How are you all doing out there? It's been another week packed with too much information, too much news, too much discord. But also, points of light and lots of hope, which can take a bit of doing to ferret out in the compost pile, but it's there. It's there.
The days and weeks are flying by, moving at supersonic speed. I don't know if this is happening to you too, but I keep getting confused about more than what day it is, but what time of year it is. It's Quarantine Time: open, empty, and untethered, but also moving at high velocity. We are instilled with a sense that time moves in a linear way and is a completely objective measure for how we mark off our progress through life. But I'm pretty sure we have no idea how time moves at all and our little clocks and calendars and attempts to control it are crude tools at best. (By the way, that link is for an article describing an utterly absurd sounding time management tool called the Pomodoro technique, which I plan to try as soon as possible.)
We are living in two distinct and opposite realities in America presently. One reality is a slower mindfulness, by which I mean we have to consider our daily moves more carefully: taking a minute to put on our mask, resisting our usual impulse to get close to others, go in for a hug, reach out to shake a hand, considering if and when we go out into public, eyeballing the person next to you and measuring how far away you think they are, constantly assessing the risk. All of this takes extra time to think about, and we must slow down, if even for a microsecond, to protect ourselves and others from this virus.
And then our other reality is this opposing force of the revolutionary change, sweeping, abrupt, and sudden, calling everything into question and forcing all of our cultural institutions into action. It's dizzying, and a wonder to behold. I've started taking screenshots of headlines from my news alerts so in another 20 years I can remember that it was big news in 2020 that a multi-national corporation finally retired a brand icon that was rooted in a racial stereotype. It's a small thing, Aunt Jemima going the way of other racist iconography, but it's all adding up to a fast-moving tidal wave of change.
Holding these two contrary realities in our daily lives demands a lot of us in time, attention, consideration. I think many are rising to the occasion, and more, much more, is going to be asked of all of us. The pandemic, with its many strange facets, has provided the perfect backdrop for revolutionary transformation. For the first time in most of our current lifetimes, we have shown ourselves capable as a society of making drastic, immediate change and sacrifice when the moment calls for it. Not only going into lockdown as citizens, but even our government took radical action and threw together an economic rescue package in a matter of days. It's far from perfect but I also think it gives lie to the notion that our government can't take big steps to improve people's lives or somehow that is not its role to do so.
We are still evolving as a species whether we know it or not, and perhaps part of that evolution is creating and adapting to transformational change in our current age. The pandemic and subsequent lockdown is a drill, a rehearsal for us if you will, getting us all ready for more disruptive change that we all know is coming. We are being called to acknowledge and deal with huge systemic failures, from racism to patriarchy to climate change, and the most hopeful part of me thinks that we are evolving, starting to learn that we can do something about these things. We are capable. We are resilient. We are able to make huge sacrifices to our comfort. And the status quo is going to get broken in the process.
It's no coincidence that many of these issues get cast into the culture wars, which you could very loosely define as a war between people who are insisting on a dismantling of the inhumane systems we have been building for the last millennia, and the people who want to hang on to those systems and continue to strengthen them, using fear as coercion. The young people who have been so pivotal in organizing the peaceful protests over the last month seem to me to represent a leap in human evolutionary change. Somehow they have become the adults in the room, powerfully articulating what is broken, what has to change. I first took note of this after the Parkland school shooting in Florida and the teen activists who emerged from that tragedy. While many of us have been shaken from our idyll gradually over the last 40 years to the catastrophe we have created for ourselves, the kids today were born into it. They know what is up, and they are willing to get active about it. I keep contrasting them to the anti-war protestors of the 60's, wondering how they can avoid the pitfalls of being co-opted and re-absorbed back into the status quo of society as so many of the 60's activists were. I don't have a good answer for that, the only thing I can do is to notice this feeling I have that kids today are smarter than me, understand how things work better than I ever did at their age, and have a different understanding of how power should and can be wielded. I am hoping with all of my heart that they can overcome.
I had to go get a covid test this week. I am generally susceptible to sore throats that can sometimes morph into lingering coughs, and I have had at least 2 rounds of sore throat since the pandemic started. Both times had me slightly panicked, swallowing over and over again to see if I really had a sore throat or was maybe just slightly dehydrated, googling symptoms repeatedly, taking CDC self-diagnostic tests at 2 in the morning. Both times the sore throat passed in a day or two. So when I got a sore throat again two weeks ago I didn't freak. But then I started coughing, a dry hacky cough. No other symptoms, just that telltale cough that makes strangers run away from you these days. Back I was to the google, watching videos of people covid coughing and comparing my cough to theirs. Thankfully getting a test is fairly accessible in the Bay Area now so after a video consult with my doctor and an acknowledgement that I have been to demonstrations, I was given a pass to a drive-through test nearby. As I was driving to the test I was reminded of an AIDS test I took back in the early 90's when I thought I had been exposed to the disease. There is a twin desire to know and to also to just not know. I had some tears leaking out of my eyes before I even pulled up to the doctor, and then burst into tears once she had me roll my window down. I was just overcome with the emotion of fear and dread, but also just the sadness and loss associated with the pandemic. Honestly, I just really wanted my mommy right then. The doctor was so kind to me, and patient, even though I was jamming things up. She told me she cried at her test too, which I'm sure is not true. I pulled myself together and we did the thing, and days later my nose still stings where she swabbed on both sides for ten seconds each. It was not pleasant, but I did get my results within 24 hours (negative), and knowing for sure made me feel a lot better. Ignorance is not bliss.
In the midst of everything, it is Gay Pride Month and today, June 28, would be the day for all the parades and events. Before I looked into it I sort of thought maybe there would be a socially distant parade, words that should probably never go together, but the gay community knows its viruses and is not about to take on extra risk to its members and allies. I wanted to dig out something interesting to share with you around Gay Pride and just listened to this podcast last night, "They Don't Say Our Names Enough" from the podcast Code Switch, which intersects perfectly with our moment. It profiles an incredible woman, Storme DeLarverie, who according to lore threw the first punch at Stonewall. Go listen.