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Quarantine Diaries – Day 80

June 4, 2020 Leave a comment

Bars are opening this weekend. Sort of. I think.

Outside only……seating only. No sitting or even standing at the bar. First come first serve. Masks required. We live in strange times. This terrible virus has been knocked off the front pages, but that doesn’t mean it just shrugged and went away. I think a certain resignation has crept in, for better or worse. Murder hornets and hurling asteroids and knees to the back of the neck. We want to protect ourselves, but we’re like exhausted boxers unable to keep our hands up to ward off the blows. I’m terrified of a second wave. I know my history. But I’m up against a tidal wave of angst and there ain’t no fighting it. So here we go.

May we all be granted immunity as this summer progresses. I’d like to bro-hug all my boys again. Soon.

riotsChaos all around……fury and violence and all sorts of racism. From the brutally straightforward kind, to the almost worse casual type exhibited by a heartrendingly large number of us. Unable to step out of our own gaze and see through the eyes of others. Nerves are raw. Everybody is eyeballing everybody else. “What side are they on?”

Folks are walking around like coiled springs. It won’t take much to kick things off. A misplaced word or tweet. A random knucklehead with a rock. More brazen propaganda highlighted on our Facebook feeds. Or just a string of hot, humid summer nights. Seemingly everything is broken right now. A lot of us are feeling like there are things we should be doing, but aren’t quite clear on the details. So we just kinda slump when the suns starts going down, and stare wordlessly at the TV. Feeling more and more disengaged. The cities are indistinguishable for each other. And with so many masks, so are the faces. It’s happening everywhere. And nowhere. It’s an endless loop, both thrilling and terrifying at the same time. We’re better than this, and in some ways we’ve never been better. This is what’s supposed to happen when people have had enough. This is how change is forced. But hearts break when the cost is this high. When the physical damage is fixed, the kind you can’t see needs to be cleaned up as well. If it isn’t, we’re witnessing two tragedies.

But you cannot deny that things are moving. More charges filed. More lights shining on things that used to rely on a cover of darkness. Statues that rub salt in wounds are starting to come down. Racists are still shrieking and squealing, but the pitch is tinnier now. They are bunkering themselves and propping each other up with social media and bizarre photo ops, but they’re having to circle their own wagons now. Disgust is more palpable. Their revolution ain’t coming, and it’s looking increasingly like they’re gonna need a plan B come November. You can’t run a nation via Twitter. It takes some hand to hand at times, some walks around the neighborhood. And our current President seems too cowardly to engage anybody who refuses to genuflect first.

Everybody just seems tired. Protesters. Police. Tired. That we have to do this. Over and over again. From time immemorial. That people still have to die over the pigmentation of their skin. That a few can do this to so many. That generation after generation we’re taught to apply the same stain. Cool heads are there……if you have the time to find them. Until they are the ones with their heads above the parapet, they won’t prevail. They won’t be allowed to.

I’ve always thought that we’re born good and taught to be bad. Sometimes inadvertently. Religion divides as much as it embraces. We believe in the same god our parents believe in. We hate who they hate. The indoctrination starts before we’re fed our first meal. The purity doesn’t last long. Only the strongest of us can resist the gravitational pull of our own upbringings. But I’m seeing it more and more. Young people seeing past their Daddy’s Fox News fixation……or recoiling at the casual bigotry on display at the dinner table. And once that cycle is broken…..the purity returns. It’s as hard for hate to invade an inclusive house as it is for acceptance to find a way into a bigoted one.

That’s my story anyway, and I’m sticking to it.

In a bit..

–tf

Categories: Uncategorized

We’ve gone dark….

June 1, 2020 Leave a comment

What can we do at times like these?

What should we do?

Should we remain silent? Pray? March? Lay on the ground and refuse to move? Cower in our bunker and tweet? Raise hell?

