Monday, July 13, 2020

Day after day after day after day after day

The last normal thing: Northbrook Chamber of Commerce meeting, March 6, 2020. 

     “Any idiot can survive a crisis,” Anton Chekhov once wrote, “It’s this day-to-day living that grinds you down.”
     OK, Chekhov didn’t actually write that — at least not anywhere anyone could find it. Witty, anonymous thoughts are sometimes paired with him, or Hemingway, or Kurt Vonnegut, to give them a little extra pop.
     Though the non-Chekhovian observation is popping aplenty right now, with an additional twist as we try to survive day-to-day living in a crisis. The worst of both worlds. Of many worlds, all burning. Since it can be easy to lose track — it’s Monday, right? — let’s review.
     Mid-July in the Plague Year of 2020. Four months since what I consider the last normal thing, the March Northbrook Chamber of Commerce meeting. The benchmark before life got strange. Take a look at the picture. Crowded, huh? Shoulder to shoulder. Did you ever think you’d miss crowds? Not me.
     More than 135,000 Americans dead. Six hundred Americans die of COVID-19 every day. No end in sight. Economic collapse. Thirty million unemployed. Complete paralysis of the federal government, frozen, punctuated by the continual yapping sound of our imbecile president.
     Plus, his clueless fans demanding to die. Plus, nationwide civic unrest over racist police brutality followed by ... well, where are we now, exactly? Some Great Awakening to the racial disparities of our country? Pretty to think so — that is Hemingway. Although to me, it seems the only people really confronting the situation are those who already know.

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  1. Smart wife on the airport thing, and yes the Chamber meeting looks inappropriately intimate from today's lens. Very sad.

    Regarding your comment “nationwide civic unrest over racist police brutality followed by ... well, where are we now, exactly? Some Great Awakening to the racial disparities of our country?” I say have hope. As far as what protesting and awareness has changed, a LOT!

    On June 4 this circulated around on Facebook, author unknown.
    Within 10 days of sustained protests:
    * Minneapolis banned use of choke holds.
    * Charges were upgraded against Officer Chauvin, and his accomplices were arrested and charged.
    * Dallas adopted a "duty to intervene" rule that requires officers to stop other cops who are engaging in inappropriate use of force.
    * New Jersey’s attorney general said the state will update its use-of-force guidelines for the first time in two decades.
    * In Maryland, a bipartisan work group of state lawmakers announced a police reform work group.
    * Los Angeles City Council introduced motion to reduce LAPD’s $1.8 billion operating budget.
    * MBTA in Boston agreed to stop using public buses to transport police officers to protests.
    * Police brutality captured on cameras led to near-immediate suspensions and firings of officers in several cities (i.e., Buffalo, Ft. Lauderdale).
    * Monuments celebrating confederates were removed in cities in Virginia, Alabama, and other states.
    * Street in front of the White House was renamed "Black Lives Matter Plaza.”
    * Military forces began to withdraw from D.C.
    * Protests against racial inequality sparked by the police killing of George Floyd took place all over the world.
    * A mural dedicated to Floyd was spray-painted on a stretch of wall in Berlin that once divided the German capital during the Cold War.


  2. And according to (and these lists are popping up around the 'net), these changes have also taken place between the first days of the protests and 6/24:

    * The New York State Legislature voted to repeal Law 50-A, which has kept police disciplinary records hidden from the public for the last 44 years.
    * Minneapolis public schools and the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board terminated contracts with the Minneapolis police department, answering the call of many activists who’ve long questioned whether police in schools do more harm than good, particularly for students of color. Portland schools made a similar decision just days later.
    * The FBI opened an investigation into the death of Breonna Taylor, months after the Louisville Metro Police Department failed to hold anyone accountable.
    * NASCAR announced it would ban confederate flags from its events and properties.
    * The New Jersey Attorney General vowed to create a licensing system for police officers.
    * Maryland lawmakers announced a bipartisan effort to pass meaningful policing practice reform.
    * In Los Angeles, the Mayor, along with city officials, announced plans to reduce the Los Angeles Police Department budget and re-allocate the money to community oriented initiatives like jobs for youth.
    * Bus drivers in Boston refused to transport protestors who got arrested. Bus drivers in other states, including New York and Minneapolis, have followed suit.
    * Philadelphia removed a statue of Frank Rizzo, a known racist former police commissioner and mayor.
    * More people than ever are learning what anti-racism means and what it means to be an anti-racist. Books on anti-racism are sold out on Amazon, and in many local bookstores. (If you’re on the hunt for one of the sold out books, don’t forget to check out your library, or virtual library.)
    * Colleges are revoking acceptances to students who post racist sentiments on their social media.
    * Companies are paying attention, beyond just putting out vague statements in support. Sesame Street hosted a town hall for kids and parents on anti-racism. Warner Brothers made Just Mercy free for streaming. HBO pulled Gone With The Wind to add a note regarding historical context. Amazon will halt police officers’ access to its facial recognition tool.
    * The entire world started to listen to what activists have been saying for years, and agreed that Black Lives Matter.

