At long last I write back. Forgive the delay.
You ask, “What are you thinking lately?” To be honest, I feel my capacity to think about much in recent days has been greatly diminished. I’ve gotten overwhelmed by the numbing, unchanging situation that has hung on and on like a fog that just won’t dissipate.
We, the public, are being treated to something we rarely witness: the process of scientific discovery — or as one of my readers calls it, “the making of the sausage” — as we learn about this particular novel virus and try to develop therapeutic and preventative remedies for it. Heavens, this process is slow! And I fear a sizable portion of the American people don’t have the patience for it. Even now, still fairly early in the process, the air is filled with false information, looney conspiracy theories, wild speculations, ignorant claims, angry rants, and partisan cheerleading. People are raising huge stinks over the smallest, most innocuous common sense issues (masks, seriously?). Good people, like Dr. Fauci and other public health officials, are not only being slandered, but are receiving regular death threats. I have good friends I’ve known for years with whom I can’t talk anymore, family members who blame George Soros, Bill Gates, and nefarious deep state actors, believing the pandemic is a hoax and a conspiracy.
In the end, it doesn’t really matter much what I think about what’s going on. There is so much noise and dust and interference that my voice seems like a whisper in a whirlwind. So I go about my business, visit my patients, try to keep in touch with the family, work in the yard, and struggle with ennui, malaise, and weariness.
I’ve concluded that I live in the wrong country for this kind of problem. Imagine it, we’re now the pandemic pariah of the world. The U.S. is too big, too complex, too divided, and too libertarian and individualistic to process this well in real time with patience and mutual cooperation.
I myself am not as concerned about getting the virus myself, but what I am worried about is the effect on our life’s infrastructure, especially if we have a surge this fall in conjunction with flu season. I worry about my health network not being able to sustain its level of employment and cutting jobs. I worry about my grandkids not being able to go to school, and the adverse effects this will have on them and also on their parents and their work. I worry about my grandson who is a senior this year not being able to play football and missing out on many other facets of his senior year and the impact that will have on his future as he enters adulthood. I worry about the elections this fall and the chaos that could ensue if all this affects them adversely. And if Trump is reelected, I dream of moving to Scandanavia, but no one wants Americans traveling to their countries these days. I worry that, even if we get a vaccine, it will take a long time, and it won’t be as effective as we hope. Frankly, I’m a bundle of anxieties at this time and I don’t like it.
What a downer I am! Sorry about that, but I appreciate a friend to whom I can say these things.
These are the days for lamenting and carrying on as best as possible in exile.
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A note on today’s art
“…nothing quite matches the savage impact of ‘The Flayed Ox,’ 1947. It depicts a butchered ox hanging from a crossbar and may refer back to Chagall’s childhood visits to his grandfather, a ritual slaughterer. He began work on this painting in 1929. At that time it was seen as a premonition of the political and personal unrest he felt in the Soviet Union. Reworked after the war, Chagall biographer Jackie Wullschlager calls it “a self-portrait as a crucified cow, the carcass crimson and vermillion against a night shtetl scene: an expression of his fears for a Europe in which his art was inextricably rooted.” (The Artful Traveler: Chagall’s Years of War and Exile)