Reading the below post by Zita Fontaine this morning nudged me to write about a similar phenomenon happening right at the current epicenter of the pandemic.
When Reality Becomes Too Unreal to Believe It
Our reality in Hungary, 2020, during the pandemic
It’s only because of a telephone conversation with my friend, Nico, that I found out that Mt. Sinai is building a 70-bed tent hospital inside Central Park over in the East Meadow. That’s how small my world has gotten. The East Meadow is maybe a twenty-minute walk from here or a three-minute bus ride, but most of us aren’t riding many buses these days.
Globally, our worlds have gotten very small. Many of us have retreated to our lairs that afford an electronic view of the big, scary world out there.
I have had some limited experience with the madness of a city emergency room, Bellevue Hospital no less, and can’t even begin to wrap my head around what it must be like in these ERs now.
I’ve heard that in other parts of town people lean out their windows or go out on balconies to clap and beat on drums, pans, anything to signify their gratitude to those people who are in the middle of that horror day in and day out. That doesn’t happen around here. I’m thinking that our selfless, hard-working medical professionals would prefer to have sufficient protective gear and enough ventilators to not have to play God, but that’s just me.
Word seems to be getting out, though, because even uptown people are beginning to spread out some and give each other space.
That big, scary world does poke even those of us cloistered in our apartments with reminders of what’s actually going on out there. For example, there’s the unmistakable smell of burnt metal and plastic from last Thursday’s subway fire. We ventured out yesterday and saw the crews working on the clean-up. How does one move a completely burned-out subway car that’s sitting in a station? There must be a protocol. People standing (six feet apart) outside the grocery store glanced up from their gizmos occasionally to watch the proceedings.
Getting lost in that hopeless little screen
I’m developing horrible habits and don’t see that changing anytime soon. I sleep whenever, usually in three to five-hour increments whenever I feel tired. We do cook proper meals but we also snack on anything that makes us feel good whenever we feel like it. And we both spend entirely too much time in front of our screens.
And it’s those screens that give us our somewhat skewed perspective on our shared global experience.
I can’t remember ever knowing that what I’m thinking, experiencing, feeling, worrying about, coping with, writing and reading about, and talking about is what most of the rest of the world is, too. Isn’t that wild? I’m sitting here this morning, nodding as I’m reading about Zita’s experience in Hungary, especially the distrust of those “in charge”.
In her piece, Zita talks about the false calm we’re experiencing. Looking out the window, I see mourning doves on the fire escape. Once in a while, the guys at the Riker’s prerelease center out back play some ping-pong. There are the sirens, but there have always been sirens. I remember as a kid watching my Dad run out to the front porch when we’d hear a siren. In a town of 3,000, chances are we’d know who that ambulance or cop car was heading for.
Calm before the storm or during it?
I do have friends and acquaintances who are sick and some have tested positive for the virus. We’re in touch online, of course, and most are doing ok even if they’re miserable.
The thought I can’t let get too rooted is what’s on everyone else’s minds: How bad will this get?
Even with all the evidence that our government is corrupt, riddled with greed, inept, and dishonest, We the People are stuck having to rely upon it to keep the electricity on, the grocery store shelves stocked, the news updated, the trash collected and taken away from the rats, and the hospitals running. Our previously reviled (with good reason) governor is now being touted as a presidential candidate for that election that’s supposedly happening in November. Oy.
Peering out from our millions of windows at a world we barely recognize, I can only hope that those who do survive discover that they’re the ones who can start calling the shots.
Just because we’ve lived in a consumer-driven economy for over a century does not mean that’s the only way to live. Just because we’ve divided ourselves into nations for entirely too long doesn’t mean that nation-states are the natural and only way for people to organize themselves. Just because old white men have been the ones running things since time immemorial doesn’t mean they get to hang onto the levers and gears.
I’m not particularly optimistic that We the People can change things
Sitting in our millions of homes with only a limited view of what’s going on out there, it’s hard not to imagine things deteriorating badly. Those with control of the levers and gears won’t let go willingly. They’ve had numerous opportunities to right this listing ship of state over the past forty-plus years and clearly that has never been a priority.
Change will happen. It’s happening now.
It might have happened peacefully but I wonder if that’s even an option anymore. I mean let’s be honest here, this is a country that has been destabilizing other continents for decades and which managed to put an ignorant television personality in power. How many people need to be evicted during a pandemic, left without work or income or health insurance before things blow up?
Limited though the view from our peephole is, we’re about to see.
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