October 1st, 2020. My older brother, who died at 27, would’ve been 73 today. He contracted Hodgkin’s lymphoma in the spring of 1973, and died the day before Thanksgiving.
I use the word “contracted” deliberately. He was an aspiring physician, and before he started his residency he spent a semester working in a medical laboratory in New England somewhere. I remember him being exposed to some nasty chemicals there. It’s been 46 years, and I don’t remember if I heard that from his lips, or from some family member. I’ve always thought the two things were connected, though.
Right now I see a connection between Covid-19 and the brazenly public presence of the militant far right. There were people with pistols on their hips at an anti-mask protest here in my small (20,000 pop) town. The really disturbing part is that they held their protest in front of the police department. A little intimidation factor there, maybe?
Then we have a ninety minute temper tantrum by a three-year-old masquerading as the President of the United States during a presidential debate. Does anyone find this surrealistic, and pathetic? How can anyone say that’s “just” politics?
Once again we are experiencing racial upheaval. The massive moral debt owed people of color in the US, unpaid for almost 400 years, has accumulated insupportable interest. When we have to be reminded that Black lives do matter, we have to stare in the face the fact that we have let a disgraceful reality fester, and that in doing so we have created and sustained an “underlying condition” that may allow the acute infections to kill us.
And hovering not only the U.S. but the entire globe is the shadow of real catastrophe. Not a pandemic which kills a few million, but a slow-moving natural disaster of Biblical proportions which kills a few billion. How are we possibly going to effectively mitigate the effects of that natural disaster when a sizeable proportion of people, including that aforementioned three-year-old, deny that it’s happening? Deny that it’s real?
What happened? In September 1939 Auden told us, “We must love one another or die.” And Yeats. “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.” Yeats called it over a century ago.
What now? Those who consider themselves good among us must speak and act with conviction. And with love. We are aflame. We cannot stop the fire with more gasoline.