Random thoughts in a restless time

MuralEyes2
A mural in downtown Tijuana, Mexico. The eyes are mirrors; in his right eye is a reflection of me taking this photo.

The past week or so I’ve been scattered mentally, unable to concentrate, unable to sit down and write anything coherent.

It’s the cumulative effect, not of social distancing, but of the relentless onslaught of lies and corruption from the White House, and the blatant recklessness and disregard for humanity exhibited by his enablers and supporters, especially little men who need big guns to feel strong.

Last night, a torrent of disjointed and random thoughts came over me, so I scribbled them on a Post-it note and said, “Well, that’s what I can write — a disjointed collection of random thoughts.”

Here goes:

Trump is basically a mob boss, surrounded by henchmen and lobotomized Bond villains like his creepy robot son-in-law and plastic vice president.

I have had difficulty staying active politically. The progressive movement thrives on actual physical presence among others at protests, rallies and meetings. I can’t get excited about meeting via Zoom with my Indivisible group, even though I know it would be good for me.

Staying safe doesn’t matter to the ignorant, Fox-fed, flag-wearing, weapon-toters gathering and shouting at nurses at Trump’s urging. Can we have a “Liberate Intelligence” counter-protest? I guess it would have to be virtual.

Social media, Twitter in particular, just gets more depressing every day.

I’ve heard recently that we shouldn’t use the word “heroes” to describe delivery people, store clerks and others whose jobs put them at risk — that they are “victims” forced to risk their lives for capitalism and to keep corporations profitable. There’s truth in that. (This doesn’t apply to front-line healthcare workers or genuine small businesses, of course).

Other than my County Executive, Republicans in my Congressional district are failing miserably. Failing to speak the truth about the fatal missteps by their chosen one in the White House, failing to act with true empathy toward anyone who’s not a fat-cat donor, failing to show any shred of genuine empathy. They disgust me no end.

I have “survivor guilt,” knowing that so many people have died, families are suffering and face years of trauma and recovery if they survive this.

One of my escapes during isolation is reading, and I’ve been ripping through short stories by one of the literary idols of my youth, John Cheever. I now look at his characters in a different light — New York City blue-bloods whose superficiality is peeled back to reveal their true selves — philanderers, alcoholics, racists, classists. At one point I may have felt sorry for them as their shallow lives fell apart, but now . . . not so much.

I am no longer troubled by my lack of compassion for Trump supporters.  I have tried to reason with a few of them, to no avail. As a wise loved one said recently, “They literally don’t know what they don’t know, and can’t be bothered to find out even if it literally kills them.”

On that note, there will indeed be a second wave of COVID-19 in the U.S., perhaps a third. One could argue that the seeds of it are being spread to the four winds right now, via jails, prisons and immigration detention centers. The numbers of infections are growing among detainees and employees.

Just yesterday, I read that 45 detainees have tested positive for COVID-19 at the Buffalo Federal Detention Facility in Batavia run by ICE. That number started out as 4 two weeks ago, increased to 11, is now 45. I can’t find data on how many ICE employees are infected.

I’ve visited that prison a couple of times, and took note of the open hostility shown by ICE officers and guards. Detainees wrote a letter last month calling attention to the lack of caution shown by employees and vendors, and how everyone there is at risk (including, I would guess, the officer whose huge pickup truck parked out front sported an Oath Keepers window sticker).

I’ll try to end on a positive note. To get through this crisis with our physical and mental health intact, we must have something to look forward to. That’s been tough of late, but maybe we can keep a list, however short, of things to look forward to weeks or months or perhaps years down the line.

A return to Tijuana is near the top of mine.

As another loved one said, Trump and his corrupt crew want us to feel so overwhelmed that we give up. We cannot let that happen.

MuralEyes
Full view of a mural in downtown Tijuana, Mexico. The eyes are mirrors. In his left eye is a reflection of me taking this photo.

