The writing is on the wall

Anyone who admits they aren’t afraid during the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t being honest. Afraid of the virus itself. Afraid of the financial consequences. Afraid of the unknown, which is the disturbing ether we’ve all been inhabiting in these past two months.

Someday this will all be behind us. While I’m afraid of what comes between now and then, what keeps me awake in the middle night is my fear of what the “new normal” is going to resemble. On the other side of this waits an opportunity to build a “new normal” that is vastly different from the old normal we left behind in March. My gut aches from the fear that we will squander that opportunity, but even more so from the fear of what life will resemble if we do just that. My hope for our country started to die a slow death in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting in 2012, when after 20 schoolchildren were gunned down not one thing changed in terms of the lurid gun fetish the United States wallows in. If twenty dead children can’t drive change, what can?

I fear that in our rush to get back to “normal”, we’re going to end up missing the opportunity to enact real and meaningful healthcare reform with universal coverage regardless of employment status. What we’re witnessing today is nothing but our own collective, national hubris come home to roost. The end result of the lack of political will to enact long needed changes in healthcare systems has been dashed upon the rocks and has washed up on shore, bloody and wounded.

I am afraid for the future of our African American citizens and other minorities. This isn’t a new fear, but I believe its not something most Americans have really seen played out in stark detail. Black lives matter, but they don’t really. Not yet. We can’t slap on a bumper sticker or a t-shirt and hide behind a woke slogan and call it good. The racial disparities this pandemic has highlighted has lead to a terrifying death toll within the African American community. If this crisis hasn’t made clear the very hard work we have to do in this country to bring our black population into an equitable existence it will continue to be a stain on the character of the nation.

Likewise, I’m afraid that we’re going to continue to allow people to live in poverty without making a fair and living wage. It’s quite clear that the tens of millions of hourly wage earners who struggle to make ends meet with two, even three jobs are, in stark reality, the linchpins of our economy. We have been blind to their importance for too long.

Those are but a few things that need to change, but the list is exhaustive. We need to stay in the game, no matter how tired we are after fighting this damned virus. We need to hold elected officials accountable. We need to elect legislators that will help enact the drastic changes that need to come to fruition. We need to get mad as hell and not take it anymore. The opportunity awaits us. The stakes are higher than they’ve ever been. Like so many people with COVID-19, our democracy and our national priorities are on life support. It’s up to we the people to make sure our country survives and becomes something new and great and something we can once again be proud of. Lets not fuck it up.

The Ultimate Self-Distancing Movie

I’ve been wracking my brain trying to decide what to write as my first blog entry on my new blog, The Disquisition. Since we’re all practicing social distancing and self-isolation (at least you’d BETTER be!), I thought I’d jump right into that subject du jour and recommend an excellent movie about that very thing.

The Wall (2013, 110 minutes, English) is set within the idyllic Austrian Alps, specifically on and around Gosausee, a pristine alpine lake I have visited several times to hike among the breathtaking beauty. It’s so beautiful it remains the only place that I have found so beautiful it actually moved me to tears. When I learned this movie was being filmed there I couldn’t wait to see it.

Based on a German novel, the main character (whose name we never learn) is masterfully portrayed by the German actress Martina Gedek. She is visiting friends who leave to go into the village shortly after she arrives, presumably for the weekend. She stays behind with her friends’ dog Lynx. Then everything changes. She is trapped behind an invisible wall. We never learn what happened to her friends or how this invisible wall materialized. But none of that matters.

The meat and potatoes of this movie is how she navigates the human emotional reaction to being forcibly isolated from the rest of the world. It’s a tale of survival – physically, emotionally, and psychologically. She explores for ways around or through the invisible wall, encountering people on the other side who appear to be frozen in time. She resigns herself to her fate and throughout the film continues to muster the strength to survive in her beautiful, isolated world.

As she learns to exist within her forced solitude she writes in a journal, which is narrated in English by the character throughout the film. Some of her entries could be written by present day individuals chronicling the progression of the crisis we find ourselves in today.

“I’m not writing for the sheer joy of writing. So many things have happened to me that I must write if I don’t want to lose my mind. After all there is no one here to think and care for me. I’m quite alone and I must try to get through the long, dark winter months. I have taken on this task to keep me from staring into the gloom of being frightened because I am frightened. Fear creeps up on me from all sides and I don’t want to wait until it gets me and overpowers me.

This is not a fast-paced movie and at times it can feel drawn out. And it doesn’t always give you the answers you are looking for as you watch. But it will make you think about what it means to be isolated and separated from the rest of the world when we are all experiencing a similar, albeit less dramatic, fate.

The Wall can be watched via streaming media on Amazon Prime Video for $3.99 (HD) and Vudu for $2.99.