A contradictory heading. How can both be true? How can a year be and not be, or should not have been but is?
The answer lies in one’s perspective, and as I am now entering the outfield of old age, the game has been called. It’s a matter of simple math. Removing a year from your life when you’re approaching 80 represents a huge fraction of one’s remaining life. So, waiting for COVID-19 to abate or to be solved is tantamount to a kind of purgatory, a state of being between life and death.
Purgatory implies some kind of judgement. I’d say we are among the fortunate who can afford to stay in our house, surrounded by our books and streaming choices of theatre and music, and for me my precious piano, Judgement day is looking up, if you believe in religious fabrication. I don’t; and have always argued that we make our own heaven or hell right here and now.
At first we hung onto every word of Dr. Fauci, for guidance and for any hopeful signs of a vaccination. Any good news would release us, the most vulnerable, from being confined to our home. Instead, what we feared, a therapeutic and better yet, a vaccination, will be a long time coming.
Ok, “normal” life will continue without us. As “reopening” occurred, we watched boats pass by our house, their Trump flags flying, celebrating reverence for their King releasing them from bondage, going right back to their previous ways of ignoring social distancing, just making it more dangerous for the rest of us, but, hey, it’s their “freedom” not ours.
Until the thunderbolt of America’s original sin struck in Minneapolis of all places. Racism, lack of opportunity, income inequality, white privilege, police violence, and the message that black lives really don’t matter, came crashing down on the country’s collective conscience with the murder of just one black person, George Floyd, by an imperious white policeman, Derek Chauvin, filmed for all the world to see. The country burst into the same Chicago flames as in 1968 after Martin Luther King’s assassination. Then too we had another elephant in the room, the Vietnam War which had fomented its own trauma. There were also the Watts Riots of 1965, involving the police and a black man and they foreshadowed the 1992 LA riots which were sparked by the arrest and beating of Rodney King, all of which was filmed. Cell phones were not around then, but a TV cameraman captured the gruesome details.
But the killing of the seemingly gentle giant George Floyd was different. It came soon after filmed killings either by police or white vigilantes of other blacks and, over the past years hundreds, more like them. It came after Dylann Roof’s mass murder in a Charleston black Baptist Church. It came immediately after the filmed confrontation of a black man who was bird watching in Central Park and a white woman who felt entitled to call the police when he asked her to put her dog on a leash in an area where birds were protected. But she chose to turn the call into a racial one, saying "I'm taking a picture and calling the cops, I'm going to tell them there's an African American man threatening my life." It was an open invitation for the police to take action which would not have been justified. The mere fact that he was black gave the woman a sense of entitlement, the power, to make such a call. Had she had a gun and was in Florida she might have shot him and been vindicated under its racially charged “Stand Your Ground” law. It reveals the basis of a problem which has existed forever in this country, remaining unaddressed.
We all know the systemic basis for it all and this country’s failure to do anything while propping up the stock market to benefit the few is a sin.
Its failure to address gun control is just another, but related, sin.
Its failure to invest in education as part of the long term solution overarches the entire topic.
Hopelessness breeds a certain kind of despair which can burst into flames when a match is thrown into the kindling. But this is no mere match, as the video of the white policeman shows him kneeling on the neck of this poor man, suffocating the life out of him, the half shit grin knowing he was being filmed, the casual hand in the pocket. It had the characteristics of the hunter proudly dominating his dead prey. Like the ones of the Trump brothers grinning over their dead leopard, elk, elephant, or endangered sheep, the same shit eating grin of domination by gun or authority.
Many knew that with the election of a sociopathic reality TV star a Trumpocalypse might result. Being so close to the election now, I was starting to think we might escape with merely part of our world being dismantled but COVID-19 gave him another way to pursue his egotistical ends, forcing himself into our homes each day with frequent preposterous claims about the virus, not giving the experts the floor, and refusing to wear a mask although that is the guidelines our health experts advocated. Nothing applies to him and it makes him look weak. One must wonder how he felt when he had to be taken to the bunker in the White House because of protests.
Well, he decided, I’ll look strong by clearing a way to St. John's Church across the park from the White House to pose for photos holding up a bible, as if he has spent his Sundays in church. If this photo op meant pepper spraying protestors or using rubber bullets against them, so be it. He wants us to know he’s a tough guy. It invites commentary, the absurdity and the arrogance of it all and it would be funny if it were not so tragic, that that is the action our “President” thinks meaningful in light of this wake up moment in our history.
It is more than ironic that George Floyd’s brother, Terrence Floyd, was the one who took the conciliatory Presidential fork in the road, exhorting the crowds to not turn to violence and looting, urging protests in a peaceful way to honor his brother. He also asked that the crowds turn to the voting booth to make their voices heard. "Educate yourselves. Don't wait for somebody else to tell you who's who, educate yourself and know who you're voting for. That's how we're going to help. It's a lot of us! ... Let's switch it up and do this peacefully.''
Trump, meanwhile took the low road, urging the Governors of those States to “dominate” with force, warning that if they didn’t do it, he’d call up the military. He said "I’m your president of law and order.''
It would have been an ideal opportunity for a normal President of the United States to show empathy, compassion, urging Congress to bring a bill to his desk to ensure a massive investment in education and in the short term economic relief for the most poverty stricken and unemployed. But we know that this President was not born with an empathic bone in his body, only bone spurs.
He is like CV19 itself. It knows nothing about empathy and only “thinks” of its own existence by replicating through infecting others. It is not an “equal opportunity” infector, more seriously impacting those without access to good diets and medical care as well us elderly. It ruins lives. It kills. And once a large number of unprotected citizens are infected, it leads to disastrous societal and economic consequences. Trump’s strong-arm behavior only exacerbates an already incendiary situation. I fear it will worsen.
Yet, this is our moment to stand in solidarity with all people of color, to work towards an election of bringing people to Congress who will work together to find solutions to the systemic problem of racism and income disparity and full employment for all. If we can afford to go to Mars, we can afford to do this. And it is time to remove the virulent President. Indeed, make this a year of reckoning, one that might have been a year that never was, but now can count for something constructive.