Should we be outraged? Scared? Confused? Hopeful?

whitehouseLast night was the first time I sat down and watched the prime-time cable news since the protests started. I’ve been hearing about the unrest, but this was the first time I’d seen it. Minneapolis. NYC. San Francisco. Philadelphia. Boston. Chicago. Long Beach. All the reports kinda ran into each other, until you weren’t sure what city you were looking at. Marching. Chanting. Fires. Tear gas. Batons. Running battles, street to street. Hurt. Anguish. And always a generous supply of knuckleheads all beer-d up and enjoying the opportunity to break shit on live TV. Mixed crowds for sure, whites seemed to be in the majority. Most looked to be around college age. The reporters on the ground were all seasoned. This wasn’t their first rodeo. They’d report from the thick of it all, always moving. Almost unnaturally calm. Most of the time talking while walking backwards, away from on-coming police lines. Every reporter was wearing a mask, which kinda jolted you into remembering that this nation is still in the midst of a pandemic. Our news cycles can only handle one large story at a time, so for now at least, Covid-19 is off the front page. I don’t even want to think about what these mass gatherings might do to the national curve. That’s for another day I guess. Another headline once the fires are out.

Just watching live feeds, sitting on my couch, I kept seeing patterns. Most cops calm and steady, but the rogue ones would break away and start shit on their own, flailing with batons or bull-rushing protesters and pushing them to the ground. You could almost see them twitching before they’d go off. Which of course would incite frenzy from protesters. And then the entire cycle would repeat itself.

And always that one person….intent on getting in a cops face. Nose to nose. Screaming. As provocative as they can be. Daring them to respond. Just watching these interactions made me tense up. What if…it was like watching somebody carelessly smoking a cigarette as they pumped gas.

In the crowds you could spot the leader….or if not the leader the person intent on causing the most trouble. Preening. Dancing between the lines. Always seemingly aware of where the cameras were. But quick and nimble…..darting to and fro, always just far enough away to not get their hands dirty.

And then you’d see them…..the aforementioned knuckleheads. In small groups. Maybe 5 of 10. All with that same look……like they were running with the bulls in Pamplona. Cosmically addicted to the adrenaline….to acting tough, whooping and hollering….truly enjoying themselves……gaining a backlog of street cred. Oblivious. If there was looting, they’d be in the midst of it. But they weren’t leading anything. They were just scavengers. Picking at the corpse. It could be anybody’s.

Overwhelmingly both sides acting legally and with the proper deference and restraint. But that’s never enough. Because all it takes is one cop on your neck, or one opportunistic protester with a pre-ordained agenda un-related to George Floyd…..and cities can burn. Everything else gets rolled up in their wake. Because there is no center anymore. We’re divided against ourselves, and can’t stand.

If all lives truly did matter, there’d be no need for “Black Lives Matter”. So don’t even go there. Shit is broken, and it needs to be fixed. We’re racist to the core. It’s our nation’s original sin, and we need to be cleansed of it. Once and for all. Dunk our heads in the river.

Our nation needs the right words right now. Uttered with the right tone. Because those words and tone matter. They filter down into a nation’s psyche. The right words can stop a riot before it happens, like Bobby Kennedy announcing the murder of Martin Luther King. Or they can soothe the soul. As when LBJ visited Louisiana amidst the devastation of Hurricane Betsy. Within 24 hours he was there, on the ground….and while touring the city he came across a shelter where a large number of blacks had taken refuge. Johnson grabbed a flashlight and illuminated his face and said, “My name is Lyndon Baines Johnson. I am your president. I am here to make sure you have the help you need!”

“I am your President”.

Where is ours?

Well we know where he is. Hunkered down in his bunker, rage-tweeting. Tone-deaf as usual. Lacking any type of understanding, and exhibiting no empathy. Surrounded by sycophants and morally compromised racist flunkies….egging him on. Making his already rancid personality even shittier. It’s one of the most egregious examples of a leader abandoning his nation in a time of crisis we’ve ever seen. And that’s saying something, since he’s the one who said “I don’t take responsibility at all” for downplaying the threat posed by Covid-19, which has thus far killed 103k of his constituents. And counting. That was last month. The bar is always moving. It’s getting lower.

The White House has gone dark.

Our nation is on auto-pilot right now. Leaderless.

There was a rally in Scranton this weekend. In support of each other. They had a good turnout. The police were there. Not with batons….but with outstretched hands. It was peaceful.

My 2 daughters were there.

Maybe we’re not leaderless after all. Maybe this all starts right here….right now. In our own homes and towns and courthouses. Maybe things can filter up for a change.

In a bit..

–tf

Categories: Uncategorized