    We are getting somewhere.

  3. I see not blessed everyday on my drive to work on Chicago's west side. Then I arrive at my shop. A young man sleeps in the doorway . He's been there a couple months now. I've asked him several times if he needs anything. He responds by saying he'll move to somewhere else. I'm not trying to chase him away. I say hello to him so I feel better, not treating him as invisible. Saturday morning he finally asked for something. Water. This is happening a few steps from a church. We have a long way to go

  4. In uncertain times like this I think we have to break it down to the basics. Yes, I feel blessed for all that I DO have, but regretful for how much so many others may never have. I’m starting to worry our life, and our children’s lives, may never fully recover from these crises of health and economic depression.
    But as the saying goes, “Where there is life, there is hope.” I still hear birds cheerily singing every morning outside my back deck; that’s something.

  5. The overarching aspects of the ongoing assault of the pandemic, or the reckoning with racism taking place, are way too much for me to address, so I'm gonna focus on the mundane, my specialty.

    I'm sure you have your rationale for choosing the Chamber meeting as "the last normal thing," NS, which the column makes pretty obvious. But you went to see the El Greco exhibit at the Art Institute on March 9, if I'm not mistaken. I don't begrudge you the former one bit, but I was certainly envious when I read about the latter!

    We went to see "Bug" at the Steppenwolf Theatre on March 11, which I believe was the last performance before theater got locked down here. As we contemplated whether to go through with it, I felt then that it was precisely, to the day, the point at which it was clear to me that going out like that was not a good idea, and second-guessed having gone for the next two weeks. On the other hand, it was a hell of a production...

    Since you mentioned your wife today, I've wondered how she (and you) felt about your various reporting forays to hospitals and other locations over the last few months in order to provide us all with insight into what was taking place. I don't think I could have done that -- well, I'm sure I *wouldn't* have done that -- but certainly appreciated the results and your intrepid efforts.

  6. For those of us fortunate to have some form of steady income in spite of all that is going on, we have to wonder if our income will remain steady. We have to wonder will our dollar that is spinning off the virtual printing press at light speed maintain its value. Maybe when those things happen, America will wake up. For all of our sakes, I hope it doesn’t get that far.
    I read what an astronaut was thinking while he gazed at our beautiful planet from the ISS. It was as if he was sharing thoughts with an ET... “They are really screwing things up down there.”

  7. Somebody at another site started a thread about the good old days. "I remember what we did on the last good old day," I said. "We went to a movie." (That was back on March 9 of this year. The movie was the newest version of Jane Austen's "Emma"...and we came outside and it was surprisingly warm for so early in the spring. Two days later, the prison door slammed shut. Except for occasional walks in the park, I spent the next ten weeks under house arrest.

    But despite my anger and fear, over getting sick, over the hatred and the discord that's the worst I've seen in fifty years, it did give me time to reflect. Before the last good old day, I was constantly bitching about how my best days were behind me and how gezerhood is hell.

    Oh, I still do that...I am what I am. But so much time at home has made me realize how lovely and pleasant my house really is, and how green is my yard. How I'm now, in these worst of times,actually so much better off than so have a loving spouse to share these trying times. To have someone whose face lights up whatever room I'm in. To have animal companions who amuse and comfort me. And now, despite all the risks and dangers, despite being compromised and vulnerable to wheezing death, it's even a blessing to be old and retired. To not have to worry about job loss and "recovery"...and the biggest blessing of all all, to not have to be desperately seeking ANY employment, in the worst jbb market of my lifetime. And that's saying something.
    Ask the man who knows. Looking for work in the Nixon and Reagan and Obama years was bad enough. I can't even imagine what this must be like. In "normal" times, the economic collapse would be THE story, but these Depression-like conditions are a distant third, behind the deadly Covid Plague and the political and social turmoil brought about by the Orange Plague.

    But I'm still as a healthy as a seventysomething can reasonably expect to be. I'm not broke, I'm not in line for a virus test, or a food bank, I am not about to be evicted, I am not crushed by hopeless loan payments and debts, I am not mourning the loss of friends or loved ones, and I even manage to have occasional outings and summertime fun, just like in the "before times."

    But I have not been able to escape the physical and mental toll of stress, brought about by the worry and fear that this new life of ours will go on for years and get even more "abnormal." Most of all, I worry that my country will goe mad enough to re-elect the boorish incompetent who gave us all this. That we'll actually say "Thank you sir, may I have another?" as he ass-whups us for another four years, with a smirk on his pudgy orange face. I pray that we won't soon find ourselves looking in the mirror on cold winter mornings and mumbling: "How could you have been such a shmuck?"


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