E-Journal of the Plague Year

As I write this on TD Dad’s (of blessed memory) 83rd birthday, I note that exactly two months ago, Mrs. TD and I landed in Madrid for what we hoped would be a week’s visit with the Loquacious Pup, then studying abroad there. She had also planned study in Paris later in the spring (would be close to being done with it and then visiting Italy right about now, actually). What a difference a plague year makes! Instead of a week’s visit, we were frantically woken up (as if we could sleep!) by several friends in the middle of the night on our fourth day noting that the Orange Monster who infests our nation’s highest office had, evidently, misread his own message, and seemingly told U.S. citizens that they would be locked out of their own country for thirty days if they did not get back by midnight, 13 March.
Our return ticket would have gotten us back by midnight 14 March, and so we panic-bought spot tickets home, and called the Loquacious Pup circa two or three in the morning at her dorm with a one word instruction: PACK. (She later noted a possible “racial memory” about being expelled from Spain in the middle of the night.) We spent a long, long morning on line at the airport, with quite a few other students returning home much earlier than hoped.
The irony is that as Spain was rapidly moving up the coronavirus table to challenge Italy for unfortunate supremacy, the United States, and the New York City area especially, was moving even faster, and a month later, would be the world’s epicenter. As of now, (9 May 2020, the ever moving tables provided by John Hopkins University show New York State alone at over 26,000 deaths, and over 1,300 per million deaths, the latter a “world high,” more than any other country, even really small countries).
And so, now approaching two months of a local “half-assed lockdown” (the powers that be only recently mandated facial masks in all closed spaces like grocery stores and pharmacies, and near as I can tell, public parks, and of course, the NYC subways, remain open; and it seems our very own Secretary of Education is paying people to protest public health measures as a matter of a psychotic “personal freedom” that involves the peasantry conducting armed revolt to ensure more privileges for the aristocracy), most of the United States finds itself in a strange form of house arrest (as does a huge swath of the world’s population). As we approach two months of this, we note a sudden resurgence in media interest in one of our themes of permanent house arrest inside a shipping container (that would be Guantanamo Bay), we have a Pulitzer Prize winning story of one of the released men, Mohamedou Salahi (I interviewed one of his attorneys Nancy Hollander), and a new podcast out detailing Abdul Latif, one of the poor bastards still held there. Perhaps a country that has unjustly held so many men without charge or trial based on its own irrational (and carefully media driven) fears of dark-skinned people now gets a perverse form of karmic payback. Indeed, while nearly 3,000 Americans died on 9-11, the coronavirus sometimes kills that number daily, and of course, most Americans are more or less pinned down in their homes. But I digress. We typical Americans (except for the over 2 million incarcerated persons!) aren’t exactly living in GTMO.
Here in Brooklyn, of course, there aren’t any gendarmes who will stop one from leaving their house and walking around, although a mask and social distancing will be required (especially for people of color). Even getting in a car or the subway and “going somewhere” aren’t expressly prohibited, although most public gathering spaces such as bars and restaurants are shuttered (except for take out and delivery).
And so most of us have little choice but to “stay home,” the prevailing public health advice that rational public officials would dispense, except of course, for that orange monster, who keeps saying “we have to open up America,” even though it was never effectively shut down in the first place. Needless to say, state and local officials who are his political allies (and hence, more likely to value money over human life, especially the lives of the non-white and non-rich) are more likely to embrace this scientifically and economically insane “strategy” which is pretty much guaranteed to destroy both countless more lives and what remains of “the economy,” but our “leader” operates on a twelve-hour time scale and lives in his own peculiar media bubble where the only thing that matters are some self-selected (and always favorable) polling data and of course that day’s Dow Jones Industrial Average.
Which is to say that I continue to marvel at a media environment where the prevailing story of the day IS NOT a demented President babbling about drinking bleach and injecting disinfectants as a cure for the coronavirus, in the middle of a pandemic that has already infected over a million Americans and killed tens of thousands, but, in a strange fit of either political karma (Kavanaugh?) or political deja vu (Clinton? John Edwards? Trump himself?), a quarter century old sex abuse charge against Joe Biden, which, of course, forces so-called liberals and progressives (i.e. Democrats) to deal with their own bullshit on the “guilt upon accusation” “Me Too Movement.” In other words, the public has long made up its mind that this monster must go, the media will prop up anything and everything to “make this a horse race,” because that apparently is “good for ratings.”
As to the Biden thing, the beauty of this own-goal is that we get a nice diversion from the orange monster’s actual performance which includes the aforementioned nearly 80,000 dead Americans (just as of today), over a million infected, and of course, a Depression-era unemployment situation. This on top of 3 1/2 years of racial monstrosities such as children in cages, synagogue/church/mosque shootings encouraged by him, a first-week-in-office Muslim travel ban (later expanded for real), plus numerous gutted health, safety and environmental regulations, record tax cuts for billionaires and tax increases for blue state homeowners, kowtowing to dictators and shunning allies, and just this year, a quid pro quo to Ukraine for dirt on the aforementioned Joe Biden that led to an impeachment (Mitt Romney’s speech should still inspire you), a near world war started with Iran over assassinating a key general, weeks of Oval Office denial and mockery of the coronavirus pandemic, and now of course, the main event, national house arrest, more American deaths than in the Vietnam war (and on some days, more than on 9-11), coupled with massive unemployment and the economic depression.
Alrighty then. It is most fortunate that one of the “essential” services here in NYC is liquor stores, because one avenue of introspection is whether drinking is an appropriate response to this pandemic (provisional answer, YES). This is a moment for self-introspection. For those of us who are fortunate enough to have jobs that still pay us to “work from home,” an opportunity to ‘re-set our work-life balance’ in favor of always working if we can, or at least, perhaps, an opportunity to figure out some useful projects (binge-watching shows?) or “social media” (I favor twitter) or reading or studying (the Ivy League offers stuff online), or, what sensible people are actually doing, drinking. Especially some excellent new tequila products put out by Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson, finally available here in Brooklyn.
I know at some point even we here in Brooklyn will be forced to go back to that island with lots of tall buildings on it, though I suppose I will have to allow an extra hour each way for an on-foot commute, because I don’t think I will be using the NYC subways… ever again, or at least until the coronavirus thing is over (2021? 2022?). And so, even as the White House itself seems to be the new hot spot, we can expect the learning disabled orange monster there to learn NOTHING, except what he perceives as necessary for his political survival (and of course, to steal what isn’t nailed down). While we mere peasants keep getting sick, and dying, and losing our jobs.
This has been… E-Journal of the Plague Year.