11 Comments

  1. Good stuff. Good catharsis. You know me — a little rant once in awhile is good for the soul. Helps you appreciate your partner and friends who are willIng to listen. Like you, I have been struggling with writing something. The daily news of escalating tragedy of neglect, incompetence, willful malfeasance, political sabotage and stupidity has left me scattered with, I think, heartbreak and, I fear, a growing sense of hopelessness. Several weeks ago, I had been thinking of writing something about how what Mary Beth and I learned in weathering three catastrophic health crises over the last 20 years is being applied now. But in the face of this unbridled insanity, it keeps coming out as just a little too glib. Good to know I’m not alone in this.

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  2. By way of a couple of coincidences, I found myself with a copy of The Pilgrim’s Progress in my hand a while back. Being a believer in coincidence, I had to read it. And although the Pilgrim in question is a bit of a prig, to put it mildly, his allegorical antagonists are dead-on portraits of the various sycophants, phonies, poseurs and criminals that now constitute our ruling class. Bunyan is especially unfond of religious hypocrites and those who “are always most zealous when Religion goes in his silver slippers; (who) love much to walk with him in the street, if the sun shines and the people applaud it.” He describes three of these folks, Mr. Hold-the-World, Mr. Money-Love and Mr. Save-all as being taught “the art of getting, either by violence, cousenage, flattery, lying or putting on a guise of Religion.” Seems to describe the administration and its enablers. Like you all, I find myself slipping into pessimism and hopelessness (my own Slough of Despond), but am encouraged by every little act of kindness and bravery that we see among our fellows. Let’s hope we can encourage and animate those that do them better than our president enables and goads the demons that he has released upon the world. But once again, Bunyan hits the nail on the head when he says “The way to Heaven lies by the gates of Hell.” We’re at the gates of Hell. Let’s hope we find our way out.

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  3. Dennis, I’ve never read that and I think I might hold off for a bit, given these times. I agree, we are at the gates of hell. Have you read/listened to George Saunders’ “Love Letter” in the New Yorker of a couple of weeks back? I recommend listening to him read it as you read along. Alternately inspiring and terrifying. But a must-read for 2020. And as another random thought, check out YouTube for Mandolin Orange’s “Gospel Shoes.” Absolutely spot-on lyrics, and a good tune as well. We Face-Timed with our Nina the other day. How are your tech capabilities out yonder?

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    1. I wouldn’t rush to read PP; like I said, it seemed I was being told to read it. Much (most?) of it is a tedious theological circle jerk; most of the interesting parts are the antagonists and their similarity to those of today. I read the Saunders piece and am still reeling. Let’s get together somehow and figure out what we can do while we can still do it. How is our Nina? We chat every once in a while via Facebook. We have tech capabilities here, have been having Zoom cocktails with our daughters.

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  4. With respect to the current political environment, I posted this comment online last night:

    In my opinion, this president is in a period of psychological and cognitive decline. His vocabulary is limited to few words, he speaks in simple sentences, he often repeats these simple sentences. He speaks in a flat monotone (little to no inflection or affect) and he cannot stop focusing on his delusions of persecution – even in the middle of one of the worst pandemics in nearly a century.

    He also experiences delusions of grandeur (I’m a genius, I know better than…..). He rages against his perceived enemies on twitter, is preoccupied with getting even, with name calling and with revenge.

    His grasp of reality appears tenuous to me. With thousands dying daily, he comments on his ratings, his grudges and his reelection prospects and suggests that people “liberate” states. Afterwards someone on his staff inevitably persuades him to recant or attempts to spin his most outlandish remarks by claiming that they were a joke, sarcasm or a misstatement.

    As time goes on, in my opinion, he will likely spin further and further afield of the ongoing crisis as his cognitive and psychological states continue to deteriorate. We are observing this phenomenon on a near daily basis now. It is a very sad sight.

    He reminds me of President Nixon as he unraveled towards the end of his presidency, He was reported to be raging in the White House at night and was intensely preoccupied with his “Enemies List,” very much like this president is now.

    I think he should resign…just as Nixon did.

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  5. Your thoughts are absolutely on the mark, Mary. We are watching, in real time, the disintegration of a twisted man who is determined to take the country, if not the planet, down with him. It astounds me that anyone can support him — or worse, enable him, as so many “Trumpublicans” continue to do. They live in an alternate reality in which they care only for themselves.

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