I was listening to this week’s My Brother, My Brother and Me as I made coffee this morning, and 2/3rds of the brothers (sweet baby Griffin is on pat leave right now) and their guest host Ron Funches were discussing how they think it’ll be hard to create art about this period in history, and that they feel that entertainment is pretty much going to pretend like none of this happened. They posit that this will be the case because everyone’s had the same experience, and what’s funny about staying at home with your loved ones. That struck me, because I’ve had the opposite thought as of late, that I’m concerned about the lack of common experience towards the end of this pandemic, and how anything can be built lacking a common foundation.
Yes, after the lockdowns and isolations in the first couple of months of the pandemic, we were all in sort of the same boat. But even then, our quarantine experiences differed vastly. For instance, one day early on, I got a text from a friend of mine inquiring as to how I was doing. As I was sick of telling jokes to my plants, I responded honestly, that it was hard because I was living by myself, and that I was lonely and that I missed human interaction. To my surprise, my friend flipped it over and told me asked if I wanted to take their kids, to try being a parent right now, because THAT was hard. I remember being taken aback by the reaction - I hadn’t meant my response to mean that I thought I had it worse than others, or that I needed special pity, I was just sharing my honest reaction. And then I had a similar conversation with another parent friend the next day. Conversations that threw our day-to-day experiences into stark relief.
We’ve discussed my hopes that at least good art comes out of this period, but as we stagger towards vaccination, I’m worried we might not, but not for the same reason the McElroys are. I’m worried that our experiences are so fundamentally individual that we will lack a common framework from which we create. International trauma used to hinge on one collective moment - where were you when JFK was shot? When the towers fell? - so that even if experience afterwards differed, we at least had that momentary tentpole to drape our expression over. And yes, I feel like there’s so much common experience found in our initial moments: doomscrolling articles on COVID when it became apparent that this was as bad as was feared, making or ordering masks when the CDC said we needed them, cheering for first responders and medical professionals at 7 pm for the first few months (or at least watching the videos on the internet), our early struggles with Zoom and other videoconferencing technologies to set up some virtual semblance of normalcy, that first time you tried to make bread.
But honestly, the collective experience splinters. Some stayed in, followed the rules. Some were able to work from home. Some lost their jobs. Some lost their businesses. Some decided COVID was a hoax, devouring conspiracy theories and fracturing families. Some moved in with partners. Some relationships ended. Some kept a stiff upper lip. Some retreated into themselves. Some thought rules didn’t apply to them and continued to gather. And far too many lost someone close to them, or at least felt the unique sinking dread of discovering that we’d lost the college friend with kind eyes that you hadn’t spoken to in years, or a colleague’s parent, or a local community leader, a slow drip of tragedy across 13 months of madness.
And there may now be a bright light at the end of the tunnel, but I fear we’re not all on the same street anymore. We zoom out and see that even after the national FUBAR that was the former guy’s pandemic response led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, the US has dramatically turned a corner, opening up the vaccine for anyone over the age of 16, while other countries around the world lack the basic materials needed to create the vaccine due to our use of the Defense Production Act. I’m uneasy thinking about how we’re on the path to normalcy whilst this pandemic continues to rage around the world, taking lives and creating dangerous variants. I think a lot about what it felt like to be re-isolated last fall while Australia and New Zealand were somewhat back to normal - that deep-rooted envy is growing while I’m deciding what to do next Tuesday when I’m officially fully vaccinated.
Anyways, all of the above is to say that I disagree with the premise of one single observational joke on a comedy podcast LOL.
Want some internet? Here you go!
The FTC will not tolerate your racist AI, thank you very much: ‘Aiming for truth, fairness, and equity in your company’s use of AI’ (FTC.gov)
I feel this in my bones: “It’s only natural that so many vaccinated people continue to harbor irrational fears.” (NYT)
And my rotator cuff agrees with this: Strains, Sprains and Pinched Nerves: Injuries at Home Are on the Rise (WSJ)
And finally, I am grateful for good humans: ‘Steph and Ayesha Curry's stunning impact on Oakland kids: 16 million meals in one year’ (SF Chronicle)
Thanks for listening. Be kind to yourself, wear your mask, get that jab when you can.