.
This is happening in Michigan too, where protesters — who filled up streets and blocked ambulances — are not offering vague appeals to concepts just as “patriotism” and “liberty.” They’re just coming right out and saying that they’re angry they can’t do things like buy lawn fertilizer and get their hair done:
These people want to put essential workers’ lives at risk because they can’t stand to go any longer without buying paint and getting their hair done.
— Dr. John Biggan (@Biggan4Congress) April 15, 2020
This is all terrible. It’s terrible for everyone. But it’s far more terrible for people who are sick, who are dying, or who are having to bury their loved ones who died needlessly because our leaders did not do what was necessary to head this pandemic off when they had the chance. It’s more terrible for those who will get sick and who will die needlessly if we back off of protective measures too soon. Certainly more terrible for them than for a guy who is worried about a little early May crabgrass or a woman whose gray roots are showing, that’s for damn sure.
I see all of this and I wonder what happened to my country. What happened to the nation that, I was so often told when I was growing up, was made of strong stuff. A nation that weathered wars and a depression and before that took on a wild and unforgiving frontier and before that braved an open ocean and then starvation to establish itself in the first place. I know there was a healthy dose of myth making in all of that, but was it all myth making? Does even a shred of that which, allegedly anyway, made us a strong people and which in turn made us a strong country still exist? Did it ever actually exist?
Because based on what I’m seeing, some of the weakest people alive walk among us. And are the most vocal among us.
But just some of us. Some of us are doing more. One of them is a very old friend of mine, Prabal Dutta, an engineering professor at U.C. Berkeley, who is working on developing a cost-effective powered air-purified respirator that will offer protection to doctors and nurses and other medical personnel during high risk procedures. Think a better, cheaper, and reusable N95 mask at a time when protective equipment for medical workers is becoming increasingly hard to obtain.
I have another friend who works for technology company that is working on tools that will help public health officials trace infection vectors. I have a couple of friends who are doctors and nurses. I have a good friend who is the produce manager for multiple locations of a national supermarket chain and God knows how important we have all realized the food supply lines are. My son, as I’ve mentioned, is making pizzas for people which, for as much as we might take that for granted, is something valuable in this messed up time.
Meanwhile, today I wrote about how a baseball player decided not to shave 48 years ago. I was particularly proud that I thought to use the term “snot mop” when I had used the word “mustache” too many times in a single paragraph.
I mentioned this disconnect to one of my friends who is doing something useful, and he said “entertainment is a valuable good for humans at all times, especially times like these.”
I’ll take it. But really, if things get dire, please sacrifice me and save one of my many far more useful friends. Society will be better for it.
This weekend is the off-weekend for me with the kids which means that today is the Wednesday I drop them at their mother’s and don’t see them until Monday. I’m still not used to it — as I mentioned before, this is really the first time since my now very long ago divorce that I routinely go five full days without seeing them — but I dropped Carlo at work and then took Anna to her mom’s because that’s just what we do now. From there I got some carryout, came home and we ate dinner.
After dinner we did a thing we sometimes do: hopped on a real estate site and looked at houses in places where we may conceivably move one day after the kids go away to college. At least if I’m still working a job, like I am now, where I can live basically anywhere. I moved to Ohio for reasons that are now decades old and now moot, Allison moved to Ohio to be with me, but once the kids are done with high school, there really is nothing keeping us here, so we think about the future sometimes.
Normally it’s an activity I enjoy. I like thinking about potential futures for us. I like imagining what life might be like in the Carolinas or Kentucky. Or, if some good fortune comes our way in the next couple of years, someplace that is less affordable at the moment like California or Virginia. The idea is to be live someplace warmer than Ohio is but not so hot and muggy that my thick blood can’t hack it. The idea is also to be someplace where Allison can keep and ride her horse that makes sense for both her and her horse and the things they want to do.
It wasn’t all that enjoyable tonight, though, and I can’t really put my finger on why that is specifically. It had nothing to do with the idea of Allison’s and my future together, the specific places we looked at, or the houses we saw. I think it just had to do with the concept of the future itself. Given all that is happening right now, it’s hard to imagine at the moment. It’s hard to make educated guesses of how things may be.
Maybe it won’t be a bad future. Maybe it will even be a better future than I can even conceive of right now, made better by the lessons we learn and the things we find within ourselves in order to get through this awful time. Maybe we emerge a better, stronger people by virtue of the current adversity. But even if that’s the case, I don’t know what that looks like yet, and even a cautiously optimistic glimpse into an unknown future is a hard glimpse to take.
And if that’s not the case? If things get worse than my gut is telling me it might right now? Well, I don’t know what that looks like either. If things go even more sideways, it’s easier to imagine bad things than it is to imagine sending the kids off to college, packing up our cats, Allison’s horse and our stuff and moving to a modest but tidy little cottage in the countryside someplace. My God, it’s hard to see anything past next week.
(Featured image: City of the Future, by Pete Linforth)