A week ago Friday , about fifteen minutes after news broke of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death, I was walking up and over the hill connecting my suburban neighborhood with the next one over where a friend lived. As a forty-something, flabby, puffy-eyed white woman with a four-pack of Guinness (medicinal, obvs) under an arm trying to navigate my way between streetlamps without using up the last 4% of battery life on my phone, I realized I did not cut a particularly dashing figure. I always imagined myself, at moments of great import, at least appearing more together.
“But history,” I said, to the bats and deer skulking up at the corner of Pathway and Spring Valley, and whatever neighbors lurked silently in the shadows. “History will not wait for you to look cool.”
I felt stupid for thinking it, even worse for saying it aloud, because these are serious, heart-breaking, panicky times. But because these are such serious, heart breaking, panicky times, anything else sounded cheap or obvious. I’ve been riffing on “the situation sucks I hate that we’re here and oh shit, what if we don’t get out” more or less constantly since March, and with regularity since at least 2016. I am tired of saying it. As a woman, like all women (even Conservative Christian women, who have spent their lifetimes trying to convince themselves that they’ll be able to upgrade to Business Class in the afterlife by denying themselves and their sisters our civil rights, our avenues for justice, our bodily autonomy, and our health, wellbeing, and economic security while actually being alive), I am also tired of living it. And I say that aware that as a nominally heterosexual, middle class white woman, who, say, stands at significantly less risk of being shot to death in her sleep by police officers high on bad information and white supremacy, I am way less tired of it all than so many others.
I’m tired of writing the same sentences over and over and over again for the same crowd circling the same old drain of rage and fear and neurosis that I am, like any of this is tantamount to doing anything. Nero, justifiably, gets a lot of shit for fiddling while Rome burns, but what about the people that complained about the fiddling. Were they really any better? Wouldn’t the world have been a better place if they’d just shut up about it and maybe filled a g-d bucket of water? Maybe you can’t always control your psychotic emperor, but you might be able to keep your neighbors from burning alive. Isn’t that better than raging about it on social media, which is maybe more effective than raising a fist to the heavens and giving Jupiter what’s-what, but probably not?
So I’ll vote. I’ll give money to the people I vote for. I’ll tell you to vote. I’ll even tell you who I think you should vote for, if you’re looking for ideas. I’ll spend election night ( week? Month?) gnawing my fingernails to the quick, trying to remember all the perfectly sane reasons I quit smoking eleven years ago, working out the ethical math of whether it’s better flee or stay and fight if things go truly tits up, and if flee, whether there is any place on earth that would have me, where I could still safely seek refuge, given Covid, and let’s be 100% honest, do I have enough room on the emergency credit card to get there? Plenty of time to regret the glitter sneakers you bought back in April when you’re fleeing penniless to (checks list of counties that will still welcome Americans during Covid times) Albania? under cover of darkness.
But I’m tired talking of coups and civil wars with people that seem to secretly yearn for coups and civil wars LIKE ANYBODY HAS TIME FOR THAT, UNCLE MARTIN. I’m tired of conspiracists and cultists. I’m tired of global elites and the apocalypse. I’m tired of having my politics informed by what a bunch of nerds are doing for lolz on internet messageboards. I’m tired of having to even know that Twitter exists. I’m tired of the lack of empathy. I’m tired of the cruelty, the indifference, the scoffing, the snarling, the callow playground power games. I’m tired of the impatience. I’m tired of the selfishness. I’m tired of “I deserve to be selfish.” I’m tired of bullies shouting in the microphones. I’m tired of millions of people losing their voices by pleading and being willfully ignored time and time and time and time again.
I’m tired. And I’ve asked the cat what to do about it. He thinks I should considering feeding him a second breakfast and maybe going back to bed, which is probably as valid as any other idea. I was thinking maybe kicking off from work early, eating Nachos for dinner and rewatching “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” (which is maybe problematic now? I don’t remember). Whatever the case, What To Do About It probably doesn’t need another furious, overwritten jeremiad aimed squarely at the choir that is my Friend List.
I don’t know where this boat’s going—probably past the sirens, through Scylla and Charybdis, then second star to the right, straight on til Iceberg or There Be Dragons (or both)—but I’m pretty sure my version of the ship’s log has gotten pretty self-indulgent. I think I’m probably way too hung up on recounting crew morale to check the horizon line. Or to put another way, I need some perspective, at least the kind of perspective you can get on Day 202 of quarantine. I’m thinking, here at the end of all things, I might go use my words for some fiction or even non-fiction not immediately informed by the NYT front page five minutes ago for a while like a useless, commie, Antifa, coastal, elitist, baby-killing, child-trafficking, suburb-destroying, blasphemous lib or a useless, bourgeois, capitalist, counterrevolutionary, equivocal, trivializing, collaborator Karen (Your Choice).
It’s been a bit since I was posting Plague Diaries regularly, but I might bow out for a little while—a few weeks, a few months, until the Constitutional Crisis that ends Democracy or the coming fall wave of Covid means the whole global epidemic thing is not relegated the six or seventh scariest story of the day—maybe until I have something new to say on the subject that doesn’t just sound like a shitty remix.
Thanks for listening to me freak out for the last few months. Now let’s gather our wits so we can all go out there and do something about it.
Picture today is a straight-up selfie of me in my cool new t-shirt (courtesy of the great Ron Liberti) that I think reflects accurately my feelings about this time, this place, and the current unfolding disaster we call home.
As of this writing, 24,701,5064 people have recovered from Covid-19.