The pandemic is somewhat abated here, but in other places around the globe, it’s still raging. Americans tend to think of it as “over” because we’re so parochial. The rest of the world is out of sight and, so, out of mind for the majority of Americans. And no one else on the planet is more important than us.
I don’t agree with that stance, and there are a lot of other people who don’t. But we do oftentimes seem to be in the minority.
While looking for a discussion topic to write for work, I came across this acceptance speech by Ursula LeGuin for the 2014 National Book Award. She names the plagues of our times, long before the biological plague, COVID-19, appeared. And she calls on artists—particularly writers, since that’s her art—to redress the wrongs, to write of freedom and hope. In her words [time stamp 1:24–2:19],
I have loved Ursula LeGuin since I first read her Wizard of Earthsea trilogy when I was, I don’t remember how old. Somewhere in my early teens, I suspect. I think I’ve read everything she ever wrote since. If you haven’t read her yet, you’re missing out on a brilliant mind and impeccable writer. She is one of my heroes.
It’s been awhile since my last post because I just couldn’t write about the pandemic anymore—I was feeling pandemic exhaustion, or “languishing” as it’s being called now. I was definitely languishing. But I decided to write in the Pandemic Journaling Project again today, so I’ll post it here, too.
They give two questions to answer, so this will be a little long.
Question 1: How are you feeling this week?
After almost a year and a half of maintaining at least 6 ft of social distance, I have a very hard time when a stranger stands closer to me than that, even though I’m fully vaccinated. Today I was in line at the grocery store and a man came up and stood right behind me, at most 2 feet away. It made me really uncomfortable and anxious. Plus he wasn’t wearing a mask, which also doesn’t really matter now that I’m vaccinated, but it just made it worse for my anxiety level. The same thing happened a few weeks ago. I get really angry and want to turn around and scream, “6 feet, people! 6 feet!” But I don’t say anything because I hate to make a scene. And honestly, I’m afraid the person might be aggressive. So I just keep trying to inch forward to get away from them. Of course it doesn’t work because they just inch forward, too. I by nature have a large personal space, so social distancing has been quite comfortable for me with strangers (not with family or friends, though—I want to be able to be close to them). But I was okay with a couple of feet between me and other people. I don’t know how long it will take me to be able to stand comfortably any closer than 6 feet now.
Question 2: What was the biggest event of last week?
The biggest event started before last week—the COVID situation in India is horrendous. And Thailand is suffering from the biggest surge since the pandemic began. Africa doesn’t have enough vaccines to give out, Europe is still restricted in many places, and the U.S.–Canada border is still closed. With the rate of vaccinations going up in the U.S., it’s easy to feel like the pandemic is ending. But it definitely isn’t. And only 41% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, so we’re not anywhere near “herd immunity” yet even here.
I read an article yesterday about the conflict for vaccinated people who want to feel relieved and happy and optimistic for the future, but so many people are still suffering and dying that we can’t just celebrate. And Americans are still dying, too, so it’s really hard for people who have just lost someone to the disease to see other people going around without masks on, having parties, etc., when a loved one just died from COVID.
We’re entering a very complicated time in this pandemic where some people are coming out the other side of it while others are still buried in it. And some people are vaccinated while others aren’t. The wealth gap is blazing in our faces, both domestically and globally. Why are so many Americans vaccinated when India and Africa can’t get enough to go around? Why is India running out of oxygen for treatments? Why are people in poorer communities here in the U.S. not getting vaccinated as quickly as middle and upper class (and mostly White) folks? I hope this horrible suffering will be redeemed at least a little bit by people seeing the injustices that have been exposed to the light, and doing something to change them. I wish I could be more optimistic about that actually happening.
Didn’t think I’d still be writing this in 2021. Looks like I’ll be writing it for most of this year, too.
I couldn’t write anything last week because it was all too awful. We’re setting record highs for COVID deaths at 4,000/day. And on 6 January, Trump incited a mob to storm the Capitol building where a joint session of Congress was completing the final ritual of confirming the Electoral College votes. Trump held a rally outside the building an hour before the session started and told his followers to “fight” for their rights. So they stormed the Capitol, smashing through bullet-proof windows with flagpoles and wood from the barricade they’d crossed. It was a sight I never imagined seeing here in America.
There’s a lot to say about it, but I don’t want to write that much. This song by Nanci Griffith from the late 1980s has been in my head all week.