Image for post
Image for post

Democracy on the brink of extinction, a global pandemic, the impending end of truth, science, progress, empathy, and humanity. Seems like just about enough to cast a dark shadow on even the sunniest prospect, but the more immediate cost for me is the loss of friendship and the prospect of friendship. Family members and people I once knew and liked despite our differences have moved to affiliation with a political movement that is not only inimical to my beliefs but operating outside the constraints of constitutional democracy and dedicated to disenfranchising me and injuring people that I love. …

Image for post
Image for post

So, sometime between 2016 and 2020 we went insane.

I’m not talking about the relentless stream of misinformation and deception propagated by the cult of personality currently wielding power. …

Image for post
Image for post

My wife and I and our two dogs are living in a room offered us when we drove away from fire and our home. We are gratefully living in that room and very much aware of the desolation many others less fortunate than we face today. Many have lost everything. Fires continue to burn. We’re still in a pandemic. Shops and restaurants have folded. Differences of political opinion have become fraught with danger. Oh, and the entire state is suffocating as the smoke turns the sky yellow, orange, or brown, if sunlight penetrates at all.

There’s nothing funny about it, but the standard measurements of air quality no longer really apply. For example, there’s no problem at all with pollen today, that’s good news, but the little mascot/logo that delivers the degree of toxicity is a beaver wearing a mask and a miner’s helmet, eyes crossed, screaming It’s Really Bad!! We’ve had serious smoke issues in the valley before and have developed shorthand for the degree of discomfort in breathing. The index of air quality has been described as a thermometer that offers a range of 0 (Fabulous) to 500 (This Is Really Bad). The air quality in my town this morning is 596. …

Image for post
Image for post

Before this week, we knew a thing or two about fire. We’ve lived in the west for more than twenty years. We’d felt the hot breath of the Santa Ana winds, predictably whipping through our section of California in autumn, the devil winds that added a sixth season to the calendar: Fall, Winter, Spring, Summer, Fiesta, and Fire. Some years the dry downslope wind was just a sand blasting hurricane, tearing leaves from trees and trees from their roots. A mess and scary. In the Sierras, a Santa Anna roared through Mammoth at more than 175 miles per hour. …

Image for post
Image for post

The Democratic National Convention ended on a high note as decent folks spoke about decency, which is all well and good, but let’s not forget that the playing field has been tilted considerably past even. For example, this week Louisiana enacted a law which removes the votes of any protestor arrested on federal property, this from a governor who has already prohibited mail in ballots for those whose only excuse is not wanting to die of Covid-19. …

Image for post
Image for post

I’m no longer keeping track of Presidential gaffes. Try to number the stars or the droplets of Covid-19 still hanging in Tulsa. Too much for the limited mind of man to hold in one lifetime. So, but, how do we avoid pausing in reflection upon witnessing the recent celebration of the signing of the Great American Outdoors Act, a scripted, and yes, fumbling recitation of platitudes which almost obscured the relative enormity of actually getting a bill of any sort through the Senate much less a bill that has to do with the public good. …

Image for post
Image for post

In the midst of a global pandemic in what was once considered an advanced first world nation, we have demonstrated a level of moronitude that beggars the imagination. Prevention would have been good, but we worked with great diligence to discount the verified reports of hellacious disease and death. Perhaps you will have seen my earlier attempt at satire: “Democrats’ Hoax Inconveniences Hundreds of Thousands in China, Iran, Italy, and South Korea”? Perhaps not. In any case, we not only could have seen it coming, dammit, we did see it coming.

So here it comes, refrigerated trucks are stacking bodies in New York, and the stream of misinformation, disinformation, and sheer lunacy becomes a raging torrent. Apparently saying, “It ain’t happening here” had to give way to, maybe it would be good to inject patients with disinfectant, the application of hydroxychloroquine, and to the most recent as-yet-unproven palliative, using the dna of aliens. That’s a stretch, but if other accounts are to be believed, and they are believed, astral sex with demons is a major health risk as is the vaccination against religion. …

Image for post
Image for post

I’m privileged. No one I know has been hospitalized, ventilated, or died as a result of contacting the coronavirus. I’m privileged. I live in a small rural town in a state that has taken reasonable caution in mandating closure of businesses and schools, limiting the number of people who can attend events indoors, and requiring the wearing of masks as we shop. I’m privileged. My sector of the nation has flattened the curve.

My wife and I have been distanced since early in March, expecting a federal state of siege as the death toll in New York mounted so quickly that there was no place to put bodies. That never happened, but we live in a new reality, adapting to the strictures of life apart from our children and our friends. We’ve developed interests postponed, read the books we meant to read long ago, and watch the shows suggested by those who know our tastes. We stumbled on Netflix’s Lenox Hill, an eight-part documentary following neurosurgeons, emergency room MDs, and a pregnant resident in obstetrics at Lenox Hill Northwell Hospital on New York’s East Side . We had no particular expectations in starting the series; medical documentaries are often informative but dry. Lenox Hill is anything but dry. …

Image for post
Image for post

What the hell? Only four years after the start of the Trump presidency, we have become a nation at risk of terminal implosion. The world has experienced the pandemic, and with a few notable exceptions, managed to limp along with significant human cost but with the prospect of some sort of reconstitution. Our President has declared that he is not responsible for anything, our Senate has willingly abdicated its responsibility to its constituents, kleptocrats continue to gut environmental protection, militarized police have betrayed the people they are paid to serve, and health professionals are hamstrung by crass political expediency.

Houston, for example, is in a crisis that might have been prevented. In addition to the reckless self-serving political fantasies which encouraged the spread of the coronavirus, the on-the-ground response to pandemic is overwhelmed, and ordinary public health initiatives are simply not supported. The Washington Post reminded me of the essential truth in an article explaining why we are losing the battle, commenting on the discrepancy between the sane practice of public health procedures and the reality facing public health professionals in Texas. …

Image for post
Image for post

Against all odds and surprising those who have known us over the years, as the days of isolation wear on, we’ve been watching Alone presented by the “History” channel, which also offers Pawned Stars, American Pickers, Mountain Men, Lost Gold of World War II, Truck Night in America, Axe Men, Top Shot, Kife or Death, and Kings of Pain.

I don’t wish to flaunt the advantages of a liberal education, but I was a history major at a reputable institution of somewhat higher education, and my book shelves are still groaning under the weight of the tomes I could not bear to toss out when as a be-tasseled graduate I packed up my undergraduate digs. Herodotus, Edward Said, Arnold Toynbee, A.J.P. Taylor, G. M Trevelyan, Hugh Trevor-Roper, Gordon Wood, Richard Hofstader, Charles Beard, Samuel Eliot Morrison … they sit in silent disapproval, gathering dust, untouched since June of 1970. …

About

Peter Arango

I’m the author of four novels and America’s Best Kept College Secrets, a retired teacher of the humanities, eclectic reader, and prisoner of popular culture.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store